Places, Images, Times & Transformations

Civilization and Enlightenment

("bunmei kaika"). Slogan used during the early years of the Meiji period to characterize Japanese national aspirations and reforms. As historian John Dower explains, "This evocative phrase... was explicitly associated with the progressive values of Western civilization and the European enlightenment. Fukuzawa Yukichi, Meiji Japan's most prolific interpreter of Western values and practices, offered a concise interpretation of what "civilization and enlightenment" entailed. The strength and progress of the great Western nations, he argued, rested on science; and scientific accomplishment, in turn, required a spirit of free inquiry among the general populace. Thus, it followed that liberal and progressive values were not simply moral and political ideas; they were also part and parcel of creating a 'rich country, strong military' capable of assuring national independence. The symbolic capstone of these various developments in "modernization" and "Westernization" was the adoption of a Western-style constitution in 1890." (excerpt from Throwing Off Asia: The Western Challenge by John Dower. Massachusetts Institute of Technology © 2005 Visualizing Cultures,

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