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Big in Japan: Academics return to Marx to seek answers to today's problems

Craig Gelling

15th September 2022

Kohei Saito’s book Capital in the Anthropocene has become an unlikely hit among young people and is about to be translated into English

Culturally, Japan has often been seen as the poster child for capitalism, particularly when examining post-War development of nations. With a consumerist culture and a work ethic that would make most protestants blush, Japan’s economic growth in the period following World War Two was held up as an example of how capitalism can bring about development, particularly in comparison to other nations in the region that adopted socialist and communist methods of development.

However, with the climate crisis highlighting the dangers of capitalism, Japan’s concerned citizens have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration – Karl Marx. Inspired by Marx’s writings on sustainability and the environment, Kohei Saito, a left-wing academic and associate professor at Tokyo University has sold over half a million copies of his book Capital in the Anthropocene – a remarkable feat for any academic text, let alone one so diametrically opposed to Japan’s cultural values.

Saito proposes solutions to the climate crisis and the impacts on individuals’ well-being caused by late-capitalist society. Arguing that there needs to be a period of de-growth, legislation against disposable capitalism (e.g. fast fashion) and shorter working weeks.

Published in 2020, Saito’s text will soon be translated into English. You can read more about his book in this article from the Guardian.

Craig Gelling

Craig is an experienced Sociology teacher and examiner and is known as The Sociology Guy on social media. Craig helps design and deliver tutor2u Sociology CPD courses and student exam workshops.

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