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Full Access The 1911 Revolution and the Politics of Failure: Takeuchi Yoshimi and Global Capitalist Modernity

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The 1911 Revolution and the Politics of Failure: Takeuchi Yoshimi and Global Capitalist Modernity

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Chinese historians have considered the 1911 Revolution an incomplete bourgeois revolution, especially in comparison to the more successful 1949 Revolution. On the other hand, in their famous tract in the early 1990s, Li Zehou and Liu Zaifu claimed that a rethinking of the 1911 Revolution should lead us to reject the concept of revolution altogether. In both of these formulations, as stepping stone towards socialism or demonstration that any revolution is futile, the 1911 Revolution is in some way connected to the legitimacy of capitalism. However, in post-war Japan, when Japanese intellectuals were debating the consequences of the American Occupation and Japan's role in the Second World War, the 1911 Revolution had a different significance. Post-war Japanese sinologists often turned to the 1911 Revolution as a symbol of hope, despite its failure. Takeuchi Yoshimi was the pioneer of this intellectual trend and he argued that, unlike the Meiji Ishin, which was a pale imitation of Western modernity, the 1911 Revolution represented a unique affirmation of revolutionary subjectivity, precisely because its initial attempts at modernization failed. Takeuchi and his disciples' discussions of how the 1911 Revolution produced subjectivity out of failure illustrate post-war Japanese sinologists employed the 1911 Revolution in debates about subjectivity and anti-colonialism. An analysis of their writings will open the way to thinking both the 1911 Revolution and its perception in Japan as it relates to the trajectory of capitalism and its discontents in the 20th century.


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