American Sociology in Japan

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American Sociology in Japan
Author(s): Kenneth K. Morioka and Jesse F. Steiner
Source: American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 64, No. 6 (May, 1959), pp. 606-609
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
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Sociology was first introduced into Japan through American publications but was dominated by the
German emphasis upon abstract theory until the end of the last war, when contacts with American
scholars brought about a new emphasis on empirical research. This radical change from interest in philosophical speculations to concrete studies of Japanese institutions is proceeding rapidly, but there is no
wholesale acceptance of American sociology. While American influence has greatly broadened the scope of
Japanese sociology and has introduced modern techniques in empirical studies, the necessity of building
a sociological system adapted to the needs of Japanese society is gaining recognition.
The dominance of German sociology in
Japan duringthe two decadesprior to World
War II has obscured the fact that Japanese
scholarshad their first introductionto sociological thought through American influences. Ernest F. Fenollosa, who taught
sociology in Tokyo University in 1876, had
come from Massachusetts; and Shoichi
Toyama, who was the first Japanese professor of sociology, had studied in America.
It is remarkable that Lester F. Ward's
Dynamic Sociology (1883) was already on
sale in the Maruzen Book Store in Tokyo
the year following its publication. During
the years that followed, the American pioneers in sociology became widely known
among interested Japanese scholars. American sociological publications translated into
Japaneseincludedsuch representativeworks
as A. W. Small's General Sociology, F. H.
Giddings' Principles of Sociology, C. H.
Cooley's Human Nature and the Social
Order, E. A. Ross's Social Control, C. A.
Ellwood's Sociology in Its Psychological
Aspects, J. M. Gillette's Rural Sociology,
and E. S. Bogardus' The History of Social
Before the first World War a small number of Japanese students found their way
to American universities, but toward the
end of the Taisho period (1912-26) the
more brilliant students of sociology turned
their attention to the publications of German sociologists. As a result, American
sociology was looked upon with less enthusiasm and began to occupy a position of
secondary importance. Junichiro Matsumoto, who was for many years one of the
directors of the Japan Sociological Society,
wrote in an article published in 1927 that
"American sociology is more or less weak
in its scientific grounding compared with
German sociology, but has the advantage
of handlingproblemsof social researchwithout losing sight of their inseparable relationship with actual life."'
During the 1920's and 1930's American
publications did not play such an important
role in the development of Japanese sociology as did the writings of Georg Simmel,
Leopold von Wiese, and Max Weber, which
fostered the speculative and philosophical
trend that had become dominant in Japan.
This, however, did not mean that empirical
research was totally absent. For example,
Dr. Teizo Toda, for many years the chairman of the Department of Sociology at
Tokyo University, set up a sociological laboratory following a year of study at the
University of Chicago (1919-20) and made
extensive studies of the Japanese family,
using the statistical materials of the first
Japanese census of 1920. Other well-known
sociologists, such as Eitaro Suzuki, Seiichi
Kitano, Eiichi Isomura, and Tomyo Yonebayashi, profited by their contact with
Americanpublicationsand introducedmethods of researchin urban and rural sociology,
' Junichiro Matsumoto, "Doitsu ni okeru Beikoku Shakaigaku no Kyomi" ("German Interests in
American Sociology"), Shakaigaku-zashi, Vol. XLII
(October, 1927).
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and some of them laid emphasis upon socialpsychologicalstudies of social problems.
But, in spite of tendencies in this direction, the German emphasis upon theory
prevailed over the American interest in empirical research. There was a growing contempt for Americansociology, and this tendency was acceleratedby the fact that Japan
during the late 1930's regarded the United
States as a military enemy and entered into
a political alliance with Germany.The gulf
between the sociologists of the two countries
was, of course, widened by the outbreak of
hostilities in 1941 and remainedimpassable
until the end of the war.
Under the auspices of the United States
Occupation Forces, libraries were set up in
the principal cities of Japan and filled with
recent books and journals from abroad.
Among these, the publications on American
sociology were eagerly read by Japanese
scholars hungry for new knowledge from
foreign countries. Because of animosity
against the military occupation, prejudice
against Americansociology might have again
appeared and even become more deeply
rooted. But, on the contrary,Americanpublications gained in popularity. An explanation of this changed attitude is found in an
article by Tadashi Fukutake, of Tokyo University, entitled "For the Reconstruction of
Sociologyin This Country: Reflections upon
the Past and Prospect for the Future," and
published in the first postwar issue of Skakaigaku Kenkyu ("Journal of Sociology").
