The Structure of World History: From Modes of Production to Modes of Exchange

Duke University Press
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In this major, paradigm-shifting work, Kojin Karatani systematically re-reads Marx's version of world history, shifting the focus of critique from modes of production to modes of exchange. Karatani seeks to understand both Capital-Nation-State, the interlocking system that is the dominant form of modern global society, and the possibilities for superseding it. In The Structure of World History, he traces different modes of exchange, including the pooling of resources that characterizes nomadic tribes, the gift exchange systems developed after the adoption of fixed-settlement agriculture, the exchange of obedience for protection that arises with the emergence of the state, the commodity exchanges that characterize capitalism, and, finally, a future mode of exchange based on the return of gift exchange, albeit modified for the contemporary moment. He argues that this final stage—marking the overcoming of capital, nation, and state—is best understood in light of Kant's writings on eternal peace. The Structure of World History is in many ways the capstone of Karatani's brilliant career, yet it also signals new directions in his thought.
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About the author

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.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Mar 5, 2014
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Pages
376
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ISBN
9780822376682
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Language
English
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Genres
History / World
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Nation and Aesthetics is a unique attempt to examine the ambiguous nature of nationalism and nation by examining them through aesthetics. In this translation by Jonathan E. Abel, Darwin H. Tsen, and Hiroki Yoshikuni, Karatani grasps the modern social formation as a nexus of three different "modes of exchange", namely capital-nation-state. Nation here plays the role of complementing capitalism and the state. Benedict Anderson defined nation as an "imagined community". Through rethinking Kant, Karatani suggests that "imagination" here is not a mere fancy, but very real, in the sense that it mediates state and capital. Usually imagination is regarded as fancying what is not present here. Kant grasped imagination as a faculty to imagine what we can understand but cannot sense; that is, to say, a faculty to mediate reason and sensibility. This observation provided the foundation to Modern aesthetics, which in the course of time became an important source of nationalism. In Italy, Germany, and Japan, nationalism appeared as fascism. They found in aesthetics a moment to go beyond capitalism and the state. The key to go beyond nation, Karatani argues, lies also in the thoughts of Kant, a cosmopolitan and an advocate of a world republic. It is well-known that the League of Nations was formed after First World War under the influence of his "Perpetual Peace". Karatani draws attention to the overlooked fact that around the same time Freud made a radical revision of his notion of the "superego". Karatani introduces article nine of Japan's postwar constitution, which renounces the right to wage war, as a crystallization of Kant's ideal of peace and Freud's superego. By providing a unique explanation of, and ways to counter, current nationalistic and imperialistic tendencies, Nation and Aesthetics argues that theories of Kant and Freud, which are usually understood to contrast, are deeply linked and suggest ways to go beyond capital-nation-state.
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