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Did Chinese society in fact experience an era that can be called feudal? If it did, which period was that and what form did it take? If it did not, then what sort of logical development has Chinese history as a whole pursued? The basic task of this part of the book is to disentangle this issue. My original intent was to come to terms with the unique nature of Chinese society by further investigating Chinese society from this perspective. Since I have been unable as yet to reach that goal, my present objective is a preparatory investigation to that end.

Why, then, must we ask if feudalism existed in China? To people for whom it is self-evident that Chinese society, like Western society, followed a course from ancient slavery to medieval feudalism to modern capitalism, or should have taken such a course, it may indeed seem strange to pose the question of the existence in Chinese history of feudalism. Yet, we are certainly not lacking for theories that deny the existence of feudalism in Chinese history. The two positions, affirming or denying feudalism, have a rather long history of debate themselves. This issue is actually linked directly to the issue of China's modernization.

Generally speaking, theses that affirm or deny feudalism have tended to bifurcate into diametrically opposed views with respect to the progressive nature of Chinese society. Those who believe China experienced feudalism argue that Chinese society basically followed a path of historical progress consistent with that of Western society. Those who deny feudalism argue that Chinese society was extraordinarily saturated with stagnancy, as compared to the West, and they assume that it existed in a qualitatively different historical world from Western society. In other words, the former conceive of a unilinear, monistic


world history, whereas the latter conceive of a two-tracked or multitracked world history.

These two points of view, though diametrically opposed, nonetheless share one aspect in common. Be it progress or stagnation, in either case the observation is rooted in modern Western society. In comparing it to the modern West (and its prehistory), they see Chinese society as either progressing or stagnating—merely different perspectives from the same line of vision. In this line of vision, it seems that the "modern West" is deeply tied up with a guiding conception for world history. Casting the least doubt on all this necessitates a basic reanalysis of both theories, progress and stagnation.

In the past, the issue that East Asian historical studies have confronted most revealingly has been the nature of the link between the societies of East Asia and of the modern world (with the West at the forefront) as an overall, continual process from ancient through modern times. It was here that the two opposing points of view were born, though neither side doubted that Chinese society would dissolve into the stream of the modern world. In this "modernization process," they wanted to see the evolution of the Chinese into ordinary people. However, we have reached a critical stage in which various negative factors in contemporary human existence have forced us to reexamine the significance of such a modernization process itself. The more modernization proceeds, the more people lose confidence in their existence as individual beings. This contradiction has consistently covered the contemporary world. This human crisis we see today must be linked to the nature of East Asian historical studies itself. The question, can East Asian historical studies maintain its integrity as a human science, seems to pose a tremendous hindrance to the development of our own field of research, which is only natural.

Now, however, there seems to be no more room for doubt that these preconceptions, which past scholars of East Asia took for granted, are themselves being undermined. We can no longer understand the realities of Chinese society in the context of world history solely within a framework of progress or stagnation. Where shall we find a new line of vision for our understanding of China? This book attempts to look along an untraveled path from the vantage point of an investigation of past scholarship into this problem of the existence or nonexistence of a Chinese feudalism.


Chinese Historical Studies in the Postwar Period and the Development of Conceptions of Feudalism

The Two Paths to Feudalism

One of the goals set by Japanese studies of Chinese history in the postwar period has been "to overcome the theory of stagnation." The defeat of Japanese imperialism in the war had the effect of thoroughly dismantling the Japanese people's sense of superiority with respect to China. The subsequent victory of the Chinese revolution was seen as factual proof of the fallacy of the theory of stagnation, which had been propounded even from within the Marxist camp. Thus, the problem became one of how to understand in a consistent manner the progressive nature of Chinese society from antiquity through modernity. The investigation of this problem was advanced on the basis of a belief in a rational scientific comprehension of history. Antithetical to the wartime ultranationalist conception of history, historical materialism as a method gained general currency. Max Weber's methodology also offered a powerful stimulus to the academic world.

Between the war and the postwar period, however, there was a large gap in historical research. Studies in history did not immediately develop in response to the new social conditions following the war. The scholarly world was utterly despondent, and the publication of Ishimoda Sho[*] 's painstaking work, Chusei[*] teki sekai no keisei (The formation of the medieval


world)[1] played a great role in filling this gap. This book was the result of wartime research by the author, himself a Marxist. It vividly and substantively described the historical process by which the temple-owned estates of ancient Japan grew through class conflicts over a long period of time into rule by medieval fiefdoms. In other words, Ishimoda attempted to demonstrate in concrete terms the transformation from the ancient slave system to medieval feudalism in Japan, a process characterized by the generation and growth of a system of domination by medieval territorial lords.

The ancient slave system spoken of here differs from the prototypical slavery that flourished in the classical ancient world. It was what might be called an Asiatic slavery in that it was strictly regulated under the ritsuryo[*] system.[2] In its emergence, Japanese patriarchal-familial slavery displayed the same origins as the typical slave system while simultaneously preventing its further development. As a result one finds at that time the existence of a wide body of self-sustaining peasants. In this regard, the ancient Japanese imperial system was in many instances characterizable as feudal. The research of Watanabe Yoshimichi prior to the war, however, argued for a Japanese variety of slavery (or rather, more generally, an Asiatic slavery).[3] Ishimoda, who was a member of Watanabe's study group, traced the process through which a feudal-serf system was formed, using the thesis of a Japanese style of slavery.

The homeland of the ritsuryo system (this Japanese brand of slavery) was, needless to say, China in the era of the Sui-T'ang empire. Thus the emergence of a feudal domain system in Japan involved a process whereby Japan broke away from the ancient world in East Asia and forged her own distinctive path. This meant that Japan and China would subsequently diverge and proceed along different routes. In medieval China, social relations did not give rise to a system of territorial domains or to bands of warriors, as in Japan.

In 1939 the late Kato[*] Shigeshi analyzed the historical differences between China and Japan. He argued that whereas in Japan a feudal system remained in existence over a long period of time, China had only experienced it early on in the Chou dynasty and that thereafter civil officials in a state bureaucracy had become the basis of Chinese government.


Kato[*] 's argument goes as follows. The Six Dynasties and late T'ang eras witnessed for a time the growth of private armies and the energetic activities of military men, but we do not see the development of a warrior class based on hereditary, lord-vassal relations, as in Japan. In China they were swallowed up into a civil government where power was centralized. The expression pu-ch'üa had originally meant an army, but by the Sui-T'ang period it was a way of referring to the outcasts of society; this would indicate that military hierarchical relations did not mature into feudal hierarchical relations. Furthermore, this difference prescribed the nature of the social development of the Chinese and Japanese peoples, so that the evolution of a sound superior-inferior (lord-vassal, ruler-ruled) ethic in Japan nurtured the distinctive nature of the Japanese—profound in human emotions and firm in moral principles. It formed the basis for the sound development of the Japanese people.[4]

This observation by Kato offered a pioneering foreshadowing of the problem of the relationship between feudalism and modernization, to be discussed in a later section. What circumstances gave rise to this divergence between the Japanese system of warrior feudal domains and China's bureaucratic rule by civil government? Kato did not address this issue, but it is dealt with in Ishimoda's book.

Ishimoda found the reason for this difference in the nature of Chinese clan and in the differentiation of classes within the "village community" (sonraku kyodotai[*] or kyodotai ).b,c In China, class distinctions developed within the "community," giving rise to the opposition between landlord and tenant farmer, rich peasant and poor peasant. Yet China was characterized by the fact that while "community" relations worked well, they caused a blurring of class relations. For instance, organs of mutual aid within a single-clan village—such as relief offered by rich families or the systems of manorial or ceremonial lands—stressed one's place as a "community" member over class relations within the clan. Also, the cohabitation of many small families (numerous generations living together prevented any decisive rupture) gave rise to the same set of circumstances. In medieval Japan, however, familial cohesion was the product of families that had once branched and were reuniting; and the heads of the branches retained their high degree of indepen-


dence as the nuclei for cohesion. This difference in how clan cohesion came about was expressed as Chinese passivity and Japanese activity.

Thus, Ishimoda argues, although there did materialize in China as well the basis for domainal or feudal production relations, the political form corresponding to these production relations did not take shape because it was restricted by clan ties. This fact applies as well to the problem of the formation of warrior bands. As witnessed by clan feuds[5] of modern times, in forging a fighting organization for village self-defense, the relationship between the commanders and the commanded could not transcend relations within the "community" of clan patriarchs and their offspring, and transform itself into personal hierarchic relations.

China developed neither domainal nor warrior relations not because she lacked the appropriate conditions; rather, those conditions existed but were restricted by the bonds in the "community" order. In Japan, feudal relations broke through such restrictions, matured rapidly, and eventually followed a distinctive historical course separate from the East Asian world. The foundation stone of modern Japan was laid here.

This comparative historical analysis of Ishimoda's raises several problems. He failed to take into account the independent role exercised by the superstructure on the base; and he tried hard to understand in a unified fashion the fulfillment of world-historical laws within the history of these two peoples as well as both peoples' unique expressions of this process.

Ishimoda developed his views more fully in his later work. In his essay, "Chusei[*] shi kenkyu[*] no kiten: hokensei[*] e no futatsu no michi ni tsuite" (The starting point for research into medieval history: On the two paths to feudalism),[6] he argued that the T'ang was an empire of the ancient world comparable to the Roman empire, and the peoples living along China's frontiers were subsumed within this world empire. With the collapse of the T'ang empire came the individual formation of each of these nations and cultures. In this process, Japan developed from an ancient state within the orbit of the T'ang toward a feudal state. Chinese society, however, gradually underwent a serious transformation through the transition from T'ang to Five Dynasties to Sung. One aspect of the shift from ancient empire to feudal


state can be seen in the decentralization of power under the system of regional commanderies and the sharply militaristic nature of it. However, the Sung dynasty, which emerged after this transitional period, took shape as a far more despotic, bureaucratic, and centralized state than any preceding dynasty. The aristocracy who had been the ruling class in ancient times collapsed precipitously, and a feudal domainal class did not crystallize as independent political forces.

Thus, the fall of the T'ang empire led to divergent paths in the development toward feudalism for the peoples of East Asia, particularly for Japan and China. Why did these two routes—the maturation of feudalism and its absence—emerge? In Chusei[*] teki sekai no keisei, Ishimoda locates the key to this in the nature of "community" relations that existed between territorial lords and peasants. Yet, the problem remains unresolved as to why China's system of territorial lords was unable to transform its ancient and "communitarian" society in the rural villages, and to construct a medieval, feudal political structure, as proved to be the case in Japan. This problem has to be addressed from an analysis of the structure of the territorial system of medieval China itself. Realizing this, Ishimoda based himself in the empirical research of Kato[*] Shigeshi and Sudo[*] Yoshiyukid and sought to establish the nature of the Sung-Yüan period in its system of tenant farming.

In terms of their legal status, tenant farmers were free commoners, but in reality they could be bonded to a landlord. Tenant farmers were independent managers after a fashion, but they relied on the landlord for plowing oxen, farm implements, seed, fertilizer, and even housing. Thus, the tenant farmer's position was truly like that of a slave. There were no contractual tenant relations at all, but something rather closer to slavery. Ishimoda thus identified this with the early Japanese manorial system and the Colonate system of ancient Rome. In other words, it indicated a transitional phase from slavery to serfdom. Although the demise of the T'ang empire signaled a shift from slave society to serf society, China remained at a stage that could not be fully sublimated into a medieval, feudal structure.

What sort of internal linkage existed between such a system of tenant farming and the centralized, bureaucratic state structure from the Sung dynasty onward? Generally speaking, the


management of landholding under the feudal system ordinarily was a bifurcation away from direct management under slavery into land tillage by peasants and land cultivation by the landlords. Under the tenant farming system, however, landlord cultivation and management of the land was fairly rare. This, at least, was Ishimoda's answer.

In Ishimoda's view, landlords under the tenant system were extraordinarily parasitic in nature. Although a widespread body of bankrupt peasants was produced by the breakup of the ancient empire, these peasants formed the pool to supply an unlimited labor power for the tenant system. Since the landlords were able to take control of the peasants through debts owed them, they were able to be parasitic in the administration of their very own land. At the same time, they were parasites in that their production relations were guaranteed by state power. In sum, without the cohesion of landlords as an independent political force vis à vis state power, the ancient state was not fully transcended but continued as a state with power centralized. Commercial and urban relations did develop and exhibited early modern[7] signs. The feudal state in China manifested a complex visage in which ancient, medieval, and early modern elements overlapped and intertwined.

This is an overall summary of Ishimoda's essay, "Chusei[*] shi kenkyu[*] no kiten," which developed ideas from his book, Chusei[*] teki sekai no keisei. Particularly worthy of our attention here is that the question of the periodization from antiquity to medieval times in Chinese history was discussed through the concrete historical process of the T'ang-Sung transformation. In this connection, he attempted to prove the existence of serfdom in China on the basis of substantive production relations in a system of tenant farming. The shame associated with lack of a thoroughgoing feudal system in China, as compared with its conspicuous development in Japan, is consistent with Ishimoda's earlier work. His argument that China had followed a distinctive path to feudalism was here substantiated. As Ishimoda put it, contrary to his earlier work, which inclined toward a theory of stagnation by emphasizing the deep-rootedness of "community" relations in China, his later work aimed at breaking away from it.[8]

This desire in 1949 to disavow a theory of stagnation was


undeniably bound up with Ishimoda's corresponding position in the contemporary political scene. In the essay, "Chusei[*] shi kenkyu[*] no kiten," he wrote: "The establishment of an inseparable linkage and solidarity between the advancement of the Chinese revolution and the Japanese revolution in the postwar period means that we have reached the final stage of the historical exchange between [our] two nations over a long period of time." He went on to say: "In order to understand the world-historical importance of this, we must reevaluate the historical connection between China and Japan within the history of East Asian peoples from the changing perspective of the present."

