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Scheidell 1

Stephen Scheidell
Dr. Yamamoto
HIST 105
24 April 2009
JAPANESE CONSERVATISM, SAYYID QUTB, MAHATMA GANDHI, AND FRANTZ FANON
ON THE

THIRD WORLD

~
Since the emergence of Enlightenment modernityI in Europe, many political
leaders and intellectuals responded with alternate visions of what they argue should
appear as modernity. While Karl Marx arose as the most dominate voice among those
alternatives, still others have elaborated for a Third WorldII a society and worldview
distinct from both the First World of Enlightenment and the Second World of Socialism.
This essay will survey the ideas of Japanese conservatives, Qutb for the Muslim
community, Gandhi writing from India, and Fanon of revolutionary Algeria; through
these voices this essay will argue that Eurocentric terminology and approachesIII prove
inappropriate for a framework within which these voices might be understood. So long as
we come with the mindset that we in the West have become the most developed, modern,
or enlightened, and that the rest of the world is either backwards or catching up, Western
scholarship will not have a wide enough horizon to grasp the historical, political,
theological, and philosophical concerns of these minds. This essay suggests that instead,
we might see the 20th Century as an amalgam of imperfect and fallen voices, all
attempting to answer questions posed to the 20th Century world the European
I

Aware of the variety of definitions for this term, I here use the term with reference to aspirations and
desired models for current-day society.
II While I recognize the current tendency to link this term to poor and underdeveloped countries (and thus
prefer 2/3 world), I prefer to honor their pursuits for a third option by calling them Third World voices.
III I attempt no cheap "West bashing" in this paper. I merely intend to argue that the use of terms such as
"modernity" and even "Enlightenment" tend to foster and support a "West vs. Rest" approach to
historical analyses.

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Enlightenment being one among those voices. However, before hearing these voices, we
must briefly cover the view of modernity with which they interact.
In the realms of social theory, ethics, economics, and politics, Enlightenment
thinkers offered a vision strongly based in the trust of reason's authority and ultimate
progress toward a perfected knowledge. When Immanuel Kant defined Enlightenment,
his 1784 essay argued that the term denoted maturity, which he then defined as thinking
for oneself. For Kant, Enlightenment therefore linked irrevocably with the authority of
reason. When the authority of reason played into social thought, ethics, economics, and
politics, the thesis acted out very predictably. In the social dynamic, Enlightenment
thinkers envisioned a common universal reason held by all rational beings, i.e. all
"mature" humans. If everybody lives by use of common reason, then reason must be
capable of establishing a moral code by which all rational, mature people would live.
Hence, when Kant writes Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone in 1793, he
effectively confines religion to an ethical code; for only that aspect of religion does
reason affirm. As Kant put ethics under popular reason's authority, Adam Smith similarly
puts economics into the invisible hand in 1776 when he wrote The Wealth of Nations. The
book argued that resources allocate most effectively (as if guided by an invisible hand)
when individuals pursued their own personal interests. With authority in these realms
belonging to common reason, democracy naturally surfaces as the political model of
choice. Beliefs in equality of all and the natural rights of citizens became the hallmark
and pillars of Western politics.
Japanese conservatives refused the democratic model as foreign to their history
and national spirit. Historically, Japan has always operated as an aristocratic monarchy.
Moreover, in Japanese eyes, American politicians touted the language of morality and

