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Culture and Education

The Mission of Waseda University
“Independence of Learning”and Cooperation of Academic Staff

Masakatsu Tamura
Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Waseda University

1. Waseda University’s Founding Spirit—Independence of Learning
A policy subordinate to America

The founding spirit of Waseda University is “Independence of Learning.”Marquis Shigenobu Okuma argued that academic independence leads to independence of the nation, and this is a maxim that applies equally today. The importance of this truth can be seen clearly in the numerous policy problems that have arisen in recent years.

Discussions at the Miyazawa-Clinton meetingof 1993 led to the submission of abroad-ranging Annual Reform Recommendations document to the Japanese government, which has diligently implemented these recommendations. Examples of such policies include privatization of the post office, financial globalization, market valuation of share prices, and the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, all of which were implemented in response to American recommendations.

The Structural Calculation Forgery Problem also has its roots in the switch from “specifications standards” to “performance standards” under an amendment to the Building Standards Act that was implemented based on the Annual Reform Recommendations. In recent years, health care reforms and the TPP policy have been implemented in accordance with the American recommendations, as has the establishment of “law schools” under changes to the legal system.

Meanwhile, the fact that Japan has the worst fiscal deficit of all developed nations is related to the Structural Impediments Initiative talks between Japan and the United States. America demanded public investment by Japan of 430 trillion yen over a ten-year period in 1991 and 630 trillion yen in 1995 with the aim of controlling Japanese exports, and the Japanese government met these demands to a large degree.

Academic self-examination

Why has the Japanese government adopted an America-subservient policy to such an extent? One of the main explanations lies in the fact that Japan has not established “academic independence.”The majority of Japan’s financial and industrial leaders, bureaucrats, politicians, members of government advisory bodies, university teachers and mass media representatives have received an American-style practical education, including American-style economics, and in many cases it is the only approach they can utilize.

Accordingly, despite the fact that what are referred to by America as “global standards” are in reality no more than “American standards,” these have been accepted by Japan as “global standards.” Paradoxically, the maxim that academic independence leads to independence of the nation has been shown in this way to be extremely accurate. Rather than simply repeating foreign learning in parrot fashion, there is a need to receive foreign learning with a critical eye, but this approach has been lacking.

2. The demands of society and self-improvement
Academia as light in the chaos

“Academic independence” means the out-and-out pursuit of truth, and is the essence of academic freedom. The reason why academic freedom is insisted upon under the Constitution is to guarantee the thorough pursuit of truth without the need to cater to current public opinion. The very fact that society is frivolous to the point of pursuing rapid globalization and rapidly changing social systems, including businesses, means that the “unchanging universal truth” is something that society demands more than ever from its universities.

Human thought is forced to consider the concrete problems faced in day-to-day life, but it also focuses on “universal truth,” including metaphysical thinking. The late-medieval philosopher Nicolaus Cusanus referred to this kind of philosophical wandering as “discursus,” and this word is the origin of the English word “discourse,” which means discussionor debate. Accordingly, while “practical learning” is necessary, at the same time society also requires “universal truth,” which is something that we cannot expect to obtain from practical learning.

It is this pursuit of universal truth that provides the “chink of light” that allows us to reflect on where we have come from, to project the future course, and to set out the purpose and direction of society itself. Academic learning that lacks this approach is, even if it is adapted to globalization, rationalization and corporate interests, nothing more than a rootless pursuit that ultimately becomes swallowed up in the torrents of the times.

Learning in a broad sense and self-improvement

Modern social science has its roots in interdisciplinary learning, including British “moral philosophy,” French “social philosophy” and German “legal philosophy.” However, modern rationalism has led these pursuits to be divided into “social sciences,” which have been further categorized and “specialized” in the same way as the natural sciences. The goal is to pursue “optimization” in each of these fields. However, when all of this individual optimization comes together, the danger arises of a “fallacy of composition,” as is most clearly typified by the destruction of the natural environment.

In the early 1970s, Kenneth Boulding argued that the devil is in the optimization of the parts, as a warning against the sinking of “Spaceship Earth.”Prior to this, Karl Jaspers divided learning into the “narrow learning” of specialization and “broad learning.” He pointed out that narrow specialization was nothing more than a fragmented system with no use for the “self-improvement” of people, and therefore that broad learning was essential.This is nothing less than “broad learning based on universal philosophies.”For this reason, specialized learning always needs to keep this philosophy in mind.

