A Study of Temporality of a Critical Discourse on the Modern in the Late Japanese Colonial Period
In the late Japanese colonial period, from the Sino-Japanese War until the Pacific War, critical discourses on the modern were prevalent in Japan and the Joseon. Despite the absence of a consensus about the specific definition of the modern, most thinkers agreed that the modern was something to be overcome. While some regarded naturalism and capitalism of the West as the essence of the modern, some others named scientism and humanism as the nature of the western modernity. Additionally, some criticized the temporal concept of historicism and brought new meanings of 'tradition' into relief, and some others advocated overcoming 'the West inherent in us'. This study is to consider the temporality of the theory of overcoming the modern focusing on the following three notions-world history, tradition, and emergency-, and examines the antinomy of them.
The first notion to consider is ‘world history’. The theorists of overcoming the modern, including the Kyoto school, discarded the progressive ideology that had led the Western modern history, and instead introduced ‘world history’ as a new notion. Although this resulted from the imperialistic embracement of the theories of Ranke, a major positivist historian from Germany, it contained antinomy of remaining in ‘history’ which was the modern temporal view.
The second notion is ‘tradition’. While the critical mind of ‘world history’ brought ‘time of world’ into question in the context of temporal realization, the notion of ‘tradition’ was to understand ‘time of history’ itself as the modern and overcome it. The critical mind of the notion involves the attempts to criticize regarding history as a ‘progressive’ process and to discover tradition as ‘the present past’ or ‘the eternal present’. However, it also contained antinomy; the ‘tradition’ here was a notion that was created in the modern times, not passed down from ancient times.
The third notion to consider is ‘emergency’, which was a method to define the present time as a transition period toward a new era, relating to states of war. However, the theorists of overcoming the modern did not regard ‘emergency’ as a particular time that strayed from normal states, instead they thought is as ‘a regularized exceptional state’, namely ‘a state in which exceptions have become regulations’. However, the notion also contained antinomy since the word ‘emergency’ connotes abnormality.