To accomplish this, Ishimoda proposed as central subjects for research: (1) the contemporary consolidation of the Chinese revolution with the Japanese revolution; (2) the mid-nineteenth century, the period in Japan of the Meiji Restoration and in China from the Taiping Rebellion through semicolonization; and, together with these two eras, (3) the period of the collapse of the empire of the ancient world in which both Japan and China established medieval feudal societies. Thus, it was Ishimoda's intention in this later work to try and capture the commonality and linkage between Chinese and Japanese history from the position of the political solidarity of the two peoples and not simply by addressing the differences in their respective societies as he had done in Chusei[*] teki sekai no keisei. This aim was, needless to say, mediated by various actual issues of the day, such as the loss of the war, the rapid successes of the Chinese revolution, and the issues of a revolution in Japan. The theoretical problem of overcoming the theory of stagnation was fixed precisely at the base point of the junction between politics and scholarship.[9]

The Development of Conceptions of Chinese Feudalism

The issues raised by Ishimoda exerted a forceful influence among historians of East Asia. He apparently fueled the tendency to pursue the development of theory by using the empirical research of other scholars. In addition to Kato[*] Shigeshi and Sudo[*] Yoshiyuki, there was Maeda Naonori's essay, "Higashi


Ajia ni okeru kodai no shumatsu[*] " (The end of the ancient period in East Asia),[10] which argued for the first time the notion that Sui and T'ang were part of antiquity.

Ishimoda's thesis was incorporated as early as 1949 into Matsumoto Shinhachiro[*] 's paper, "Genshi kodai shakai ni okeru kihon teki mujun ni tsuite" (On the fundamental contradictions in primitive and ancient societies),[11] presented at the annual meeting of the Rekishigaku kenkyukai[*] (The Historical Research Association). Yet, it was Nishijima Sadao's paper, "Kodai kokka no kenryoku kozo[*] " (The power structure of the ancient state)[12] and Hori Toshikazu's paper, "Chugoku[*] ni okeru hoken[*] kokka no keitai" (The formation of the feudal state in China),[13] both delivered the following year, 1950, at the second annual meeting of the Rekishigaku kenkyukai, which developed these issues in a scholarly, empirical manner.

Hori's paper was part of a symposium entitled "Hoken[*] kokka no honshitsu to sono rekishi teki shokeitai"e (The nature of the feudal state and its historical forms); and Ishimoda offered the panel's summary report, entitled "Hoken kokka ni kansuru riron teki shomondai"f (Theoretical issues concerning the feudal state), which was based on the papers given by Hori and Nagahara Keiji.[14] Insofar as Chinese history was discussed, this conference is worthy of our attention, for the Rekishigaku kenkyukai worked out its lines for research most explicitly.

One issue that came up in Ishimoda's paper was whether the centralized bureaucratic state can be regarded as a feudal state, if we consider the era from the Sung onward as medieval, for the feudal state usually assumes a decentralized state form. In his earlier essay, "Chusei[*] shi kenkyu[*] no kiten," Ishimoda saw this as a relic from the ancient state, but in his 1950 paper he changed his perspective in the following way. The form of the decentralized state, he argued, is not a necessary condition of the feudal state. Even under feudalism, which assumes an anarchic political form, because the state is the mechanism for class rule, it spawns a unified segment of power. Royal power in the feudal states of Western Europe followed this pattern. Thus, it was not strange that feudal society in China constructed a centralized bureaucratic state.

The fact that this state structure was carried on after the


Sung has to be seen rather as a reflection of the severe class relations of that time. For example, there were many peasant rebellions in the transitional era from T'ang to Sung, with a high point being reached by the Huang Ch'aog uprising. That uprising was on a massive scale, to which the rebellions of late antiquity in Japan could not compare, and revealed a popular energy in medieval China which had been accumulating over a long period. In the fear that these peasant uprisings could not be suppressed by the might of individual large landowners or local powers, the establishment of a centralized, bureaucratic state became a necessity.

These are the general contours of Ishimoda's paper. In sum, we should note that by stipulating that China had an "incomplete feudal state," Ishimoda set up a "Chinese form of the feudal state" in tandem with those of Western Europe and Japan. Although this theory of the Chinese feudal state was based on the contents of Hori's paper,[15] Hori's work went well together with Nishijima's paper on the ancient Chinese state. The issue Nishijima raised was the Chinese form of ancient slavery, which I would like to consider now.

Nishijima began with the following premise: when we consider the phenomenon of the ancient state, we have to assume the ruling relations of an appropriate slave system. But, since a wide variety of slave systems are predictable depending on their origins, we have to analyze both the general and the specific aspects of slave systems in history. In the past, theories of stagnation did not recognize a slave stage in China, but in order to do away with the concept of stagnation and come up with a progressive nature to Chinese society, it was necessary to recognize the existence of a period of slavery.

If there was such a Chinese form of slavery, Nishijima asked, in what way did it emerge and exist? The use of iron implements, which began in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, caused an epochal development in agricultural productive power. It broke up the clan "community" that had formed the basis of the Chou "feudal" system and brought into existence a patriarchal-familial slavery. The united bodies of the clans of these patriarchal-familial slave owners were known as hao-tsuh or great clans. Family slaves were thus used to manage the land of the great clans, but with a certain limitation:


we see a "borrowed land"[16] system in the form of tenancy around the borders of the clan lands, without the evolution of a slave labor system as had been the case in classical antiquity.

On the surface, this resembles feudal serfdom and many had seen it that way in the past. However, such tenancy relations did not exist by themselves but emerged within the familial slave system. Thus, the mutually complementing structure of familial slavery and tenant farming constituted, according to Nishijima, the Chinese form of slavery.

The problem then arose as to why this particular form took shape in China. Nishijima found the answer in the nature of the imbalance in the development of productivity. The imbalance in the spread of agricultural implements made of iron gave rise to an imbalance in the development of productive power and thus did not uniformly break down the earlier clan "community." The result was that an institution from the past, the "hamlet" (li )i unit from the Han dynasty, continued to exist. Although it obstructed the diffusion of the power of the patriarchal-familial slave owners, when small peasants under this "hamlet" structure came under the rule of the great clans, these peasants were not fully enslaved but emerged as tenant farmers.

The superstructure for such a socioeconomic system was formed by the Han empire. From its very inception, however, the Han empire did not take shape as the controlling force of the great clans. In the Former Han empire, state power itself was that of a single great clan. As can be seen in the case of Liu Pang,j the emperor and his ministers created a structure that the great clans imitated in their relationship with their family slaves. In this sense, state power and the great clans under its control possessed the same unidimensionality, and thus the two grew into a fierce antagonism.

The Former Han, Nishijima continued, tried a variety of policies to suppress the great clans, but without success. In the Latter Han dynasty, the hao-tsu gained a superior hand. This is best illustrated by the changes in fiscal systems. As Kato[*] Shigeshi had explained it, the financial structure of the Former Han was a dual system of imperial household finances and state finances; in the Latter Han, this structure was unified under the state.[17] Thus, the state shed its personalistic, great clan charac-


ter and completed itself as the power mechanism of a ruling order by a collective of great clans.

The ancient Chinese state witnessed effective completion in the Latter Han dynasty, but what then is the thread that links it to the Sui-T'ang empire? Nishijima dealt with that problem as follows. Ch'in-Han society was established on the basis of an imbalance in the development of agricultural productive power; the subsequent equalization of productive power predictably removed this foundation. The "hamlet" as a vestige of the earlier clan "community" disintegrated, and the tenancy system under the control of great clans also crumbled. For the great clans this spelled a serious crisis. The great clans as a class, he went on, sensed the need for a reorganization of the structure of peasant control; and this urge was linked to the later land systems: military colonies (t'un-t'ien )k in the Three Kingdoms era, "lands in possession" (chan-t'ien ) and "assessment lands" (k'e-t'ien )[18] in the Western Chin, and the equal field system of the Sui and T'ang dynasties.

Accordingly, in Nishijima's view, the Sui-T'ang period was a reorganized form of the ancient state and signified as well the final phase of the ancient state.[19] Hori's view of the feudal state also started from this conception of the Sui-T'ang empire. I should like now to consider the main points of Hori's thesis.

Hori began by reconsidering whether, as Ishimoda had argued, it was appropriate to regard the character of centralized power in the state from the Sung on merely as a reflection of a carryover from antiquity. State power from the Sung dynasty on became increasingly centralized in conjunction with the growth of a tenancy system. Thus, Hori wondered if the immaturity of this tenancy system as feudal land ownership only implied a reemergence of a system of centralized power or may have itself possessed a character demanding centralization of power.

For example, he argued, did not the extraordinarily fierce suppression of peasant rebellions, as seen in the Huang Ch'ao uprising, force the landlords to demand centralization of power? We can estimate from this the tenacity of the peasants' inclination to independence. This tenacity in the late T'ang was attributable to gradual changes within Chinese antiquity itself, for the ancient period in China took form very early on and,


unlike the situation in Greece or Japan, was uninfluenced by forces from without. The T'ang was the final state in Chinese society's long ancient period. Its ruling class, the great clans, became bureaucrats and lived off the state. The "equal field" system was a structure by which the great clans depended on the state. (Hori and Nishijima agreed on the parasitic nature of the bureaucrats.)

The immensely independent nature of the peasants, which spawned the parasitic bureaucratization of the great clans, was backed by the growth in peasant productive power. Examples include the materialization of three crops biennially in North China, advances in the opening of wet-land rice paddies in Kiangnan, and the development of a general commodity circulation. These developments eventually shook up the equal field system and led to political dislocations from the mid-T'ang onward.

The emergence of regional commanderies that were military in structure with decentralized power, Hori claimed, revealed the rise of local feudal centers of power. In response to this state of affairs, the T'ang government implemented the new economic structure of the double tax and the system of monopolies. However, the regional commanderies and these new economic systems did not of themselves negate antiquity. The emergent forces that matured under this structure grew while continuing to rely on state power and ran into no basic contradictions with the T'ang dynasty.

The proletarianization of the peasantry advanced conspicuously under a dual (new and old) governance. It carried within itself severe contradictions because there was commodity circulation backing it up. The Huang Ch'ao uprising was one explosion of these contradictions, and the old aristocratic influence was exterminated. Since individual landlords were unable to restrain the energy of these peasant rebellions, the necessity emerged for a centralized state power, but the extent of the expansion of commodity circulation could not be ignored as an economic condition that enabled this to happen.

These points were the essence of Hori's paper and he reinvestigated and deepened his analysis of them in subsequent articles. He devoted particular energy to structural elucidations of peasant rebellions and the regional commanderies. In one


essay, "Tomatsu[*] shohanran no seikaku" (The nature of rebellions in the late T'ang),[20] he argued as follows. The T'ang dynasty witnessed the bureaucratization of the aristocracy into a full grown officialdom, but this structure was shaken by the intense power struggles over bureaucratic position. These were a result of the fact that at this time the route to advancement in the world was guaranteed only by establishing a favorable relationship on an individual basis with the Son of Heaven, the despot, who stood at the pinnacle of the bureaucracy. While such court favorites came to control T'ang politics, a path toward advancement through imperial favor was opened even for non-Chinese and commoners, and this was the first step in the dismemberment of the aristocratic system. The An Lu-shanl Rebellion arose from a power struggle among such court favorites, as can be seen in the opposition between An Lu-shan, a man of non-Chinese origins, and Yang Kuo-chung,m a man of commoner background.

The link between the emperor and his favorites at court, Hori continued, was based on a personal connection. This same kind of personal bond can be found in the internal structure of An Lu-shan's power as well as that of other regional commanderies. The best illustration of this is the fictive family ties of "adopted son" or "sworn brothers" which linked the military governor to his troops. An Lu-shan, for example, had his own private army of eight thousand non-Chinese "adopted sons," and he additionally supported a "family army" of over one thousand men as attendants. Thus, the nucleus of a military governor's troops possessed a fictive familial structure in which the autocratic control of the regional commander was rendered thoroughgoing by the personal protection and favors offered the troops. In one respect, this might be seen as relations of slavery.

After the An Lu-shan Rebellion, a semi-independent regional commandery appeared north of the Yellow River, and in fighting with the T'ang dynasty it succeeded in gaining powers of territorial inheritance, control of tax collection, and the freedom to appoint and dismiss officials. At the same time, the internal structure of the regional commandery was exposed to the danger of a ceaseless overpowering of superiors by inferiors. The military governor was always left open to the danger of


being toppled by the troops under his command. Thus, because the military governor's position was extremely unstable, he was unable to cut his ties with the central power. While the regional commandery structure of the T'ang spawned personal bonds of cohesion, in the end it could not overcome the ancient bureaucratic system.

The Huang Ch'ao uprising destroyed this dependency between the regional commanderies and the T'ang court. Huang Ch'ao's insurgent forces were composed of an immense number of impoverished, displaced persons and centered around heroic types who harbored a discontent for the contemporary political state of affairs. Since these bands of roaming banditti did not aim at overthrowing the T'ang dynasty and were poorly organized, even though they did succeed in capturing Ch'ang-an, they were headed straight for destruction. Although Huang Ch'ao's forces had these weaknesses, they still destroyed the T'ang and made possible the independence of regional commanderies. Thus was born the Five Dynasties period.