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justice, but these themes seem ignored in foreign relations. A Japanese might ask a
European, "What gives your politicians the right to tell us what form of government to
prefer?" Japanese conservatives also saw Western talk of equality and rights lacking
substance. As they perceived, whenever a Westerner talked of rights, she always had her
rights in mind. She did not make the step to first recognize the rights of those surrounding
her and hear the call to duty demanded by other's rights. Japanese thinkers also saw as
nave the Western fascination with the notion of universal reason establishing a society.
Thus, in 1921 Takashi Hara argued in "Harmony between East and West" that an
authentic society was the one that sought its unique identity instead of some lowest
common denominator identity that ends up being too loose and vague enough to be
applied at whim to any culture.
Sayyid Qutb likewise critiques the authority of popular reason, but he will do so
on theological grounds. Hence, in 1964, he pens his manifesto for Islamic civilization,
Milestones. For Qutb, such authority belongs to Allah alone. Any breaching or stepping
on Allah's authority belongs to the broader domain of jahiliyyah what we might term
"idolatry." Submission to that authority marks the core of Qutb's notion of freedom. For
Qutb, humans act most freely when they act most in accordance with their authentic
nature, i.e. as created beings responsible to a Creator. Allah created humans and placed
them as vicegerents over the rest of the creation. As vicegerents, humans honor Allah
when their social and ethical interactions reflect the common submission to Allah.
Therefore, economics and politics will not reflect personal pursuits, but move with the
intention of caring for others first as Japanese conservatives propose. Note, however, that
Qutb disagrees with Japan's assertion of unique identities. As Qutb asserts that Allah

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created all humans, he will also assert that all human societies flourish under Allah's
direct guidance.
Mahatma Gandhi, on the other hand, sides with Japanese conservatives on the
issue of unique social identities. Even his proposal for opposition to British colonists
stems from asserting a national spirit unique to India. When he offers passive resistance
instead of physical force, he argues that to free India by military force is to Europeanize
it. Nevertheless, Gandhi's fundamental critique of the Enlightenment resonates, on a
certain level, with that of Qutb. For both of these thinkers, both the First World of the
Enlightenment and the Second World of Socialism detaches the physical from the
spiritual. Neither of the two offers moral and spiritual guidance. Therefore, the moral
incentive Qutb finds in Islam, Gandhi finds in swaraj self-mastery. In fact, when
discussing how to decolonize from the British, Gandhi urges each to take up passive
resistance via swaraj. Gandhi says that in this way India will be regained when each takes
India for oneself by swaraj. Rather than breaking heads of lawmakers, Gandhi urges to
break the law and endure what may come.
Frantz Fanon contra Gandhi will break the heads of the colonizers. For Fanon,
Algerian decolonization can only be a violent process, because the French have violently
suppressed the well being of the indigenous people while babbling about equality of all
men and the superiority of Europeans. Fanon vividly notes how conflicting these notions
sound to the Algerian, yet finds them both from the corners of the same European mouth.
Fanon sees the European way of life consistently conflicting with the lives of native
Algerians. Naturally, then, his focus on historically particular cultures will align with
Japanese conservatives and Gandhi. Even when discussing the intellectual movement
toward "Negritude," he criticized the move toward racial identity and instead argued for

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cultural identities unique to a nation. African Americans and Algerians face different
struggles, so their identities will be molded differently as they work through their unique
issues. On the issue of democratic government however, Frantz Fanon aligned more
closely with Enlightenment thinkers while adding a very balancing nuance to their
argument for democracy. His reasoning rests directly on the particularities of each
individual's reason as opposed to the commonality thereof. Fanon noted that each
individual had certain insights while also having particular limitations. Therefore, as each
individual voice speaks for the common sake of the society, insights of one mind
illuminates the "blind spots" of another. For Fanon, no person knows everything and
everybody knows something, so he permits and even calls upon all voices to speak.
Fanon's epistemology closely aligns with a Christian view of human minds
affected by the fallen state and therefore offers a model for a distanced Christian
framework for historical analyses. Under such a framework, all human beings participate
as created in the image of God, but share equally in the toil resulting from the fall. To
silence any voice is to deny its image of God and to claim one culture or nation's
superiority is to ignore its equal fallenness. However, if as images of God we are all
called to co-create with God, then all peoples and cultures must participate in treading the
path forward. Therefore, Christians stand side by side with Fanon as he pleas, "everyone
must be involved in the struggle for the sake of the common salvation. There are no clean
hands, no innocent bystanders."IV

IV The Wretched of the Earth, page 140