We meet on a triple anniversary: the 25th Anniversary of the founding of Kyoto Seika University in 1968; the 25th Anniversary of the world revolution of 1968; the 52nd Anniversary of the exact day (at least on the us calendar) of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese fleet. Let me begin by noting what I think each of these anniversaries represents.footnote1
The founding of Kyoto Seika University is a symbol of a major development in the history of our world-system: the extraordinary quantitative expansion of university structures in the 1950s and 1960s.footnote2 In a sense, this period was the culmination of the Enlightenment promise of progress through education. In itself, this was a wonderful thing, and we celebrate it here today. But, as with many wonderful things, it had its complications and its costs. One complication was that the expansion of higher education produced large numbers of graduates who insisted on jobs and incomes commensurate with their status, and there came to be some difficulty in answering this demand,
This brings us to the second anniversary, that of the world revolution of 1968. This world revolution started in most countries (but not all) within the universities. One of the issues that served as tinder for the fire was no doubt the sudden anxiety of these prospective graduates about their job prospects. But, of course, this narrowly egoistic factor was not the principal focus of the revolutionary explosion. Rather it was merely one more symptom of the generic problem, concern with the real content of the whole set of promises contained in the Enlightenment scenario of progress—promises that, on the surface, had seemed to have been realized in the period after 1945.
And this brings us to the third anniversary, the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was this attack that brought the us into the Second World War as a formal participant. In fact, however, the war was not a war primarily between Japan and the us. Japan, if you will pardon my saying so, was a second-rank player in this global drama, and its attack was a minor intervening event in a long-standing struggle. The war was primarily a war between Germany and the us, and had been de facto a continuous war since 1914. It was a ‘thirty years’ war’ between the two principal contenders for succession to Great Britain as the hegemonic power of the world-system. As we know, the us would win this war and become hegemonic, and thereupon would be the one to preside over this world-wide surface triumph of Enlightenment promises.
Hence, I shall organize my remarks in terms of this set of themes which in fact we mark by these anniversaries. I shall discuss first the era of hope and struggle for Enlightenment ideals, 1789–1945. Then I shall seek to analyse the era of Enlightenment hopes to be realized, but falsely realized, 1945–89. Thirdly, I shall come to our present era, the ‘Black Period’ that began in 1989 and will go on for possibly as much as a half-century. Finally, I shall talk of the choices before us—now, and also soon.
The first great political expression of the Enlightenment, in all its ambiguities, was of course the French Revolution. What the French Revolution was about has itself become one of the great ambiguities of our era. The bicentennial in France in 1989 was the occasion of a very
The French Revolution itself was the end point of a long process, not in France alone but in the entire capitalist world-economy as a historical system. For, by 1789, a goodly part of the globe had been located inside this historical system for three centuries already. And during those three centuries, most of its key institutions had been established and consolidated: the axial division of labour, with a significant transfer of surplus-value from peripheral zones to core zones; the primacy of reward to those operating in the interests of the endless accumulation of capital; the interstate system composed of so-called sovereign states, which however were constrained by the framework and the ‘rules’ of this interstate system; and the ever-growing polarization of this world-system, one that was not merely economic but social, and was on the verge of becoming demographic as well.