Hori concluded his analysis as follows. Why was it that China did not produce a feudal political structure but rather assumed the form of inferiors supplanting superiors (i.e., the bureaucracy) if the tenancy system was regarded as serfdom? Although the starting point of feudalism, the lord-vassal relationship, was a personal protective bond in the early period, it rose to the status of official authority with the security of landholding. While feudalism arose as the mutual relations of landowners and it acquired public authority as the preserver of the social order, when this feudal system matured from within ancient society, it negated and finally toppled the ancient bureaucratic order in which the ancient great clans, large local landowners, were the apex of the hierarchy.[21] Nonetheless, it was impossible for a feudal political structure to be formed in China because of its complete bureaucratic system and the aristocracy that lived totally off the bureaucracy. Without being brought to an end, the bureaucracy inclined toward a mode that would change in accord with the rising of inferiors to oust their superiors.

In short, according to Hori, a feudal political structure did not materialize in China because of the thoroughness of the bureaucratic system. Although this development was predi-


cated on the expansion of productive power, such a growth did not necessarily accompany the historical newness of this personalized structure in the political and military spheres. Thus, it could not sweep away fictive familial slave relations, and the structure of the patriarchal-familial slave system, as Nishijima had described Ch'in-Han society, was, if not revitalized, unable to be overturned.

In Nishijima's view, the ruling structure of Ch'in-Han society centered around patriarchal-familial slavery with peasants living in "communities" outside this system. These two forms of mutually complementing ties among the people constituted for Nishijima in concrete form the ancient Chinese slave system. Hori later dealt with this issue in two detailed essays: "Ko[*] So[*] no hanran: Tomatsu[*] henkakki no ichi kosatsu[*] " (The Huang Ch'ao uprising: A study of the changing times at the end of the T'ang),[22] and "Hanchin shin'eigun no kenryoku kozo[*] " (The power structure of the personal defense forces in the regional commanderies).[23]

In these two essays, Hori strove to support more fully the main points of his earlier work. He analyzed power in the regional commanderies and the groups in the Huang Ch'ao rebellion, both of which emerged as the antithesis of the ancient bureaucratic system of the T'ang. And, he looked at the internal power structure of rich merchants and strong local families who may have controlled the authority of these two groups (regional commanderies and Huang Ch'ao rebel bands) and who later, from the Sung on, became the mainstays of the centralized bureaucratic state. Hori argued that patriarchal-familial slave relations made up the central element of their authority. Examples include the regional commander and his personal defense forces army, Huang Ch'ao and his immediate family and protégés, or the locally powerful families (heads of estates) and their workers. Outside this central system of relations were mercenary troops, impoverished peasants, and perhaps a class of villagers.

Relations in these peripheral groups make one think of the actual human control, in the form of two bonds, that the ancient state exerted on self-cultivating peasants. These bonds—one personal, one official—differed in form, but both were ties of slavery in the sense that there was a unilinear


control of superiors over inferiors and of actual human control unmediated through land. Although the regional commanderies destroyed the official bonds of control that were the basis of the T'ang legal system by creating these personal cohesive bonds, they also relied on them. Thus, these personal bonds were insufficient to build their own political structure—a feudal political structure—by subsuming the official bonds; and in a sense they allowed the founding of a centralized bureaucratic state, itself a revival of the ancient state.

So went Hori's argument. However immature were the two strata of locally powerful families and rich merchants who controlled the state, they ran the tenancy system, which was a feudal mode of production. In this sense, he argued, the period from the Five Dynasties and Sung on should be considered a feudal era in China.[24]

Logical Contradictions in the Conceptions of Feudalism

As we have seen, the issues raised shortly after the war by Ishimoda Sho[*] were picked up by Nishijima Sadao and Hori Toshikazu, who pursued empirically the study of slavery in China, the forms it took, and its transition to feudalism. It was their substantive intention to try and overturn the "theory of stagnation" by showing that Chinese society had developed according to the laws of world history. Were they successful?

Characteristic of Nishijima's and Hori's theses was the attempt to demonstrate the progressive nature of Chinese history by applying the two theoretical categories for world history—slavery and feudalism—to the concrete historical process from Ch'in-Han to T'ang-Sung times. Both men, of course, did not feel that these categories could be applied to Chinese history in their ideal forms. They argued that slavery was limited to a patriarchal-familial slave system and did not develop into the system of slave labor that we see in classical antiquity in the West. It was hence a limited slavery. On the issue of the formation of feudalism as well, they concluded that it was limited to the patriarchal structure and the centralized bureaucratic state, without having produced the mutual lord-vassal bond mediated


by fidelity and obligation, as we see in the medieval West, or the feudal political structure built on this bond.

This was how they dealt with the distinctiveness of slavery and feudalism in China. It is noteworthy that both men expressed themselves only in a negative fashion with respect to these issues. I would like to address this problem a little more fully now.

According to the "theory of stagnation," which both men sought to overcome, the European world and the non-European world differed in their historical dispositions. It claimed that the former was by nature progressive and the latter by nature stagnant. Thus, the yardstick of history was placed in the European world. Nishijima and Hori tried to show that the principles of progress common to the European world were fundamentally realized in Chinese society. The more they worked at demonstrating this proposition, the more the essential Chinese social realities proved lacking. In his discussion of the Ch'in-Han empire, for example, Nishijima argued that the slave system, a product of the dissolution of "communities," was a progressive element, and on this basis he set the historical stipulations of the Ch'in-Han empire. Yet, the "communitarian" universe of the wide body of small, self-cultivating peasantry who supported the empire itself could only impede the development toward the prototypical slave system and thus presented an obstruction. In other words, the era could only be cast in the role of a shadow to the light. Hence, it was merely a vestige of an earlier era lagging behind, which prevented the full development of its progressive essence.

The same can roughly be said about Hori's work. While he focused on a variety of the elements of a new era—regional commanderies, the tenancy system, rebel groups, and so on—which arose in the late T'ang, from the perspective of European feudalism China could only be assigned the role of an expression of the underdevelopment of feudalism. The realities of history seemed to be missing. For example, unable to locate just what it was that Huang Ch'ao was trying to conquer, Hori ended up offering a structural analysis mainly from the point of view discussed earlier.

Furthermore, the problem of the formation of the central-


ized state was only assigned significance by Hori as the mechanism of repression against an intensely independent peasantry, whereas the actual content of the world formed by the peasantry—this may have provided the structural foundations for the centralized state—was scarcely considered. His calling the centralized state a feudal state was based on the recognition that the tenancy system, which was characterized as serfdom, formed its cornerstone. Its import as a feudal state originated merely in the abstract sense that it was the preservative mechanism for serfdom.

Why was it that the European feudal state of the Middle Ages took a decentralized form? As Hori said, this was owing to the form in which the ancient empire was transcended. If this is so, then to the extent that the centralized bureaucratic state in China from the Sung is considered a form of the feudal state, should he not have to demonstrate in the same way that this was the form of transcendence over China's antiquity? But, Hori continued to argue that China had not been able to overcome the ancient empire fully. Thus, his designation of it as a feudal state was not the result of an analysis of the state itself (the superstructure), but its economic base, the tenancy system, which he understood as serfdom. Although his efforts to apply the principles of historical materialism to Chinese history were acknowledged, he actually made a comprehensive understanding of Chinese history more difficult.

Roughly speaking, the efforts of both Nishijima and Hori to overcome theories of stagnation were unable in the final analysis to go beyond the framework of Western European historical formulations. When both men sought to fix the entirety of Chinese society upon the basis of the common elements of Chinese and Western societies, the elements most basic to Chinese society had to fall through their sieve. This basic difference between Chinese society and that of the West lay in the enduring existence of "communal" society among the small, self-cultivating peasantry. This obstructed, even perverted, the overall structural development on which was predicated private systems of ownership, slavery, and serfdom.

Not that either of them failed to recognize this problem, for Nishijima had included "community" ties as one part of the social structure of slavery. But, when they attempted to explain


the progressive nature of Chinese society with slavery and serfdom as historical prescriptions, the world of the "community" finally had to be driven into a negative position and theoretically abstracted. It was the obstinate persistence of this world of the "community" upon which had been based a notion of stagnancy in Chinese society. In the final analysis, Nishijima and Hori had been unsuccessful in their objective of transcending the conception of stagnation, itself the height of Europocentrism. And here we see one of the barriers with which postwar historiography collided.

Of course, Nishijima and Hori are not the only ones to be blamed in this regard. Conceptions of slavery and feudalism faced an inevitable dilemma any time one tried to grasp Chinese history in its totality. One such theory was put forward by the late Niida Noboru, who shortly after the war argued that China was a feudal society from the Sung dynasty onward. He presented his thesis in its most complete form in his essay, "Chugoku[*] shakai no 'hoken[*] ' to fyudarizumu[*] " (Feng-chien and feudalism in Chinese society).[25] I shall now discuss Niida's theory of feudalism, making reference primarily to this essay but also to other articles included in his major work, Chugoku[*] hosei[*] shi kenkyu[*] (Studies in Chinese legal history).

Niida began his essay with this statement: "Feudal (medieval) society, i.e., serf society, comprises one social formation in the stages of development, i.e., a historical category." The prescription that saw medieval, feudal, and serf society as synonymous and as one of the universal stages of development shows that Niida shared Ishimoda's and Hori's conception of feudalism and their theoretical underpinnings. From this position, Niida argued as follows. Three points were of major importance in formulating the feudal stage in Chinese history in the manner cited: (1) it constituted a critique of the notion of stagnancy in Chinese society; (2) it made possible an overall structure for a world history, East and West; and (3) it offered a scientific explanation for the modern Chinese revolution as an antifeudal struggle. Niida's ways of attaching significance to these ideas of Chinese feudalism indicate the currents of thought he shared with others at the time rather than his own unique conceptions.

In any case, Niida sought to establish the period for feudal-


ism in Chinese history. The prime feature of Chinese feudalism, as might be predicted from his definition, was considered to be tenant farming as a system of serfdom. Thus, the T'ang-Sung transition, from the eighth to the tenth centuries, marked the dividing line between antiquity and medieval times. Prior to the T'ang, slaves and not fully enslaved tenant farmers (these designations are based on Nishijima's conceptions) were the basic agricultural labor force under the management of large landholders known as yu-hsing ta-tsun (great clans). Niida recognized the quantitative prevalence of slavery as well, but he argued that the rise in productive capacity in the T'ang caused slave production to develop into serf production, and it brought about the emergence of a new stratum of large landlord-bureaucrats who replaced the yu-hsing ta-tsu who had stood over the slave system.

The most typical expression of this serfdom was what Niida called zuiden denkyakuo (land-bound tenancy). When a landlord disposed of land, tenant farmers of this sort were turned over to the buyer along with the land. Thus, they were bound to the land of large landlords and lacked the freedom to change their place of residence. They differed from slaves, however, in that whereas a slave submitted to the unspecified and unlimited control of his owner and was obliged to labor without compensation, the tenant farmer submitted to the somewhat more specified control of a master, owned his own means of production, lived according to his own calculations, and thus a part of his labor was his own. Landlord control over tenants was an indirect control in which land served as an intermediary, not a form of direct control over their very person, as in a slave system.

Niida's and others' analyses of tenancy relied to a considerable extent on the research of Sudo[*] Yoshiyuki,[26] but Niida worked particularly hard at reinforcing the tenancy-serfdom thesis from the angle of legal history. According to Sung law, he argued, the status of a tenant farmer was carefully worked out: between a landlord and tenant there existed a "master-servant" relationship; and the law governing the general populace did not apply to adultery between a landlord and the womenfolk of a tenant. Thus, although the tenant farmer differed from the slave or the pu-ch'ü or the higher ranks of the poor, he still did not have the same legal status as the general populace.


The tenancy system itself, however, underwent historical development. Niida argued that changes were apparent in tenancy between two eras: the early medieval Sung-Yüan period and the later medieval Ming-Ch'ing period. For example, Ming and Ch'ing law did not make provision for inequality between tenant and owner, so that the punishment for tenant violence against a landlord was no different from that of the general populace. Nor in cases of adultery between landlords and the women of a tenant household was the status of the tenant afforded particular attention, as it had been in the Sung; it was treated in the same way as cases involving the population at large. Furthermore, whereas in the Sung they stressed a "master-servant" relationship between landlord and tenant, in the Ming and Ch'ing the ritual of the "younger serving the older" (i shao shih chang )p became the model for this relationship. The latter case meant that they had merely fixed a metaphorical relationship on the basis of age, while the status relationship disappeared.

According to Niida, this development—from a status tenancy system to a nonstatus tenancy system—revealed a stage in which the bonds of the tenant-serf were being overcome. (He argued they were finally destroyed by the modern Chinese revolution.) Yet he pointed out that behind this development was a multiplicity of peasant rebellions, bond servant uprisings (so-called nu-pien ),q and rent-resistance movements in the Ming and Ch'ing. Thus, the struggle of tenant farmers against the landlords' undue influence by law and the increase in tenant might caused the tenancy system to change into a nonstatus relationship, and this struggle ran through the modern Chinese revolution from the Taiping rebellion onward.

