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Individual Dignity in Modern Japanese Thought
The Evolution of the Concept of Jinkaku in Moral and Educational Discourse
by Kyoko Inoue, University of Illinois

“The scope and breadth of this study is clearly commendable. The thoroughness of the work (including massive referencing of Japanese-language sources and good foregrounding of the material) makes it a valuable resource not only for those working on historical issues of education and Japan, but also for those interested in comparative historical education issues.”
Andrea G. Arai in Anthropology & Education Quarterly

“Kyoko Inoue’s engrossing study of educational policy and philosophy may begin to explain the theological underpinnings of the [fundamental decency] of Japanese society. . . . as lucid and informative as it is provocative.”
Douglas Howland in Journal of Japanese Studies

In this study the author analyzes the concept of “individual dignity.” The American draft of the Japanese Constitution included an article expressing that each individual was entitled to respect simply by virtue of being a human being. The Japanese, however, interpreted this concept as “respect for jinkaku (moral character).”

Jinkaku was a strongly elitist concept that gradually acquired more egalitarian meanings during the Taisho period. Yet the hierarchical connotations were still present when the term was used to interpret “individual dignity” in the Constitution and was later made the foundation of postwar Japanese education. As Japanese discourse began to embrace the American idea that all people are worthy of respect just because they are human beings, and thus their fundamental rights must be protected, it did not adopt the American emphasis on protecting individual rights against the government. Consonant with the ideas embodied in the Constitution, the Japanese teach that government and the people are jointly responsible for bringing about a fair and just society for all. Textbooks thus promote a communitarian rather than individualistic view of democracy.

Individual Dignity in Modern Japanese Thought is important for scholars of modern Japanese intellectual history and Japanese democracy, for political scientists interested in political socialization, and for scholars of comparative history, law, politics, and education.

Published by Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan
Michigan Monographs in Japanese Studies No. 35
Published 2001, 272 pp.
ISBN 1 929280 03 3, hardback, £40.00