chapter  11
The Meiji Restoration in Comparative History
Pages 16

The second comparative theme is an indirect one, resting on comparisons with the history of Europe. During the 19th century, European thinkers produced a number of generalised explanations of human society, which were in practice founded upon a study ofWestern civilisation. The most influential have been those associated with the names of Marx and Weber. Their ideas are widely used by Japanese historians: it is impossible to study the enormous monograph literature on the Meiji Restoration without having this fact brought clearly to one's mind. In effect, when Japanese scholars seek to test how far the ideas of Marx or Weber can be applied to parts of the history of Japan, they are engaged in the study of comparative history. That is to say, they are comparing specific subject-matter taken from Japanese history with a series of generalisations which Marx and Weber derived mostly from the study of European history. The process is not unlike that by which Confucian scholars made comparisons between Japan and China. There, too, the particular was examined in the light of a supposedly universal dogma.