Kojin Karatani is an internationally renowned theorist and philosopher. Previously, he was a professor at Hosei University in Tokyo, Kinki University in Osaka, and Columbia University. Among the dozens of books that he has written in Japanese, four have been translated into English: History and Repetition; Transcritique: Kant and Marx; Architecture as Metaphor: Language, Number, Money; and Origins of Modern Japanese Literature, which is also published by Duke University Press.
Karatani reads Kant as a philosopher who sought to wrest metaphysics from the discredited realm of theoretical dogma in order to restore it to its proper place in the sphere of ethics and praxis. With this as his own critical model, he then presents a reading of Marx that attempts to liberate Marxism from longstanding Marxist and socialist presuppositions in order to locate a solid theoretical basis for a positive activism capable of gradually superseding the trinity of Capital-Nation-State.
History and Repetition cemented Karatani's reputation as one of Japan's premier thinkers, capable of traversing the fields of philosophy, political economy, history, and literature in his work. The first complete translation of History and Repetition into English, undertaken with the cooperation of Karatani himself, this volume opens with his innovative reading of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, tracing Marx's early theoretical formulation of the state. Karatani follows with a study of violent crises as they recur after major transitions of power, developing his theory of historical repetition and introducing a groundbreaking interpretation of fascism (in both Europe and Japan) as the spectral return of the absolutist monarch in the midst of a crisis of representative democracy.
For Karatani, fascism represents the most violent materialization of the repetitive mechanism of history. Yet he also seeks out singularities that operate outside the brutal inevitability of historical repetition, whether represented in literature or, more precisely, in the process of literature's demise. Closely reading the works of Oe Kenzaburo, Mishima Yukio, Nakagami Kenji, and Murakami Haruki, Karatani compares the recurrent and universal with the singular and unrepeatable, while advancing a compelling theory of the decline of modern literature. Merging theoretical arguments with a concrete analysis of cultural and intellectual history, Karatani's essays encapsulate a brilliant, multidisciplinary perspective on world history.