Who Killed the Modern?
A Theory of Post-catch-up Modernity
Mercredi 22 mai 2019, de 11h à 13h
EHESS (salle 7-37) – 54 boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris
The Japanese words, kindai (近代) and kindaika (近代化), which were originally translated from English, are puzzling words in their contemporary use. While they initially meant ‘modern’ and ‘modernization’ as in English, their daily meanings are no longer the same as their English counterparts. While in OED, the word ‘modern’ is given the meaning, ‘relating to the present or recent times as opposed to the remote past’, today the Japanese kindai refers to something in the past. While the word of ‘modernization’ in English refers to ‘the process of adapting something to modern needs or habits’, kindaika is now used to refer to only the process that occurs not in Japan (e.g. in developing countries) or that had occurred in Japan in the past (until the end of 1960s or 70s). In this regard, the Japanese kindai and kindaika have lost their original meanings of modern or modernity, ‘relating to the present times’ in progress.
In this talk, I will argue that such linguistic changes in the two words reflect societal and epistemological changes regarding modernity in Japan since the late 1970s, when the Japanese government officially announced, ‘Japan had completed catching up with the Western modernity’. Discourse analysis of policy documents, specifically those in education policies, will reveal that the advent of the post-catch-up era in Japan has killed the original meanings of kindai, resulting in confusions in policy debates in education and other policy fields. I will argue that the post-catch-up modernity has called in pseudo-neoliberal reforms in education policies in Japan, which contribute to expanding inequality in education. By proposing a theory of post-catch-up modernity, I will discuss what contributions sociological research on Japan’s education policies can make for the recent academic debates on multiple path ways to modernity.