His point of view may be summarized as
So far as sociological theories are concerned, sociology in Japan has reached the
world standard. But empirical research,
which took root in actual Japanese society,
has made little progress. Therefore, Japan's
sociological theories were unable to go beyond abstract studies. This was proved by
the fact that Japanese sociology could not
give any scientific advice to help in the reconstruction of Japan after the war. Moreover, up to this time the Japanese sociologists have devoted themselves to the intro-
duction of new theories developedin foreign
countries. But, interest having been directed
only toward Germansociology, the analysis
of the actual conditions of human life has
been sidetracked, and unavoidably the discussion of principles has become dominant.
If Americansociology, which in spite of some
of its faults in theory has obtained great
results in empirical studies, had been introduced in Japan more extensively, the tendency might have been corrected. Consequently, the objective must be, first of all,
concrete, actual analysis of Japanese institutions. To accomplish this, earnest attention must be given to positive and empirical
research; in other words, the tradition of
German sociology must be abandoned, and
the views and methods of American sociology must be generously borrowed.
This was a widely accepted opinion during the first postwar years, and it gained
increasingsupport. In December, 1949, Kunio Odaka,now chairmanof the Department
of Sociology of Tokyo University, carried to
the United States a message from the Japan
Sociological Society to the American Sociological Society, which officially reopened
communicationbetween the scholars of the
two countries. In Odaka'smessage occurred
these words: "If we, the sociologists of Japan, are to fulfil these responsibilities and
make our science serve the needs of our new
democratic state, we must study American
experiences and achievements." And this
was not at all so-called diplomaticlanguage.
In a letter written at that time to his colleagues in Japan, he pointed out that the
Japanese should modify their opinion of
American sociology:
So farwe havebeenapt to recognizethemerit
of Americansociologyonly in its successin empiricalstudiesandprogressin its researchtechniques, and in these points we have admitted
that Japanesesociologymustbe improved,since
we havegonetoo far in the philosophicalspeculations of Germansociology. But at present
such a view as we have held seems to be no
longervalid. As EdwardShils has pointedout,
Americansociologyis no longerin the stage of
non-theoryor anti-theoryas it used to be and
has not only enteredthe stage of new theoreti-
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cal constructionbut maybe saidto havearrived shio Kaba, Akio Baba, and others in a symor unificationof posium concerningthe methodology of sociat the stageof interpenetration
theoryand research.2
ology: "We cannot be fully satisfied with
This point of view was widely accepted the American theory of social change when
by Japanese sociologists, who turned to we try to apply it to the analysis of presentAmericanpublications for guidance in their day Japan because the 'change' does not
professional studies. Students of American mean 'reform' in American sociology."4To
sociology who had remained relatively ob- this should be added Tadashi Fukutake's
scure were suddenly brought into the lime- comment that the American emphasis upon
light, and textbooks as well as scholarly field work and lack of systematic theory had
monographs gained wide popularity. Very come about because American society had
probably, this remarkablechange in attitude been relatively stabilized without coming to
was an aspect of the extensive Americaniza- a serious deadlock or crisis. His criticism of
tion which went on for several years in the Americansociologists was that they had not
experiencedthe agony of social reform.5
wake of the war.
Of interest also is the sharply critical comBut this does not mean that Japanesesociologists were entirely swayed by the new ment of Yasujiro Daido, of Kansai Gakuin
currents of thought and made an uncondi- University:
tional surrenderto Americansociology. Very
A characteristicof Americansociologyin a
soon voices were raised against the new negativesense is that it tends to take up only
trend, and the limitations of Americansoci- such trivialproblemsas are directlyconnected
ology were pointed out. Takeyoshi Kawa- with daily life, ignoringthe deeper problems
shima, a well-knownscholar in the sociology that are basicallyimportantto society.For inof law, stated his criticism in these words: stance, it does not give adequateattentionto
such problemsas revolutionor class conflict.
From now on, sociology in Japan will be This seemsto be dueto the fact that the Amerigreatly influencedby the quantitativemethod can nation faces neither social revolutionnor
of Americansociology.In America,wherethe social crisis; and it may also be a reflectionof
entire constitutionof civil society is stabilized the uniquecharacterof its socialstructurewhich
and unshakeable,the historicaldevelopmentof is relativelyopenand classless.6
social and economicphenomenacan be underJapanese sociologists are also critical of
stood simplyin terms of quantitativerelationships. Consequently,it was both possible and the Americanlack of emphasis upon historiinevitablefor Americansociologyto have a re- cal sociology. Ryozo Takeda, who is widely
markableinclinationtoward the quantitative known as an authority on American sociomethodand to continuesucha methodwithout logical theory, wrote as follows:
feeling the need of modification.In Japan,on
Parsons'theory of social action lacks in its
the contrary,thereare many difficultproblems
perspective.Parsonsis not the only
to be solvedbeforethe quantitativemethodcan
obtaina fruitfulresulton accountof the unique onethathas this fault,for failureto studysocial
natureof its socialstructure.Moreover,the his- problemsin the light of historyis the common
toricalduty of democratizingJapanesesociety characteristicof Americansociologists.7
beingimposeduponus, we cannotaffordto lean
I"Shakaigaku Hohoron no Kenkyu Zadankai"
too muchtowardthe quantitativemethod.3
("Discussionof Methods of Sociology"), Shakaigaku,Vol. I (November,1948).
