Masao Maruyama (scholar)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Masao Maruyama
Died15 August 1996 (aged 81–82)
Alma materTokyo Imperial University

Masao Maruyama (丸山 眞男, Maruyama Masao, 1914 - 15 August 1996) was a leading Japanese political scientist and political theorist. His expertise lay in the history of Japanese political thought, to which he made major contributions.


Maruyama Masao was born in Osaka in 1914.[1] He was the second son of journalist Maruyama Kanji. He was influenced by friends of his father such as Hasegawa Nyozekan, a circle of people identified with the liberal current of political thought during the period of Taishō democracy. After graduating from Tokyo Furitsu Number One Middle School (currently known as Tokyo Municipal Hibiya High School), he entered the Tokyo Imperial University and graduated from the Department of Law in 1937. His thesis "The Concept of the Nation-state in Political Science" earned a Distinguished Thesis Award, and Maruyama was appointed assistant in the same department.

Originally he had wanted to specialize in European political thought, but changed his focus to concentrate on Japanese political thought, a subject that until that time, mainly centered around the concept of an imperial state, and was influenced by a foundational ordinance that required subjects to be taught 'in accordance with the needs of the state'.[2] Maruyama brought to the discipline a theoretical perspective grounded in extensive comparativism. The person who originally recommended this path to him was his mentor, Professor Nambara Shigeru, who was highly critical of military and bureaucratic obstructions to the growth of a constitutionally defined 'national community'.[3] An expert in European political thought, Nambara steered the young Maruyama into working on this topics.

In March 1945, Maruyama was drafted and stationed in the Army at Hiroshima. After experiencing the blast at Hiroshima and seeing out the end of the war there, he returned to his post at the university in September. He caught tuberculosis at the time, and after an operation, spent the rest of his life on one lung.

Immediately following the war he published "The Logic and Psychology of Ultranationalism" and other theses dealing with prewar militarism and fascism which left a strong impact on postwar Japan. He was famous for calling the prewar imperial system a "system of irresponsibility". He was also a powerful democratic opinion leader, going far beyond the academic world and wielding great influence regarding the Treaty of San Francisco and the student movements of 1960.

However, in the late 1960s he was strongly denounced by the students front as a symbol of self-deceiving postwar democracy. He criticized this student movement, especially when his research room at University of Tokyo was ransacked by occupying students in 1969, an episode he characterised as an act of "barbarism not even Nazis did".[citation needed] This, combined with his own ailing health, forced him to retire in 1971. He was however appointed professor emeritus at the same university in 1974.

Though Maruyama suffered from poor health especially in his later life, he continued studying and writing until he died in Tokyo on 15 August 1996.[1] The major work of his retirement years was a three-volume commentary on Fukuzawa Yukichi's principal work Bunmeiron no Gairyaku, based on a lengthy seminar he conducted with a small working group. This was published in 1986, as Reading 'An Outline of a Theory of Civilisation',(「文明論之概略」を読む) by Iwanami Shoten. Besides, he contributed several more noteworthy as well as controversial works on Japanese culture or the process of translation in modern Japan. Most noteworthy is his concept of basso ostinato. Maruyama referred to this musicological concept to capture a socio-historically substratum underlying human thought. Although basso ostinato is in constant flux, it is experienced by people as a relatively stable intellectual framework through which people give meaning to life.[4]


Representative works in English[edit]

  • 1963 -- Thought and Behaviour in Modern Japanese Politics. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-1-59740-083-1 (cloth) {reprinted by Columbia University Press, New York, 1995. ISBN 978-0-231-10141-7 (paper)
  • 1974 -- Studies in the Intellectual History of Tokugawa Japan. Translated by Mikiso Hane. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-07566-2 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-691-00832-5 (paper)


  1. ^ a b James Kirkup (23 August 1996). "Obituary: Masao Maruyama". The Independent. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  2. ^ Andrew E.Barshay, State and Intellectual in Imperial Japan:The Public Man in Crisis, California University Press,,Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 1988 p.39
  3. ^ Barshay, op. cit. pp. 104–108
  4. ^ Rösch, Felix; Watanabe, Atsuko (13 July 2016). "Approaching the unsynthesizable in international politics: Giving substance to security discourses through basso ostinato?". European Journal of International Relations. 23 (3): 609–629. doi:10.1177/1354066116656764. ISSN 1354-0661.
  5. ^ L'Harmattan web site (in French)
  6. ^ Association for Asian Studies (AAS), 1993 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies; retrieved 2011-05-31

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]