What were the distinguishing characteristics Niida assigned to Chinese feudalism? As we have noted, he cited a "master-servant" relationship between landlord and tenant, and claimed that Sung Neo-Confucianism systematized the idea of this "relationship" as a general ethic in human relations. Like pre-Sung Confucian thought, Sung Neo-Confucianism regarded as absolute the control of sovereign over subject and father over son, and it considered the Five Human Relationships centering on these two to be everlasting, immutable truth. One of the further characteristics of Sung Neo-Confucianism was the effort to ground this immutable truth in the "heavenly


principle" (t'ien-li )r or natural law of a universal order. To understand all human relations as established a priori by this heavenly principle was in fact the idea of being contented with one's place in the world (shou-fen ).s By rigidifying the sovereign/father–subject/son relationship, Sung Neo-Confucianism aimed at stabilizing the existing social order.

In this manner, Niida understood Sung Neo-Confucianism to be the intellectual formulation of a feudal ideology, but he also noted that it had the following traits. Sung Neo-Confucianism advocated the obligation of the subject or son to repay the kindness bestowed on him by the sovereign or father. The emphasis placed on the bond between this kindness and its repayment did not indicate that the control exercised by a sovereign or father over his subject or son was necessarily unconditional, but that to a certain extent a mutual relationship existed. However, the consciousness in which this kindness of sovereign or father was called for and the consciousness of power that seemed to overlay this kindness were conspicuous. They were not terribly far from effectively expressing a conception of unconditional control.

Niida argued that this was owing to the patriarchal authority that had been inherited from antiquity, and these were not feudal bonds of the medieval European kind. One of the characteristics of medieval European feudalism was that the sovereign-subject bond was a contractual and legal relationship entered into by independent parties with conditions placed on both sides, whereas medieval China lacked the freedom of consciousness in this sense. The controlling bond of the bloodline patriarch made a two-sided relationship one-sided.

In this connection, Niida severely criticized the view that equated the Chou feng-chien system with medieval European feudalism. Although the two systems were similar in that sovereign and subject were linked by a relationship in which the former "enfeoffed" the latter, this was merely a superficial similarity. What supported feng-chien ties in the Chou period were natural ties of blood. In China, this patriarchal bond functioned as a controlling tie and later regulated the societies of ancient and medieval times. Accordingly, Chinese society in this sense may not have experienced feudalism. But, Niida went on to argue: "This control itself [patriarchal control] does not


mean that medieval Chinese society lacked a feudal base—serfdom. I shall test for the existence of feudalism in medieval China on the grounds of whether such a base existed."[27] In other words, the existence itself of serfdom, he claimed, was the key to resolving unmistakably whether feudalism had existed or not.

We have now discussed in general terms Niida Noboru's ideas on feudalism. But no explanation was forthcoming when it came to describing the nature of the link tying the patriarchal structure as a system of control with the tenancy system as the feudal base. Generally speaking, we are left with the impression that this problem had been discarded without any attempt to unify the general progressive aspects of Chinese society with its particular stagnating elements. This is most clearly indicated by the following statement of Niida's. Having noted the lack in China of a contractual bond between sovereign and subject as, Niida claimed, had existed in European feudalism, he added this conclusion: "From these points, we can only deny that feudalism existed in Chinese society. However, there is no need to force feudalism narrowly into the mold of European feudal society. European and Japanese feudalism are only one type of feudalism. Might we not say in a broad sense that the Chinese case illustrates yet another type?"[28]

This was clearly a rather careless statement. The points of Niida's argument cited earlier indicate that we were aware his theory of feudalism shared the same dilemma as Hori's. That is, by fixing a period of feudalism in China, he was promoting the notion that Chinese society was part of a world historical universality, but he was then faced with the underdevelopment of feudalism in China. In order to deal with this problem, Niida stressed the existence of a serf system in feudalism at the societal base (the tenancy system), but this made it difficult to explain how such a base conformed to the superstructure (the bonds of control) from the Sung dynasty onward.

Ishimoda (in his book, Chusei[*] teki sekai no keisei ) and Nishijima had considered the remnants of strongly rooted "community" ties as something that inhibited the typical development of slavery and feudalism in China. How did Niida deal with this issue? In his essay, "Chugoku[*] no dozoku[*] mata wa sonraku no tochi shoyu[*] mondai" (Chinese clans and the prob-


lem of village land ownership),[29] Niida claimed that the tenth and eleventh centuries were a great turning point in the history of "communities" too. In this period, various groups with a new historical consciousness emerged and grew to replace the ancient kinship groups and gave medieval society its distinctive character. Guilds were one of these new groups, as were reconstructed clan groupings. The latter were characterized by their mutual aid activities through a system of clan lands (charitable estates, ceremonial lands, etc.).

These clans can be seen particularly in central and South China, and in the final analysis they were the mainstay of the large landlord system of the day. He argued that the landlord, fearful lest class differentiation within the clan disrupt the feudal ruling system, provided these mutual aid functions in order to stabilize the feudal order by stabilizing the villagers' livelihood. Furthermore, there was also the aim of returning profits to the clan by offering educational funds from the charitable estate revenues to promising sons, which enabled them to sit for the examinations and allowed as many as possible among them to become officials. In this way, the system of clan lands was inseparably bound together with landlord control. The significance of the reorganization of clan groupings, Niida concluded, lay in stabilizing the social order through the landlord system.

We know from the plethora of clan genealogies[30] that clan groups existed in various places from the Sung dynasty on, and that they set clan regulations and operated mutual aid functions, as Niida pointed out. He used these materials to discuss in detail the structure and function of clan groupings. He showed that, in addition to the communal management of charitable estates and ceremonial lands, clans exclusively ran such operations as the fertilization of fields with cut grass, irrigation, and cemeteries through control over ties of acceptance into the clan. When a conflict of interest arose with another clan, they did not hesitate to use force (as in clan feuds). On the use of the power over acceptance into membership in the clan, "communitarian" regulations were in effect internally so that, for example, the allocation of time and the quantity to be harvested were set in the grass fertilization that were communal land. Stipulations were even added for produce from private hills and


forests (such as rules for the harvest time of bamboo shoots, tea leaves, and camellia blossoms).

The clan "community" was the arena for the regeneration of the livelihoods of individual clan members, and its management was undertaken by a system involving the head of the clan. Clan heads were known by such names as tsung-tzu,ttsu-chang,utsung-chang,v and tsu-cheng,w sometimes alternately, but in any case their power transcended that of any individual family or its head, the patriarch, as they assumed control over the entire clan body. Their duties included clan ceremonies, resolution of disputes within the clan, and sanctions against those who violated clan regulations. Clan members were obliged to follow the orders of the clan head, but the clan head also had to follow the clan regulations and be upright and honest with the clan. In cases where the clan head himself acted improperly, he might be recalled by members of the clan. Cases where this power of recall were clearly recorded in the clan rules are not rare. Thus, the clan head did not possess the qualification of merely being a clan elder; he had to be sufficiently moral to earn the popularity of the clan members.

This should indicate that clan cohesion was based not merely on vertical ties of control and submission, but that horizontal ties of companionship and solidarity were also at work. One issue in this connection is the situation of the individual families within a clan. Although clan ties tended to supersede the independence of individual families, this is not unrelated to the lack, which Niida noted, of dominance, exclusiveness, and absoluteness of the patriarch's power. The principle of the equal distribution of family property also caused the weakening of the patriarch's power. Thus, the Chinese family itself was not permeated by vertical ties of control and submission, but showed a diffusion of power and privilege among the individual members of the family. (According to Niida, allocations of family property were strictly observed for women as well. In the Kiangsu-Anhwei region in the Southern Sung, women inherited one-half as much as men.) Such circumstances seem to indicate the fact that the lack of complete family cohesion enabled individual family units to form ties of clan cohesion, that is, horizontal bonds of solidarity.


As we have now seen, Niida argued that the historical significance of clan cohesion was the policy of stabilizing the social order on the basis of the large landlord system. Yet, as Niida himself described in detail, the clan was well furnished with a "communitarian" nature and was understood as embodying an autonomous system of regulation in village life among the people. Although we speak of large landholders, elders, and clan heads within clans, we cannot ignore this system of regulation. Seeing it only as a means of stabilizing the social order under large landlords will inevitably lead to a superficial view. In spite of this, Niida remained stubbornly committed to this position derived from his argument that the social bonds of the day were based on his tenancy-serfdom thesis. After he described the "communitarian" reality of clan cohesion, Niida concluded: "In any case, however, clan cohesion was the mainstay of the large landlord system. It served the function of stabilizing the feudal order and the village order through clan self-interest and was a means for the large landlords to use the peasantry."[31] He scarcely looked at the internal structure that linked "communitarian" bonds and bonds of the landlord system. One cannot escape the feeling that he forced a linkage between the two only at the level of words.

Disputation over Conceptions of Feudalism

As we have thus far seen, the primary basis from which Ishimoda, Hori, and Niida around 1950 derived their conceptions of Chinese feudalism was tenancy as a system of feudal serfdom. Although they pursued the tenancy-serfdom-feudalism proposition, they still left something unaccounted for in Chinese society of the post-Sung era. They encountered the same problem as the inability to explain the Ch'in-Han empire with the category of slavery, for the greatest difficulty lay in comprehending China's distinctive superstructure, despotic state power. The state from the Sung dynasty forward was a system of "monarchical autocracy"—a bureaucratic state in which power was highly concentrated. Hori's arguments were not persuasive as to how the tenancy system, as serfdom, corresponded to this. If tenancy did not beget a "feudal political structure," then we must investigate whether tenancy actually


constituted the reality of serfdom. This leads to questions about the bases themselves on which these conceptions of feudalism were formed. Thus, clearly an explanation of serfdom in conjunction with the centralized state subsumes this major dilemma surrounding conceptions of feudalism.

Niida dealt with this issue by claiming that we see the existence and even the decentralization of bodies with a closed nature, such as guilds and clan villages, from Sung times on. However, he did not address at all whether this tendency toward decentralization gave state power itself a decentralized feudal character. As we have noted, in order to formulate a notion of feudalism, not only the socioeconomic base but also the overall social structure that this base created through mutual interaction with the superstructure must be demonstrated as having nothing short of a feudal organization. The conceptions of feudalism that emerged around 1950, though, were problematic in this regard and in actuality ushered a host of problems into the scholarly world.

First, on the question of tenancy, Miyazaki Ichisada offered an opposing thesis[32] to Sudo[*] Yoshiyuki's explanation that had been considered a convincing basis for a theory of feudalism. Leader of the so-called Kyoto school of sinology, Miyazaki understood the T'ang-Sung transition as the movement from medieval to modern times; this response to Sudo was one part of the view in which he saw tenancy in this period as a modern tenant system. Miyazaki's main points included the following: (1) Although the medieval estates through the T'ang formed large unified entities in China, from the Sung on shrinkage in the size of plots increased owing to the breakup of ownership rights. (2) As a result, the landlord's bond to the tenant ceased to be of a territorial, personal nature, and the two became linked by economic, contractual ties. (3) Existing documents that seem to provide evidence that tenants were forcibly bound to the land may have been a means merely to prevent tenants from discarding contracts and leaving the land, or perhaps to ensure for landlords whose local work force was insufficient that they would have manpower. (4) The existence in the Southern Sung of two-layered tenancy rights (landlord-usufructuary-cultivator) indicates the establishment of usufructuary rights on the land. Sudo wrote a response, but we shall put aside for a


moment the issue of whether his understanding of tenancy was correct, for the major advantages of Miyazaki's thesis were that he was able to explain how the base and the superstructure conformed to each other.

The well-known periodization of the Kyoto school, put forth by Naito[*] Konan,x designated the era through the Han as ancient (joko[*] ),y through the T'ang as medieval (chuko[*] ),z and from the Sung on as modern. One of the differences between medieval and modern times, he argued, was between aristocratic government and monarchical-autocratic government. In the former, an aristocratic class ruled the people by virtue of its personal and status qualities, and the sovereign was merely the common property of this aristocratic class.

The T'ang-Sung transformation, however, swept away aristocratic rule. The newly formed monarchical autocracy linked the ties of power between the sovereign and the people directly, without the intermediary of the aristocracy. This change also spelled the extinction of rule by status or personal quality. Thus, in the periodization of Chinese history offered by the Kyoto school of sinology, the T'ang-Sung transition removed medieval bonds and gave rise to a new stage of history. Miyazaki saw the tenancy system as one of small cultivators who emerged at this new point in history—modern society. This system was understood as a contractual, nonstatus economic structure that corresponded to the superstructure of monarchical autocracy.

Miyazaki's position was a critique aimed directly at the thesis that this tenancy system constituted serfdom, and Sudo[*] took up the gauntlet. Later, various views were raised surrounding this debate, and critiques by both sides were exchanged, but the final results remain unclear.[33] However, this situation shows at least that the idea that the tenancy system was serfdom has ceased to be generally accepted among scholars. Even those who had argued the case for feudalism now began entertaining misgivings about equating Chinese tenancy with the Western conception of serfdom.[34]

In another approach, Chinese society from the Sung dynasty on was examined in an area somewhat different from the nature of tenancy. Attention was focused on the problem of whether we can unmistakably deduce the overall nature of society simply


from the tenancy system of private management. Concretely speaking, attention focused on the social arena that superseded individual management or generalized it—village society. One study in this vein was Yanagida Setsuko's "Kyosonsei[*] no tenkai" (The development of the village system).[35] While agreeing with the notion that the landlord-tenant system embodied the basic production relations from the Sung forward, Yanagida argued that state power at this time did not materialize simply and directly on top of these relations of production without any intermediary. Her point was that local villages, as the bases of control by state power, were not completely covered by this landlord-tenant bond alone. The system of large landholdings that took form at the end of the T'ang could not absorb all the impoverished peasants from the equal field system as tenants and could not mold manor society on a nationwide basis. Thus, a majority of middle-level and small landowners (double tax households)[36] who could not be incorporated into the large landholding system existed widely throughout Chinese villages. These self-cultivating peasants needed horizontal, mutually cohesive bonds in order to support themselves. In other words, Yanagida argued that there existed simultaneously a vertical control relationship between landlord and tenant as well as this horizontal bond of solidarity; it remained necessary, in her view, to elucidate how these two relations intertwined to form the basis for state power.

