John G. Gunnell
Whether one speaks of the study of the history of political philosophy, the history of political theory, or the history of political thought, the reference is typically to one basic scholarly genre. Although this body of scholarship is now the province of a distinctly interdisciplinary academic practice, bridging, and including, fields such as philosophy, history, and literary criticism, it is professionally largely the product of a subdiscipline located primarily in departments of political science, politics, or government. In the United States, the emerging social sciences, during the nineteenth century, were primarily the confluence of three closely related tributaries: elements of academic moral philosophy, often inspired by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers; individuals such as William Graham Sumner, who taught a scientific understanding of society and elicit the secret of social progress; and movements such as those represented in the American Social Science Association, which invoked the cognitive authority of science as they pursued a variety of causes from abolition to civil service reform.
When examining political thought in post-1945 Japan, we must acknowledge that the postwar philosophical landscape was fundamentally a trans-war one. Narratives that sought to rationalize the past war laid the foundations for a divided consciousness after the war that entrenched antagonistic opposites as the parameters for postwar discourse. State versus self, politics versus ethics, theory versus value, ideas versus action and intellectuals versus “ordinary” people were all manifestations of the desire in the postwar era to establish ethical legitimacy through the dynamic of normative distancing. Paramount in this endeavor was an insistence by Japan’s postwar thinkers on creating and maintaining a hostile separation between civil society and the state as the proof of a rehabilitated ethos for postwar democracy. This conceptual framing had consequences for postwar thought and how it was articulated. In effect, the retrospective fragmentation of subjective responsibility led to the alienation of politics and value in the postwar era, preventing the coherence of subjectivity and responsibility upon which the integrity of the trans-war narrative depended.