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Tokugawa Religion Paperback – September 1, 1985

ISBN-13: 978-0029024607 ISBN-10: 0029024609 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 2 edition (September 1, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029024609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029024607
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #428,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By BookReader333 on July 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
The author developed the ideas of this book in his Ph.D. dissertation at Harvard in the 1950s, and this book originally came out in 1957. The subtile was "The Values of Pre-Industrial Japan." Apart from the different subtitle and new introduction by the author, the 1985 and 1957 books seem exactly the same.

Sociologist Bellah follows the foot steps of Max Weber, a German sociologist who explained, several generations before, that Northern European capitalism was strongly influenced by Protestantism (the religion of N. Europe for the last 500 years). Bellah similarly makes a strong argument that the industrialization of Japan had its roots in a very special religious ans pre-religious configuration. Though he comments about more ancient and more recent Japan, his focus period is the so-called "Tokugawa Period": 1600-1868. He feels that in this period Japan's religion and values had greatly stabilized compared to the upheavals of past centuries. The religion and values continued to evolve in the T period, but they were steadily leading to a concentration of politcal power in the person of the emperor.

Japan's case is very different from N. Europe in may ways. Let me just mention one: for more than a 1,000 years before the T period, what is called Japanese religion had been a blend of Shinto, Confucianism, and Buddhism (and some Taoism). That blend always remained close to real life, through codes of ethics that were taken seriouly in day to day living. Bellah makes illuminating comparisons to China, and a couple of key comparisons to Europe that are also very illuminating.

Why did I give such an important book 4 rather than 5 stars? First because I coudn't give it 4.5 stars.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Crossfit Len on February 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Thesis is important. The idea that the religious beliefs of the Japanese, a mix of Zen, Buddhism, Shinto, and a bit of Confucianism, created a Protestant like Work ethic in Japan. It is intriguing. The Weber thesis of Western Europe and the North American states that the Protestant religion ground in many a pull yourself up by the bootstraps mentality is a good one. Look at the economic and industrial success of majority Protestant countries vs. majority Catholic countries. Bellah carries this type of idea to the Japanese. The vocabulary of this book is tought. It is not an easy read, but it is informative and it is thought provoking.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Etienne ROLLAND-PIEGUE on May 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
Upon reading Tokugawa Religion after its publication in 1957, Maruyama Masao wrote the following: "There are not many books lying around which can shake us out of our inertia. Of the many American research works on Japan which are constantly coming out, Bellah's book, more than any in a long time, has aroused my appetite and my fighting spirit." By this, one of postwar Japan's most influential critics was endorsing the work of a young and yet unknown social scientist freshly out of Harvard with a joint doctoral degree in sociology and Far Eastern studies.

Maruyama's lengthy review underscored the theoretical ambition of the book, which purported to do to Tokugawa religion and Japan what Max Weber had done for the Protestant ethic and the West. But he questioned whether the particularism of Japan, its tendency to concentrate loyalty on particular groups and their leaders, from the emperor and the nation down to the family and the firm, could really be, as Bellah had argued, an adequate substitute for ethical universalism. Maruyama pointed out that economic development did not necessarily correlate with political democratization or the prevalence of universal principles and human rights. He argued that economic development, unaccompanied by certain other changes, could even undermine the conditions of its own continuation.

By arguing so, Maruyama, perhaps unwittingly, was being faithful to a different Max Weber: not the theoretician of rationalization and the bureaucratic order that Talcott Parsons had adapted to derive his theory of social structure, but a more somber and pessimistic Weber, who felt that magic had gone out of this world and that mankind had locked itself into an iron cage.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Mohamed Taher on July 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
Bellah begins by defining religion as "a set of symbolic forms and acts that relate man to the ultimate conditions of his existence." He argues that beginning with the single cosmos of the undifferentiated primitive religious worldview in which life is a "one possibility thing," evolution in the religious sphere is toward the increasing differentiation and complexity of symbol systems. His evolutionary religious taxonomy specifies five stages: primitive (e.g., Australian Aborigines), archaic (e.g., Native American), historic (e.g., ancient Judaism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam, early Palestinian Christianity), early modern (e.g., Protestant Christianity), and modern (religious individualism). In the modern stage of religious evolution, the hierarchic dualistic religious symbol system that emerged in the historic epoch is collapsed and the symbol system that results is "infinitely multiplex." In this posttraditional situation, the individual confronts life as an "infinite possibility thing," and is "capable, within limits, of continual self-transformation and capable, again within limits, of remaking the world, including the very symbolic forms with which he deals with it, even the forms that state the unalterable conditions of his own existence."

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An interesting perspective on Protestant Work Ethic applied / tested in other cultural setting.
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