Yanagida's proposition did not necessarily, of itself, conflict with a conception of feudalism. But, if we compare it to Niida's view of the clan village (discussed earlier), the originality of her position becomes clearer. In Niida's view, clan cohesion (i.e., "community") was only a means of control over the tenancy system. According to Yanagida, however, village cohesion (i.e., "community") was a different sort of social bond than that of tenancy, and she pointed to how this cohesion in the village interlocked—namely, the formation of its internal bonds—as a problem that need be addressed. Thus, the thesis that China from the Sung dynasty on was feudal was still incomplete for Yanagida. With future research on the problems she raised, we can fully anticipate an unknown world to unfold.

When we predict the existence of an unknown world in Chinese history, what is first of all assumed is the world of the


"community," which appears in many and varied forms. It is the strongest opponent of theories of Chinese feudalism (as well as theories of Chinese slavery), as I have mentioned several times. Both Nishijima and Hori later came to understand this.

As is well known, Nishijima withdrew his ideas from around 1950, after receiving a number of critiques, and thereafter built a thesis of the Ch'in-Han empire around new conceptions. His new position did not see the Ch'in-Han empire as a ruling structure based on slavery, but hypothesized the empire as an extended form of the "communitarian" order made up of self-managing peasants. Hori seems recently to have become deeply concerned with looking for the foundations of state power of the Sui and T'ang in "communitarian" bonds as one side of the great clan system. One example is his view that the equal field system restrained the large landholdings of the great clans by the state's assuming control over the "communitarian" order of the peasant village that had been under great clan control.[37] In the next section, I would like to look at whether such a perspective is appropriate, but for now it seems as though this "community" is not simply the residue of the past but the foundation for the formation of the state.

This change in Nishijima's and Hori's views influenced conceptions of feudalism in a major way. In particular, the debate over Nishijima's earlier thesis and his subsequent repudiation of it gave rise to profound doubts about how well understood the "slave period" was in Chinese history. This in turn struck a severe blow at the new postwar intellectual system by raising the problem of a method with which to understand Chinese history. It spelled the end of "the postwar period"[38] for Chinese historical research. In the next chapter, we shall look at the situation that followed the one just described.


The Evolution of Critiques of Theories of Unilinear Development and the Problem of Feudalism

"Modernization" Theory and the Problem of Reevaluating Feudalism

By the middle of the 1950s, it became evident that the effort to understand Chinese history in world historical terms with general categories such as slavery and serfdom had run into severe theoretical as well as empirical difficulties. This situation spawned a movement that emphasized the particularity of Chinese history. In substantive terms, this constituted a trend toward stressing the despotic nature of Chinese society and trying to find the basic class relations between the autocratic state and the masses. The perspective that saw class differentiation among the people as giving rise to fundamental class relations and thus defining the historical nature of that society began to retreat into the background. Although the new trend did not completely deny the phenomenon of class differentiation among the people, it was given a secondary, subordinate position.

Nishijima's new position was already an expression of this trend, and we should note here that this trend was rather strongly reflected in the understanding of the history of the Six Dynasties period. The historical character of Six Dynasties society was considered to be the old aristocratic system. It was thought, for example, that the Six Dynasties aristocrats existed


in a transcendent position over state power, or rather that state power was a collegial organ of the aristocratic class, a perpetual ruling class that led society. Thus each dynasty in this era was merely a temporary power. This view of the aristocracy in Six Dynasties society appeared before the war. Needless to say, it was the position of the Kyoto school founded by Naito[*] Konan. Also, because it was based on the historical research of the Ch'ing school of textual criticism, it expressed in this sense a traditional Chinese historiographical orthodoxy.

The Kyoto school's thesis that the Six Dynasties constituted China's medieval period is based in this conception of the aristocratic system. Nishijima's earlier position understood the Six Dynasties aristocracy as a bureaucratic aristocratization of the ancient great clans, namely patriarchal slave owners. Although this conception is distant from the Kyoto school's thesis of a medieval aristocracy, they do share in the view that the Six Dynasties aristocracy was an independent class that possessed (or had once possessed) the source of power somewhere within society. Yano Chikara'saa and Ochi Shigeaki'sab theses on the Six Dynasties, which appeared around the time that Nishijima retreated from his earlier position, heralded a new trend in that they did not firmly recognize the independence of the Six Dynasties aristocracy as a class. Let us take a look at the general contours of their ideas.

Yano analyzed the economic livelihood of influential aristocrats in the Wei-Chin period. He felt that many of them had been stipendiaries of the state and that the Six Dynasties aristocrats were bureaucrats who lived off the state just as had officials in the Ch'in-Han period. They were what Max Weber called patrimonial bureaucrats, merely dependents of the sovereign. Within such a structure, this fact was the sole arena of power; and just as in the Han empire, the state was basic to the houses of the Six Dynasties. Even in the Southern Dynasties, where the aristocratic system was held in reverence, the emperor's position, Yano argued, was secure as a political absolute with respect both to individual aristocrats and the aristocratic system.

Ochi Shigeaki's view of the Six Dynasties was different in nuance from Yano's, but they were in agreement in emphasizing the parasitic-bureaucratic side of the Six Dynasties aristoc-


racy. Ochi argued that at the same time that they possessed this bureaucratic side, the Six Dynasties literati played an independent role as socially renowned families through the Wei and Western Chin eras; from the Eastern Chin on, however, the bureaucratic side expanded until they became parasitic officials fully dependent on state power. Corresponding to this, imperial power eliminated the special privileges of the aristocratic class and moved toward a thorough, unitary, personal control.

What was the importance of Yano's and Ochi's arguments? In a word, they expressed doubts about using the aristocratic system as the historical index to the Six Dynasties era. If they could prove their point, then the entirety of Chinese history might be described with the schema of despotic power controlling the masses. If their positions are so presented, the implication is that they have assumed a negative attitude toward understanding Chinese history as developmental stages in a historical structure, such as ancient-slave or medieval-feudal society.

I have analyzed this issue elsewhere,[39] and I shall not offer an assessment here. The reason I particularly raise this notion of theirs is that it seems as though it fully tended toward the view of world history that emerged in the latter half of the 1950s. This tendency was critical of the unilinear development theories, which were the hallmark of the postwar understanding of world history, and it arose vigorously outside, rather than from within, the scholarly world of East Asian studies. Furthermore, it was not generated and circulated in Japan alone but constituted a new intellectual trend with impact on an international scale. Not merely an academic problem concerning our comprehension of Chinese history, as might be expected, it contained very serious contemporary problems directly linked to world politics. Although I do not preclude the possibility of overstepping the bounds of the issues in this section, I should like to try and give a general overview of this new trend.

One example representative of this trend was Umesao Tadao's "Bunmei no seitai shikan josetsu" (Introduction to a historical view of the forms of civilization).[40] Another would be Edwin O. Reischauer's collection of essays entitled Nihon kindai no atarashii mikata (A new approach to modern Japan).[41] Both these works dealt with questions that consumed the jour-


nalistic world in Japan from the late 1950s through the early 1960s. Since I have already discussed elsewhere[42] the problem of how these two men understand feudalism, I shall avoid too deeply trespassing at this point on old turf. But, from the perspective of the postwar trend to conceptualize world history, both of these men's ideas were direct challenges to the unilinear development theories that had held a dominant position until then in the Japanese academic world.

For example, Ueyama Shumpeiac had earlier expressed dissatisfaction with the conception of unilinear development current among Marxists (the view that the developmental process of human society was a one-lane road from primitive communism, to slavery, to feudalism, through capitalism, and then to socialism); and he sought the possibility for harmony between the Marxist world view and a multiform view of history.[43] When Umesao proposed his thesis advocating a multiform conception of history, he praised Ueyama's idea and called for Marxists to accept it.

Beside the historical course within civilization—Umesao's "first zone"—which followed exactly the stages from antiquity to medieval times (feudalism) to modernity (capitalism), Umesao posited the existence within civilization of a "second zone," in which this spontaneous succession did not transpire. The latter was the zone in which ancient civilization originally flourished; and, the rise of the ancient state in the first zone was due to the spread of ancient civilization into the second zone—merely its imitation. However, although the second zone caused the emergence of feudalism in the first zone and was linked to the generation of modernity later, it showed no conspicuous historical development because huge despotic empires continued to rise and fall. Thus, without a distinctive historical stage of feudalism being clearly demarcated, the second zone stumbled and fell along the wayside in the modernization process of world history. This modernization effort showed a marked trend toward the building of a sense of group along communistic or socialistic lines, not to be accomplished by the bourgeoisie, as in the first zone, but by a government replete with strong political leaders.

According to Umesao, the countries of Western Europe and Japan belonged to the first zone, and the unilinear conception


of historical development was applicable only to the societies in this zone. Societies of the second zone, which constituted an enormous part of the world, followed a different historical development. Very briefly, they would travel directly from antiquity to socialist (or communist) modernity.

ZONE ONE. Antiquity ® Medieval Era (feudalism) ® Modernity (capitalism)
ZONE TWO. Antiquity ® Modernity (socialism)

Antiquity in zone one was a copy of antiquity in zone two, but modernity in zone two was a "false form" of modernity in zone one. The dividing line between real modernity and fake modernity lay in the important point of whether or not the society had experienced a feudal-medieval period.

Thus, in the final analysis, feudalism was a precondition for genuine modernity. I have investigated the view of history inherent in Reischauer's schema of "feudalism ® modernization,"[44] and within those limits Umesao and Reischauer are thoroughly consistent. Yet, on this linkage between feudalism and modernization, although Umesao's description of the actual circumstances is stronger, Reischauer explains in depth the logical links between the two conceptions to form a coherent theoretical system.

One of the main pillars of Reischauer's argument was a comparative historiographic analogy between Japanese and Chinese society. Why was it that while Japan had been responsive to the problems of modernization, China had responded sluggishly? It was not, he argued, because of a difference in historical stages between the two countries, as the Marxists suggested. One was a feudal state, the other a state where power was centralized, with qualitatively different social structures. China's advanced bureaucratic system had once been a model for European states in the period of absolutism, and the egalitarianism supporting this bureaucracy would seem a rather easy means to ensure the modernization of China. In spite of this, her lateness to modernization was due to the very state structure of China.

China's high level of civilization, Reischauer went on, gave rise to a sinocentrism because of which she disdained absorbing foreign knowledge. Her unitary, centralized power structure


hampered an efficacious response to Western learning and might. The egalitarianism central to Chinese society guaranteed to the people an equality for success in life; and because of this, China retained the bureaucratic system rather than moving toward an intention-oriented ethic, as in Japan. As a result, new undertakings for wealth and fame were blocked in their development as private enterprises and tended to be fully absorbed into state enterprises. Thus, China's tardiness to modernization was not due to a low level of civilization or laggard social development, but to a state structure that had developed to a high level. This state structure can be expressed as despotism and it stood in parallel to feudalism.

Reischauer's position was not uniquely his but rather a result of the research of the American "modernization" group with which he was associated. "Modernization" theory has been analyzed in a number of publications,[45] which argue that the unfolding of "modernization" theory was fundamentally linked both directly and indirectly to America's international policies in the postwar period, particularly from the 1950s. America's policy of "containment" of the socialist countries, begun shortly after the war, included economic aid to backward countries outside the socialist camp, but this "containment" policy, they argue, ended in failure. Beginning with the birth of a new China in 1949, independence for the peoples of former colonies was achieved with tempestuous momentum.

America's economic aid plan, the critics go on, confronted this flood tide by merely sending capital goods and technology and by forging a bond between these items and the local labor power, but it was too late. American policy could not rouse the development of the self-regulating economies of the backward countries with material and technological essentials alone. Reflection on this economic aid formula led to a profoundly felt need for "regional studies" that would encompass non-economic elements, and comprehensive scholarly research was promoted by collaboration between the various disciplines of economics, history, political science, and cultural anthropology. This eventually set the tone for American foreign policy.

"Modernization" theory, linked in this overall way to "regional studies," had the political aim of guarding the newly risen states from the attractive power of the socialist camp and trying


to join them to the free world. In order to promote economic growth in the newly risen states where bourgeois influence was weak, state power had to play a large role, and thus these states were liable to incline toward the socialist camp. The problem for American interests lay in what possibility existed to redirect these nations toward the capitalist camp.

The categories of "capitalism" and "socialism" in "modernization" theory that was seeking a solution to this question were not different stages of development, as Marxism argued, but two distinct forms of modernization. Modernization, as it was used, meant primarily industrialization. The development of human society was a leap from preindustrial (traditional) to industrial society, and this transition was the decisive turning point in establishing the nature of each civilized society. In this sense, "capitalism" and "socialism" were merely two discrete models of industrialization. "Modernization" theory, as so conceived, sought to encompass the various societies of the peoples of the world with a generalization based on the equivalence of modernization and industrialization. Thus, all societies were capable of reaching this stage, and it was a question of secondary importance whether they took the capitalist route or the socialist route.