'T. Fukutake,"Shakaigakuwo meguroAmerika
to Soren" ("U.S.A.versus U.S.S.R. in Sociology"),
2Kunio Odaka, "AmerikaShakaigaku-kaiTsu- ShakaigakuHyoron, Vol. I, No. 1 (July, 1950).
shin" ("A Letter from America"), Shakaigaku
6Y. Daido, "AmerikaShakaigakuno Tokushitsu"
of AmericanSociology"),in Gen("Characteristics
Hyoron,Vol. I (July, 1950).
8T. Kawashima,"Shakaigakuin okeru Keiryo- dai AmerikaShakaigaku,ed. T. Hayaseand A. Baba
teki Hoho no Igi to Sono Genkai" ("Statistical (Tokyo: Baifukan,1954).
' R. Takeda, "Riron Shakaigaku"("Sociological
Methodsin Sociology:TheirImportanceand Limitations"), ShakaigakuKenkyu, Vol. I, No. 2 (De- Theories"), in Gendai Amerika Shakaigaku,ed.
T. Hayaseand A. Baba (Tokyo: Kyobundo,1954).
Closely related to this point of view is the
following statement by Toshio Hayase, To-
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A similar point of viiewappears in Eiichi
Isomura's comments concerning one aspect
of urban sociology:
We have foundthat the theoriesof the "Chicago school"cannot satisfactorilyexplainthe
actual conditionsof Japanesecities. The first
thing we must bear in mind is that, so far as
Japanese cities are concerned,the historical
processconstitutesthe most importantfactor
that determinesthe structureand functionof
urbansociety. This is the essentialdifference
betweenthe cities that havea historyof a hundredyears or less and those whichare several
translation of books written in the English
language, and university students of sociology are too few in number to make publication in their own language profitable. The
elaborate introductory textbooks designed
for Americanundergraduateshave not been
translated; publishers look more favorably
upon books of a sociological nature in a border-line field of greater interest to a wider
public. A notable exception is George A.
Lundberg's Social Research, which was
translated in 1952 by members of the Department of Sociology of Tokyo University.
This volume has been popular with the expanding group of young students interested
in using American research techniques.
Without doubt, the most profound effect
of American sociology is to stimulate research on Japanese institutions and the increasing use of techniques such as statistics,
participant observation, and personal documents. American influence is also conspicuous in the wider attention given to the
analysis of social action, small groups, and
social stratification. Then, too, the postwar
introductory textbooks have widened their
scope by giving more space to a discussion
of personality and culture.
But it is already evident that the Japanese will not be guided completely by American patterns. Instead of their earlierpostwar
tendency to seek in American sociology a
key to the solution of their problems, they
are recognizingmore and more the necessity
of building a sociological system adapted to
their own peculiar needs. Their former preoccupation with abstract theory is being replaced by intensive study of their own institutions. Studies with such an end in view
had, as a matter of fact, begun to appear
before the war, but now they are being undertaken with new vigor and insight by the
younger generationof sociologists.9
While no complete evaluation of American sociology has yet appeared,fragmentary
criticisms such as those listed above are being published from time to time. No doubt,
some are an outgrowth of misunderstanding
due to inadequateknowledge.But, to repeat,
since Americansociology is an outgrowth of
Americansociety, it is natural that Japanese
sociologists should be more or less disappointed when they turn to American sociology for guidance in solving their current
Nonetheless, a rapidly increasing number
of Japanese students have studied the
achievements of American sociology during
recent years. The field has been broadened
to include social psychology, industrial sociology, criminology, human ecology, sociology of the family, class and group structure,
methods of social research, as well as sociological theories and rural and urban sociology. In the field of sociological theory, Talcott Parsons, M. Levy, and Robert Merton
are widely studied. Dr. Parsons is especially
The trend is seen in the attention given to
the translation of important books into Japanese. Scholarly monographshave been selected for this purpose, although their number is not so large as might be expected in
view of the extent of American influence. TOKYoEDUCATIONALUNIVERSITY
Professional sociologists in Japan need no
E. Isomura,"Toshi-ShakaiKenkyuno Hansei"
9 YuzuruOkada,"Nihon Shakaigakuno Hansei"
("Reflectionson Urban SociologicalStudies"), in
Nihon Shakaigakuno Kadai (Tokyo: Yuhikaku, ("Reflectionson Japanese Sociology"), in Nihon
Shakaigakuno Kadai.
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