Along with the popularization of university education, many of today’s students see university as a passport to employment and a passport to success. However, at a more fundamental level, the reason they entered university was to ask the question “What is a meaningful life?” and to pursue self-improvement. Students who are not aware of this need to be made aware of it. The mission of a university is the pursuit of “universal truth” as a way of responding to this goal. At essence, this is what “Independence of Learning” at Waseda University boils down to, and the mission of Waseda University is to continue pursuing a community united by its three part—the students, the teachers and the staff for this purpose.

Masakatsu Tamura
Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Waseda University
Executive Director of The Society of Economic Sociology (former president), Member of the Japan Economic Policy Association (former executive director), President of Nihon Keizai Kyokai

[Profile]
1945 Born in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture. Graduated from Nagano Prefecture’s Matsumoto Fukashi Prefectural High School.
1968 Graduated from the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University.
1974 Graduated from the Doctoral Program at the Graduate School of Economics, Waseda University.
1972 Research Associate, School of Social Sciences, Waseda University.
1982 to present Professor, Waseda University (Dean of the School of Social Sciences from 1992 to 94)
1984 to 1986 -Visiting Researcher, University of Bonn

[Areas of Specialization]
Economic policy and social philosophy

[Academic Degrees and Qualifications]
Doctor of Economics

[Major Publications]
Economic Sociology: Beyond the Logic of the Modern Society [Keizai Shakai Kenkyu: Kindai Shakai no Ronri wo Koete] (Waseda University Press, 1977)
The Contemporary Economic and Social Systems: Their Future and Overcoming the Modernity [Gendai no Keizai Shakai Taisei: Ryou-Taisei no Yukue to Kindai no Choukoku] (Shinhyoron, 1980 and 1990)
Dynamics of World Economy: Nationalism, Unionism, and Globalism [Sekai Keizai Doutai-Ron: Nashonarizumu, Yunionizumu, Gurobarizumu] (Waseda University Press, 1983)
Philosophy for Social Sciences [Shakai-Kagaku no Tame no Tetsugaku] (Koujinsha, 1986)
New Development of the Japanese Economy: Economy and Leisure for Human Restoration [Nihon Keizai no Shin-Tenkai: Ningen Fukkou no Keizai Yoka Ron] (Shinhyoron, 1989)
Social Philosophy for the New Era: Shift from the Modern Paradigm [Shin-Jidai no Shakai-Tetsugaku: Kindaiteki Paradaimu no Tenkan] (Waseda University Press, 1995 and 2000)
The “Fluctuating” Structure of the World System: EU, East Asia, and the World Economy [SekaiShisutemu“Yuragi” no Kouzou: EU, Higashi Ajia, Sekai Keizai] (coauthor, Waseda University Press, 1998)
Visible and Invisible Natures: Environmental Preservation, Natural Rights, and Natural Philosophy [Mieru Shizen to Mienai Shizen: Kankyou Hogo, Shizen no Kenri, Shizen Tetsugaku] (Waseda University Press, 2001)
The Contemporary Society and Volunteers [Gendai Shakai to Borantyia] (co-authored, Minerva Shobo, 2001)
Communities Coming Back: Dialogue between Philosophy and Social Sciences [Yomigaeru Komyunityi: Tetsugaku to Shakai Kagaku no Taiwa] (editor and contributor,Bunshindou, 2003)
Lecture on the Principle of Social Sciences [Shakai Kagaku Genron Kougi] (Waseda University Press, 2007)
Studies on Volunteers: The Philosophy and Practice of Coexistence [Borantyia-Ron: Kyousei no Rinen to Jissen] (editor and contributor, Minerva Shobo, 2009)
Lectures on Social Philosophy: Towards a Rebirth of Modern Civilization [Shakai Testugaku Kougi: KindaiBunmei no Tensei ni Mukete (Minerva Shobo, 2012)
Biannual Economic Outlook [Hantoshigoto no Keikimitoshi] (booklet) (Nihon Keizaizai Kyokai) 1994-2015