Considered in this framework, "capitalism" or "socialism" become a relative issue, not the Marxist path of progress from capitalism to socialism. Not only this, argued the "modernization" theorists, but also from the perspective that modernization was industrialization, capitalist modernization (as the spontaneous typical course for this) gained dominance over the socialist variety. For, while in the former the individual's freedom was guaranteed, the latter was premised on an unnatural system—"totalitarianism."

Thus, while accepting the equivalence of modernization and industrialization in human society as a general rule, "modernization" theory advocated taking the capitalist route as the ideal form. Wada Haruki distinguished this view—dubbed "contemporary modernization theory"—from "classical modernization theory," which had considered "free, democratic, Western society" as the ideal. According to Wada, one difference between these two modes of thought was that the "classical" variety emerged in such underdeveloped capitalist countries as


Russia and Japan and in conjunction with the political task of overcoming backwardness, whereas "contemporary modernization theory" grew out of America's international orientation of opposition to revolution. He argued that while the former sought certain theoretical underpinnings in Marxist theory, the latter set out explicitly from a position critical of Marxism. Despite these historical differences cited by Wada, both sides clearly shared a Europocentric position.

It is evident that this conception of "modernization" theory offered high praise for Japan's modernization and was politically linked to Japan's place in American policy. And, in the academic world, there was high praise particularly for the Tokugawa feudal system and the Meiji Restoration. It is well known that "modernization" theorists produced energetic studies in this area, and these studies led to the convening of the Japan-United States Hakone Conference (August–September 1960). This event brought to our attention the commencement of a new era in American-Japanese relations following the revision of the Security Treaty. Professor Reischauer, who would subsequently become American ambassador to Japan, naturally attended the conference.

Because Reischauer's thesis was formulated and expressed with this background, he was inundated with criticism from Japanese Marxist historians. The critique went along a variety of lines, including: 1) an identification of and attack on the nature of Reischauer's thesis as the ideology of imperialism; and 2) an attack on the point that his view of history ignored the role of the people in history (in his conception of feudalism, serfdom was ignored in the definition of the feudal system).

The first argument was made by the late Horigome Yozo[*] in his essay, "Hokensei[*] saihyoka[*] e no shiron" (A reevaluation of feudalism).[46] He called for a critical attitude toward politics and noted that the problem of the feudalism-modernization connection central to Reischauer's position was not Reischauer's own innovation but was based on a notion current in Western scholarly circles. I myself am in agreement with this last point and have attempted an investigation of Reischauer's thesis—or perhaps better referred to as an investigation of how to establish a critical position.[47] To go beyond Reischauer's thesis, or "modernization" theory itself, requires in-depth


study of the conception of feudalism. In this sense, I hesitate to say if the second criticism has yet been anchored in firm scholarly work.

Reischauer did not see feudalism as a general phenomenon in world history but as a distinct social system of peoples who shared the experience of having lived under the specific conditions of feudalism. The following points enable us to say that this conception of feudalism was not Reischauer's creation alone. In 1950 a joint research project on feudal systems was carried out at Princeton University. Papers were prepared by specialists on feudalism in eight regional areas—Western Europe, Japan, China, ancient Mesopotamia and Iran, ancient Egypt, India, Byzantium, and Russia—and Reischauer was responsible for the Japan portion. The essays were edited and published by Rushton Coulborn in the volume Feudalism in History.[48]

In his review of the book, Masubuchi Tatsuo[49] describes Coulborn's summary presentation concerning the formation of feudalism as follows. Feudalism does not necessarily arise anywhere after the collapse of an ancient empire. It is a phenomenon seen in the marginal territories of an empire, and in the more central areas order is reestablished by following a different route. Thus, an empire is restored by a revival of the centralized bureaucratic system itself. Concrete examples of states that became feudal are Western Europe and Japan, whereas the Byzantine empire, which inherited the Roman empire, is offered as an example of a revival of an ancient empire. In China as well, we see the succession, after the collapse of the Han empire, of temporary disunion, then the Sui-T'ang empire, and then the centralized empire from the Sung onward. Indeed, there was a tendency toward regional independence for a while in the Southern Dynasties, but this was a false feudalism, merely a temporary phenomenon when seen from the overall perspective.

While commenting on Coulborn's overview, Masubuchi claims that this conceptualization was borrowed from the work of the German medievalist Otto Hinze. In Hinze's usage, "feudalism" is an irregular form in the normal historical course from clan to state and from there to despotic empire. When a young race, having just shaken free of the clan system, is swayed from


this normal process of development by contact with a highly civilized empire in a state of decline, the result is feudalism, according to Hinze.

In citing feudalism as one of the two possible routes following the collapse of an ancient empire, Reischauer, Coulborn, and Hinze all agree. Furthermore, as I will discuss shortly, Karl Wittfogel's conception of feudalism is fully consistent with theirs in this regard. And what is more, it seems to me that Ishimoda Sho[*] 's notion of feudalism, as expressed in his book Chusei[*] teki sekai no keisei, and that of Kato[*] Shigeshi from his prewar essay, "Shina to bushi kaikyu[*] ," both discussed earlier, contained very similar conceptions to these. Ishimoda later altered his approach to the two paths, so that it was two paths toward feudalism; and he went further to stress the common points of these two as feudal systems. But, as I have already detailed, this tendency ran into difficulties. Just when the position of unilinear development theories was beginning to be undermined, multilinear theses (which the unilinear theories intended to surmount) were taking up the very same problem of feudalism and returning it to center stage.

Conceptions of Feudalism in Western Academic Circles and China's Autocratic Society

The theoretical origins of the conception of feudalism held by "modernization" theorists were by no means superficial. As Horigome noted, they go back to Max Weber's theories. Weber's view that feudalism was a degenerated form of patrimonial bureaucracy is well known. He argued that the centralized patrimonial bureaucracy in which the sovereign concentrates power in his own hands runs into difficulty maintaining itself in pure form and thus continually tends toward a personal, status system of patrimony that offers officialdom considerable independence. The extreme form of this is feudalism, and Weber distinguishes nonhereditary Pfründe (beneficiary) feudalism and hereditary Lehn (investiture) feudalism. Although the former has not yet been able to shed its patrimonial bureaucratic attributes completely, the latter has. Thus, Lehn feudalism consists of a loyalty bond, as its spiritual foundation, which links a specific sovereign to a specific vassal; it is


never a one-sided relationship, but rather a contractual bond between two parties. While Pfründe feudalism's main principle of control is the vassal's official duty (Pietät, piety) to the sovereign, fidelity (Treue ) is appended to the principle of Lehn. As Weber put it: "Lehn feudalism is an extreme case of the patrimonial structure."[50]

Lehn feudalism, according to Weber, was a particular feudal system seen only in medieval Europe. Or, rather, the particular form of feudalism known as Lehn was distinguished when Weber inserted the historical premise that the dominant pattern that had given rise to capitalist modernity was European society. This is clear from Weber's statement about the relationship between feudalism and modern capitalism. He noted that although feudalism possessed the proclivity to obstruct the development of modern capitalism—through investment in land as property, or suppression by traditionalism, and so on—the great security that the feudal legal order held compared with the patrimonial state could provide an advantageous element for capitalist development. The opportunity for an individual to acquire property through random chance, as under the patrimonial state, disappeared. But, for that very reason, feudalism became advantageous to the establishment of the rational structure of capitalism itself.

Because in medieval Europe there was no accumulation of wealth in the dependency relations of the patrimonial state, as there was with officials and state-authorized merchants in the Orient, China, and Russia, capital flowed to purely non-official profit channels in the form of wholesale domestic industry and manufacture. Also, the more the feudal stratum shut off new wealth from playing a role in officialdom and political power, and prevented it from acquiring control over the aristocracy, the more it forced new wealth into purely urban capitalist use.

This all points to what Reischauer called intention-orientation. The opposition he set up was between feudal Japan's intention-orientation and the bureaucratic Chinese status-orientation. In Weber as well, China is cited as one of the prototypes of a patrimonial bureaucratic state together with ancient Egypt. The developed bureaucratic system was furnished with a rationality making it capable, at a glance. of passing for a modern bureaucracy. However, in matters involving its con-


tent and basic principles, it could not transcend the bounds of the traditional ruling form. In a word, it had reached the apex of the patrimonial bureaucracy. Although the formal modernity it possessed seemed to have complied without question with the development toward modern capitalism, in fact this made its actual compliance difficult. The reason was that the rationality that this formal modernity imitated was in essence a one-sided, top-down, false rationality that could not go beyond the patrimonial bureaucratic framework.

What separated European from non-European states was whether or not the principle of rule was truly one of loyalty, based on a contract, and hence legal. However darkly colored by what seemed to be the appearance of feudalism, however firmly recognizable the telltale signs of capitalism might seem, if the substance of this principle of rule was missing, there was neither a true feudalism nor a truly modern society. Thus, "feudalism" and "modernization" emerge as categories linked by a logical necessity, and Western European society became that historical society in which this linkage could be understood. In this sense, Western European society was what Weber had in mind.

How then did Weber understand Japanese society? My knowledge is extremely limited in this area, but I believe what I have to say to be credible. Weber argues that the basic character of Lehn feudalism lay in its amalgamation of personal fidelity bonds originating in the "duty" (Pietät ) of the retainer system together with their accompanying beneficium. Although Japanese feudalism did have the idea of a personal retainer's "duty," it lacked the manorial lord structure of beneficium. For instance, what daimyos were entrusted with by the shogun was Amt (official position), not Lehn (feudal tenure). Also, the daimyo obeyed perforce the shogun's unilateral orders to change fiefs. The daimyo's retainers were not feudal servants of the Lehn type but Pfründe recipients of rice stipends. Thus, Japanese feudalism did not constitute a full-fledged Lehn feudal system. Nonetheless, Weber continues, a contractual legal bond offered a much more powerful basis for nurturing individualism (in the Western sense of the word) than did China's theocracy. Although Japan had been unable to generate the spirit of capitalism from within herself, she was able to adopt


foreign capitalism with comparative ease. Weber also argues that the link between honor and loyalty are found only in the Western Lehn feudalism and in the Japanese Gefolgschaft (client) feudalism.

Thus, we find in Weber's view as well that feudalism—to the extent that it is genuine—carries with it the theoretical assumption of modernization; and thus, only Western European society or its equivalent, Japanese society, was equipped with this precondition and the process resulting from it. This structure is consistent with the theoretical structure of "modernization" theory. Although the two are not identical in thought, there is no doubt that the "feudalism-modernization" thesis of "modernization" theory relies to a considerable extent on Weber's sociology.

The influence exercised by Weber's comparative historical method on historical theory today is immeasurable. It has become the theoretical fount for "modernization" theory. I would also like to show how close Weber's structure was, particularly on the issue of feudalism, to the conceptions of China of two European-born historians, Étienne Balazs and Karl Wittfogel, both of whom presented incisive analyses of Chinese society.

A Hungarian-born sinologist, Étienne Balazs (1905–1963) studied primarily the society, economy, thought, and literature of the Six Dynasties, Sui, and T'ang periods, but his many writings have a breadth of vision covering the long range of Chinese history. A number of his essays were collected in Chinese Civilization and Bureaucracy.[51] The central issue raised in these essays was the conditions under which China had been able to sustain an imperial government for over two thousand years from the third century B.C. into the twentieth century. Balazs was also interested in the links between traditional Chinese society and post-1949 China. He claimed that it was the bureaucracy that gave Chinese society the quality of homeostasis. In the imperial period, the structure of Chinese society was a self-sufficient agriculture at the social base and a totalitarian state administering it. State bureaucrats were scholar-officials from the gentry class. It was not landownership that bestowed social position and influence upon the gentry; nor was it the hereditary passage of position or influence.


Rather, it was the administrative control function that this group performed in society. Their becoming officials was the manifestation of this function.

In this way, the bond between the state and the self-sufficient peasant village was formed through the intermediary of the bureaucracy. Since state power was considered omnipotent, this bond produced characteristics of totalitarianism, such as a reigns of terror, repression of private entrepreneurial development, and a desire among officials to avoid responsibility. Confucianism, Balazs went on, provided the ideological means used to support this system. There were indeed movements to reject or oppose this structure. Taoism's mystical idea of a return to nature, as opposed to the political conservatism of "rationalistic" Confucianism, captured people's desire to deny contemporary realities. Often this merged with peasant rebellions to topple a dynasty.

Although these popular uprisings were tinged with revolutionary coloring, Balazs felt that they could not fundamentally negate the traditional Chinese system. Rather, they ended with a repetition of the destruction and reconstruction of the traditional system that had reproduced itself into modern times.

Only when she faced an invasion by modern European powers did China reach the stage of social revolution (in a substantive sense). Balazs, however, saw the successful modern Chinese revolution as analogous to traditional bureaucratic society. In China, he argued, where the overwhelming majority of the population were poor peasants and the formation of a bourgeois class was weak, the intellectuals replaced the bourgeoisie in leading the revolution. The party bureaucrats who, as a result of the revolution, directed Chinese socialism—Balazs called it state capitalism—were comparable to the scholar-officials of the imperial era. The economy was controlled by the power of the state; state farms, for example, he likened to farming on garrison lands in the earlier period.

Thus, Balazs considered Chinese socialism a contemporary edition of the old bureaucratic state and stressed its totalitarian flavor. He pessimistically foresaw the trend toward totalitarianism—namely, bureaucratic, technocratic state control—covering the entire world, including the advanced


nations of the West as well as the backward states that had formerly been colonies.

