Senior Research Scholar
Weatherhead East Asian Institute
The real difference related to how the respective cultures of W. Europe and Japan viewed the body: in the West the compulsion to work resulted in misrecognizing the valuation of things and a devaluating of the body, whereas in Japan the nativist effort sought to return work back to the divinely endowed vocation of the body bestowed on the folk by the primal gods of heaven and earth as the means to allaying their fears of death and migration to the final location of the spirits in the place of permanent pollution (yomi) that diverted ordinary people into embracing the distractions of individualized pleasures of the flesh. The former was mediated by the consequences of a complex psychological separation of mental and manual (external) labor that necessitated work as a repressive inner compulsion to produce neuroses in history, indeed to make of history a record of neurosis, while the latter sought to rescue the body from desire and restore its primary vocation in manual labor to eliminate the historical altogether. Both, paradoxically, seemed to share differing social theories rooted in the return of the sacred that forfeited the body’s materiality and its associations with pleasure and desire.