In Balazs' understanding, the permanent quality of Chinese society revolved around the "bureaucracy." He was forced to draw the conclusion that from the inauguration of the imperial system China had never in her history experienced feudalis—mat least, it had never been effectively put into practice. Balazs argued that the Chinese Communists had dispensed with Marx's original four-stage schema (Asiatic society, classical slave society, medieval feudal society, and modern capitalist society), and in its place, with a schema borrowed from "vulgar Marxism," they had become adept at calling "feudal" everything that transpired between the "slave society" of ancient China and 1949. Thus, Balazs argued, this all-inclusive "feudalism" only led to a confusion in understanding. Not that China's bureaucratic society wholely lacked feudal elements, but in his view the principal ruling class in society had remained the scholar-officials, and they were not the great landowners truly befitting the station of a feudal class.

It should be clear from this brief summary that Balazs' conception of Chinese society resembled Weber's. In fact, according to Muramatsu Yuji[*] ,[52] Balazs was heavily influenced in the theoretical area by Weber's work because he had studied sinology under Otto Franke. It is safe to say that Balazs' research on China sought to offer concrete cases for Weber's ideas about China. At the same time, he undeniably shared many points in common with the view of China offered by American "modernization" theory. If there was any difference between them, it would be that "modernization"' theory pinned its policy hopes on the modernization of the peoples of the world along the lines of the "free world," whereas Balazs was apprehensive about the threat of totalitarianism hanging over the future of the world. This may reveal his European liberalism, but the two fundamentally shared in the view that understood Chinese society negatively, be it as a bureaucratic or a totalitarian state.[53]

Karl A. Wittfogel is also a sinologist in the Weberian strain. According to his own recollections, Wittfogel began his work on the distinctiveness of the hydraulic society and the state under Weber's influence in the winter of 1922–23. In 1924 he


began to cite the work of both Weber and Marx.[54] His study of hydraulic society was apparently constructed by laying Weber's sociological theory and Marx's view of the Asiatic mode of production on top of each other. There is clearly no need to rehearse the famous thesis of Wittfogel's book. Here I shall select several statements concerning the issue under analysis from Oriental Despotism, Wittfogel's comprehensive treatment of hydraulic society.

In his "Introduction," Wittfogel describes the significance of his own research on Oriental despotic society. Studies of Oriental society flourished in the age of European absolutism, but concerns shifted to other problems in the middle of the nineteenth century, the age of industrial capitalism. Although it had been hoped that liberalism would be realized at that time, total power, far from being eliminated, expanded gradually, and this revived interest in the historical experience of despotic rule. Thus, a thorough analysis of Oriental society became necessary once again.

According to Wittfogel, Oriental society is more appropriately called "hydraulic society." Marx and Engels called it the Asiatic mode of production, and hence originally argued for a two-tracked mechanism for the development of societies. Later Marxists peddled a unilinear theory under Marx's name. A representative case would be Soviet scholars of East Asia who, for political reasons, denied the existence of an Asiatic mode of production. Thus, Wittfogel claims, they tried to conceal the bureaucratic essence of the Soviet Union's new totalitarian control—a modern edition of Oriental despotism.

Beginning with the category of "hydraulic society" (a society with irrigated agriculture under large-scale governmental direction), Wittfogel offers an analysis of the functions performed by the Oriental despotic state in every area from politics to the economy to culture. But, as is clear from this formulation, it is not only applicable to traditional Oriental society but also points toward a universal pattern covering all "totalitarian" states, be they ancient, modern, East, or West. He notes that his comparative historical analysis is based firmly in the work of American cultural anthropologists and is the result of making free use of extremely rich and widely varied sources.

The pattern of the totalitarian hydraulic state drawn by


Wittfogel shares many points in its larger framework with the views of other scholars noted earlier, such as in their discussions of China, to say the least. In describing the peculiar structure and nature of Chinese society, Wittfogel often adopts the method of comparing and contrasting it with classical antiquity and medieval Europe. Needless to say, this method is closely tied to Wittfogel's understanding of the two-tracked mechanism of world history.

What then is Wittfogel's interpretation of Japanese society? Japan, he argues, is part of the Asian mainland, and Japanese civilization bears the same traits as China and India. Furthermore, the Japanese had developed the most ingenious system of irrigated agriculture in human history. Despite all this, Japan was never hydraulic. Because of her topography, water utilization in Japan did not take an all-inclusive (hydraulic) form but rather a decentralized (hydraulic agricultural) form. It did not necessitate large-scale public works under government control, and it was administered by local managers.

These conditions for water usage, argues Wittfogel, bequeathed Japan the nature of her historical development. State policy for the establishment of a centralized bureaucracy, attempted at the time of the Taika Reforms, did not take root in Japanese society. The shift of a bureaucratic stratum into hereditary landowners and the adoption of a system of primogeniture put Japan on the road to feudalism. Medieval Japanese society was not centralized and was based on wealth. And, it was one step closer to the European feudal order than was the Chinese hydraulic pattern. The absolutist centralization of power in the hands of the government, which characterized the Edo period, was also one step closer to European absolutism, rather than an expression of Oriental despotism.

Wittfogel never denied that an Oriental character can be seen in Japanese institutions and thought. He points out that the demand for absolute obedience to the feudal lord may not be unrelated to the quasi-hydraulic nature of Japan's irrigated agriculture. Furthermore, he argues, the fact that the mode of thought of the ruling class was based on Confucianism and revered the culture of the written Chinese language is linked in one respect to the Chinese principle of a civil officialdom. In recognizing the Oriental aspect of Japanese society and simulta-


neously stressing its closeness to Europe, Wittfogel seems to have been influenced by Weber's conceptions.

A certain shared pattern is evident in the views of scholars who have supported a manifold structure to world history, as we have noted in these pages. They interpret world civilization by dividing it into two types centering on the feudal social system. One is the civilization that has experienced feudalism in the classical sense; the other is the civilization that has not produced it. Although the cradle of civilization of the ancient world first appeared in the latter, eventually it spread to areas on its periphery, overcame them, and finally gave birth to the feudal civilization of the former. Whereas the former followed a self-generative development toward modern capitalist society, the latter was unable to generate a further epochal evolution from the social structure of ancient civilization that had matured quite early. It was reorganized under conditions brought about by world capitalism by preserving its essence as a centralized bureaucratic society. While it may have become a colony and may have realized a socialist revolution, it could not, in either case, escape the status of a backward country. Resolution of this contradiction necessitated the reconstruction of the bureaucratic state under a new guise.

This conception of world history is based on the ideal of liberalism, a point shared by all the authors. Feudalism in their view is not simply a form of society, but a particular mode of human cohesion that gives rise in its pure form to a bilateral, contractual, lord-vassal bond. It overcomes the unilateral, absolutist relationship of the ancient bureaucracy and guarantees human freedom under customary law. The historical and theoretical link between feudalism and self-generating modernization can be found here. By contrast, bureaucratic society either remains ancient or pursues modernizing development through socialism—in short, "an unfree world."

This conception of world history naturally includes a critique of the unilinear development thesis of the Marxist camp. As we have seen, however, according to both Balazs and Wittfogel, originally Marx and Engels had never advocated a unilinear understanding of world history themselves. They agreed that the Asiatic mode of production and stages of European history were set up as two distinct conceptions. If this is true, then the


issue of the correctness of a unilinear development theory is left unsatisfied by Marxism or bourgeois liberalism alone. The host of problems involved here will be the subject of the next section.

The Revival of the Theory of the Asiatic Mode of Production and the Problem of Feudalism

The debate over the Asiatic mode of production, which receded in the 1930s, has recaptured an international vigor over the past ten years. It has become widely known in Japan through such works as Ajia teki seisan yoshiki[*] no mondai (Problems concerning the Asiatic mode of production), edited and translated by Honda Kiyoji; and Ajia teki seisan yoshiki ronso[*] no fukkatsu: Sekai shi no kihon hosoku[*] no saikento[*] (The revival of the debate over the Asiatic mode of production: A reinvestigation of the basic laws of world history), edited and translated by Fukutomi Masami.[55] I should like to discuss here how the revival of this debate is connected to the issue of feudalism, which remains the problem under analysis. The circumstances surrounding the revival of the debate have been detailed in a host of books and require no further explanation save a general description of the contours of the controversy.

The debate over the Asiatic mode of production arose in the 1920s, primarily over the problem of strategies to follow in the Chinese revolution. With the Leningrad Conference of 1931, Soviet scholars tended to deny theoretically as well as from the historical evidence that Marx's conception of the Asiatic mode rendered it a separate mode of production. Examples from the past stipulated as the Asiatic mode were now considered Asiatic forms of feudalism; and the theory that the social structure of slavery had existed in ancient Asia as well now became quite influential.

The denial of the notion of the Asiatic mode was not necessarily the result of scholarly investigation but reflected potent political objectives. Under Stalin's personal directive, theorists of the Asiatic mode were labeled Trotskyists. With this background, Stalin published in 1939 his "Dialectical and Historical Materialism," in which he stated as a law that human history traveled through five stages: primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, and socialism. Thus, if historical facts


failed to comply with this formula, the facts were deemed anomalous. This dogmatism, which stressed the formula over the facts, constituted the system of world history in the socialist camp with the political support of Stalinism.

Not until the early 1950s was this officially authorized system torn down. The "thaw" over the issue of the Asiatic mode in the Soviet Union actually began in the 1960s. As is well known, the issue was raised again by French Marxist historians at this juncture: in 1964–65, the journal La Pensée ran special numbers devoted to the "Asiatic mode of production." Another indication of this change in circumstance occurred at the same time with the publication of Ocherki po problemam politekonomii kapitalizma (Outlines of political and economic problems of capitalism) by the Soviet economist Eugen Varga.[56] In this book, Varga indicted the history that had obliterated the Asiatic mode of production from discussion and proclaimed that the time had come to restore the reputation befitting this theory.

At the end of 1964, a debate over the Asiatic mode was begun in the various institutes under the umbrella of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Noteworthy is that the areas debated concerned not only the investigation of concepts but also of problems involving the structural formation of societies and the periodization of world history, as well as many other questions of basic theory. This entailed a reexamination of the image of world history provided by Stalin's formula, and here the problem of feudalism in Asian society came into focus. I should like to look now at the issues that emerged in the process of this debate, with the aid of the collections of translations by Honda and Fukotomi cited earlier in this section.

Jean Chesneaux, a French Marxist who played an important role in reopening the debate, cited three essential elements as practical incentives for returning serious attention to the Asiatic mode of production.[57] They were: (1) the world-historical events of the liberation of the peoples of Asian and African countries after the Second World War and their actual political and social development; (2) the spectacular advances in recent knowledge of the history of the non-European world; and (3) the emergence of the need for a theoretical battle against Marxist apostates and revisionists—Wittfogel was mentioned as a representative example. I shall examine below how these


three were linked. In sum, the appearance of such a state of affairs was sufficient inducement to reinstate investigation of the Asiatic mode as the basis for penetrating research into the history of the non-European world.

Concretely, this state of affairs raised scholarly problems, such as the following: "Classical Marxist concepts, particularly those of slavery and feudalism, may not necessarily be fully applicable in the efforts to analyze non-European societies or at least certain elements in them."[58] Chesneaux raised the cases of Africa, India, Vietnam, and ancient Egypt as regions already of awakened to this sort of reexamination; and he introduced with high praise the work of the Hungarian sinologist Ferenc Tökei, Sur le mode de production asiatique.[59] Tökei argued the existence of the Asiatic mode in Chou dynasty China. Chesneaux was thoroughly dissatisfied with the way contemporary China interpreted her own history. "They look simplistically for the same stages in Chinese history as in European history, with feudalism following slavery. The distinctive East Asian qualities of slave or feudal society are not addressed. Not one basic fact comparable to the existence of a distinctive Mandarin state bureaucracy has been the subject of a really penetrating independent analysis."[60] Chesneaux's evaluation is liable to oversimplify the trends among Chinese historians, but he stated his position on this issue rather clearly here.

When we assign a stage for the Asiatic mode of production to a specific civilized society, then what is to be foreseen in the history of these societies as a whole? This leads to complications and difficulties inconceivable under Stalin's unilinear theory. There is the danger, of which Chesneaux was aware, that the Asiatic mode will be linked to the notion of stagnation. In order to overcome this fear, he had to clarify the stage into which the Asiatic mode would evolve. Chesneaux predicted the possibility of a course from the Asiatic mode of production to a feudal mode of production. He defined the Asiatic mode as: "the combination of the productive activities of the village communities with the economic participation of state authority which simultaneously controlled these communities and exploited them."[61] He argued that the evolution from this social structure to the feudal stage may be achieved by the expansion of private ownership of the land, and he devoted his attention with


respect to China to the development of private landholding from the Han dynasty.

Chesneaux, however, did not have full confidence in this course. He argued that although Asian societies have headed toward a kind of feudalism, it could not produce anything except the sprouts of capitalism, and this feudalism (whether "genuine" or not) soon withered away. Thus, as Tökei and others noted, until the invasion of European capitalism in the nineteenth century, the various Asian societies essentially held firm in their perpetuity.

This skeptical statement implied that Chesneaux did not firmly believe in the notion of an evolution from the Asiatic to the feudal mode. Chesneaux's basic intent, as he stressed time and again, was not to raise any conclusive arguments in a hasty fashion, but to appeal for the need to develop overall research inquiries liberated from the formulaic dogmatism of the past and based upon new, contemporary knowledge. In place of the dogmatism of the universality of slavery and feudalism, he asserted, we must not bring forth a new dogmatism of the universality of the Asiatic mode of production.

One member of the group that participated with Chesneaux in the revival of discussion concerning the Asiatic mode of production was Roger Garaudy. His book, Le problème chinois,[62] also rejected the "dogmatic schema" that all human societies passed through the five stages of primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, and socialism; and he claimed that China had never experienced the slave mode of production. The prototypical slave system, he argued, flourished only in Mediterranean civilizations, whereas in China, as Tökei and others had noted, the Asiatic mode of production dominated society in the Shang-Chou period. From the Han dynasty on, the Asiatic mode in its prototypical form had ceased to exist, because the lack of private ownership (one of the basic features of this mode of production) disappeared owing to the privatization of land and the accumulation of slaves. After the Asiatic mode, the feudal mode of production arrived, but it was stamped with the remnants of the Asiatic mode and bequeathed a distinctiveness to Chinese feudalism.

Hence, Chinese feudal ownership in land, in Garaudy's view, was tied to the special privileges of the imperial bureaucrats, a


sort of bureaucratic feudalism. It differed immensely from the "pure feudalism" (of Europe) where the feudal lord was a direct recipient of rent paid in labor; and where all state functions, such as the military and the judicial system, were provided. The transition to capitalism that European feudalism achieved by inheriting the commodity economy of classical slavery could not be brought about with this kind of feudalism. Sprouts of capitalism, cropping up here and there, could not avoid a stage of mercantilism under state control. Rich merchants, intent on entering the official class, made the formation of a bourgeois class impossible.

In the final analysis, Garaudy's view was able to synthesize the schema of the Asiatic mode of production leading to a distinctive Chinese feudalism. As noted previously, he did not see this "feudalism" developing into modern capitalism—in this regard, he shared elements with various comparative historians who were of a liberal bent.

A free expression of views not confined to old models can be seen in the debate among Soviet historians that was touched off by the new arguments in France. According to L.V. Danilova's summary[63] of the disputation in the Institute of Philosophy of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, many theoretical issues (far beyond expectations) were raised at the symposium inaugurated by an investigation of Varga's work, such as issues concerning social structure and the periodization of world history. The relationship between the concept of the Asiatic mode of production and Marx, as well as the validity of this concept, were considered; and two opposing viewpoints emerged over whether to take the concept seriously. This issue was naturally linked to the problem of the structures of class societies.

One view strongly put forward was that the earlier official theory (slavery ® feudalism ® capitalism) failed to accord with the realities of the vast majority of the peoples of the world—although they had known slavery as a form of exploitation, they had not experienced it in the structural form of slavery. This view vigorously repudiated the earlier official theory that had disavowed the concept of the Asiatic mode and recognized the existence of a slave stage in various non-European regions. This not only involved an interpretation of Asian history but was also tied to a systematic understanding of world history.


There was also the view that the unilinear development theory was applicable only in the Mediterranean world and was doubtful for the whole of mankind. Of course, there were opposing arguments, but, as Danilova noted, the need for a reinvestigation of the three-stage periodization that had previously been taken for granted was affirmed by the majority of participants.

The contested points expanded to include problems of early class societies as well as methodological issues. The latter in particular gave rise to a view that sought to underline geography as a constituent element of productive capacity and a basis for simplistic developmental theories. Another position that became the object of argumentation saw the role played by the state in the later primitive period as achieving the function of organizer of social production, rather than as the instrument of violence for class rule. In this view can be seen an argument indicating the transition from a theory of slavery to one of the Asiatic mode of production. This also pointed to a revival of general interest in theories of the state.

Thus, the reopening of the debate on the Asiatic mode of production in the Soviet Union led to a recognition of the need for a reexamination of the established concepts concerning the development of human history. Summarizing their work, including that of the Chesneaux and the French Marxists, Soviet historians cast grave doubts on the earlier unilinear theory of development. As noted previously, the critique of the unilinear Marxist theory first raised in the liberal camp by American "modernization" theorists eventually caught fire within the Marxist camp as well. Despite their ideological differences, both sides shared a certain common objective.

What happened to bring this about? Perhaps Chesneaux's statement, cited earlier, is suggestive here. He pointed to the actual liberation and development of the peoples of non-European, underdeveloped nations after the Second World War as the first occasion for the revival of the debate on the Asiatic mode. If Marxism proved truly incapable of grasping the realities of world history, Chesneaux argued, then this was nothing short of self-immolation for Marxism. These new realities, with the strains they imposed on theory, worked the same way on the liberal camp, whose main force was in Amer-


ica. Without a theoretical grasp of these realities, decisions on world policy were impossible.

The question of how to go about understanding the historical structure of these newly risen peoples, considered the "casting vote" for contemporary world history, formed one aspect of the competitive struggle between the two camps. As one of the motives for the revival of debate on the Asiatic mode, Chesneaux pointed to the need for an unmitigated theoretical struggle against Marxist renegades and revisionists. This problem was not only for "defectors" from Marxism, however, for it could equally be applied to the entire ideology of the liberal camp.

In any case, the belatedness of the Marxists was clearly undeniable. There was a discrepancy of five to ten years, for example, between the formulation of "modernization" theory and the rehabilitation of the theory of the Asiatic mode of production. In terms of theoretical content as well, the former distinguished Europe (and Japan) from the non-European world, and offered a multilinear system of world history, while the latter, perhaps saving its strength for the battle with dogmatism, remained far from systematization. A more essential question, however, has not been mentioned. The intellectual origins of the former lay in a modernism whose main feature was industrialization, as pointed out earlier. Thus, the real issue for the latter was from what stance to confront "modernization" theory and put together a new system of world history that began with a revival of the Asiatic mode debate. Hence, it also seemed necessary that the problem of feudalism be more deeply understood in this regard.


Concluding Remarks

I am not a specialist in the problem of feudalism in history. The history of research into this issue, as I have described it, merely represents my own reordering of the problems that have caught my eye. But it seems to me clear, even within the narrow range of my own knowledge, that the issue of feudalism in non-European societies cannot be overlooked as if it were something self-evident. It has not at all been firmly established that these societies went through feudalism. In the case of China, for example, we have seen the perspective that takes the concept of bureaucracy as more useful than the category of feudalism. We have also noted the suggestion that, even if the feudal stage was experienced, one should assume that this was something far removed from Western feudalism. In short, the issue of feudalism in Asia, as well as in China, has now reverted to the state of being an unknown entity.

The first cause of this reversion—namely, the rise of non-European peoples—need not be repeated. When we look squarely at this new reality, we can no longer close the door on the history of these people with categories drawn from European history. We need a new methodology to comprehend from within the histories of each of these individual peoples.

The officially sanctioned historical materialist theory, which for over thirty years reigned in the Marxist camp, was merely a dogma unconscious of this new reality, and this fact increasingly began to dawn on a good many people. The reason was that the more they applied the official formula to the histories of the non-European world, the more difficulties they encountered and the greater the dilemma they faced of lacking the evidence to fit the formula. This was sharply sensed also in Japan's postwar experience.


However, the "modernization" school's pedigree has proven unsatisfactory as well. While theoretically trying to understand the non-European world in its essence, it remains merely a Western-centered interpretation. As a projection of an image of the European world, the non-European world has been burdened with the role of heightening the value of the former. This lays bare the nature of "modernization" theory as a new colonialist view of world history.

Be that as it may, we find ourselves in a situation necessitating a return to the dimensions of the unknown and a pursual of an investigation of this issue in Chinese history. Where in the world is it best to begin the unraveling of this difficult problem? Before bringing this chapter to a close, I must briefly consider this point, but first let me insert into the analysis an article by Sakai Kakusaburo[*] , "Hoken[*] shakai no kozo[*] : Chugoku[*] hokensei no kento[*] kara hoken[*] shakai e no ippan riron e" (The structure of feudal society: From an investigation of Chinese feudalism to a general theory of feudal society).[64] While concerned to a certain extent with the problems we have been examining, this essay seems to raise perspectives not previously considered.

Sakai argues as follows. What allowed the establishment of a theory of modernization as a reproduction of the notion of Asian stagnation was, in addition to Japan's and the West's success in modernizing, a reductionism to the lowest common denominator without a theory sufficient to coordinate studies of Asian feudal societies with those of Japanese and European societies. In other words, studies of Asian history since the war generalized feudalism as landlord control over the peasantry and claimed that feudalism had been experienced in Asia as well, but the connection between the base and the superstructure was never clarified. The problem was never resolved as to why the same base might give birth to a different superstructure. Or, on the contrary, feudalism in the Chou dynasty was argued to be fundamentally different from Western European feudalism, but no explanation was given for why they produced similar political systems. These issues reveal the theoretical lacunae in postwar conceptions of feudalism.

With this premise, Sakai discusses the structural features of feudal society and then proceeds with an analysis of Chinese


society. He argues that the decisive structural characteristics of feudal society are the organization of a stratum of territorial lords, regional states, and a political framework that is decentralized into segments and strata. The society is run by a status system of rank and occupation, based on birth, and at the highest rung dwells a military aristocracy that dominates military power. This structure is bequeathed to subsequent generations by a system of single inheritance and is maintained by a systematic religion as a unifying spiritual principle.

If we look at these features from the perspective of a system of ownership, Sakai argues, it was characterized by the lack of a completely exclusive system of ownership and had an incomplete, open form of ownership layered in several strata. The stratified structure of feudal power was based on these layers—for example, in comparing Japan with the West, the extraordinary centralization of power in the former was due to the strength of its level of completeness. A society at the opposite end of the spectrum from feudal society (with this incomplete ownership system) would be a society where the system of ownership is complete. Its organization would be Gesellschaft and bureaucratic; and the state would assume a centralized form or a form lacking a government. Hence, these two types of societies flow into each other.

If we adopt this model to the historical materialist theory of stages of development, then the incomplete ownership system can emerge in two periods: (1) the transition from primitive society to slavery where a system of ownership is complete; and (2) the decline of slavery, namely a period when overlapping (common) property exists between classes because while slaves are recovering ownership rights, it is not yet a complete system of private property. Chou feudalism, for example, is a case of feudal society preceding slavery, and feudalism (serf society), in the theory of stages of development, is a product of this second period.

Looking at the problem in this way, feudalism can never be a system formed simply under prescribed conditions. Sakai proposes the early Ming as a society furnished with the features of feudalism. After the collapse of the Chou feudal system, feudalism did not take shape as a structure extending throughout Chinese society. However, partial lord-vassal bonds con-


tinued to exist over the ages in the form of a system of feudal titles, which developed particularly from the late Jurchen-Chin era, through the Yüan and Ming, and into the early Ch'ing. The Ming especially enfeoffed members of the imperial family and meritorious officials and bestowed titular rank and manors (lut'ien ).[65] These manors were often converted into official "aristocratic estates" (chuang-t'ien ).[66] Those who received titular rank generally held hereditary military posts, and the troops under them were organized into military households through a system of heredity. According to Sakai, the Yüan dynasty was an era of decline for slavery; in the Chin-Yüan transition years, the Sung and Chin bureaucratic strata were destroyed, and a military class as the new rulers emerged to form the kind of feudalism described earlier.

Hence, Sakai lays greater emphasis on the break between Sung and Yüan than between T'ang and Sung, but this does not mean that such feudal ties covered the entirety of Chinese society. There was a middle class of self-managing peasants, he argues, who simultaneously owned land and were under state control as direct producers. Since this middle class embodied in itself feudal relations of production, its dissolution gave rise to feudal bonds; however, the two classes that composed the feudal bond were becoming a middle class owing to upward and downward mobility. In this way, feudalism and bureaucracy flowed into each other. Also, bureaucracy stifled feudal rule and led to a system of centralized power, and this gave rise to an indirect bond whereby the class of feudal lords controlled the middle class through the mechanism of the state. And, a tendency ensued toward the bureaucratization of the feudal lords.

The preceding points, although extremely general, summarize Sakai's argument. Because his category of an "incomplete system of ownership" provides a logic sufficient to explain the correspondence between the base and the superstructure of feudal society, his effort to describe in general terms the stages of world history is worthy of our attention. So far as concerns an interpretation of Chinese history, however, one is hard-pressed to say that he has been completely successful. His intention was to overcome the understanding of Asia offered by "modernization" theory by proving the existence of feudalism in Chinese history. Hence, he tried to locate in the Ming the most feudal


period in Chinese history, but, as he himself put it, this feudal system was only partial in that it never covered all of Chinese society structurally and was largely limited by the bureaucratic system. Thus, the question to answer is: How is one to approach this bureaucratic society? Since he cannot overestimate the feudal relations in Chinese society, this very question becomes the flip side of his original aim.

One further difficulty is related to this issue. The reason "modernization" theory stresses the stage of feudalism is in order to show that feudalism prepared the logic internally for modern society. While the bilateral, contractual, personal bond that characterized the feudal lord-vassal bond in Europe accompanied a system of status, it also guaranteed mutual rights. Without the guarantee of these rights, the establishment of modern society was considered impossible. Aside from Western Europe, only Japan had undergone a feudal system of this sort; when a feudal political structure seemed to have been spotted in regions other than these, because it was deemed false feudalism it could not be equated with Western European feudalism. In other words, the difference between real and bogus feudalism hinged on the ethos that supported a given system—this seemed to be the position of "modernization" theory with one of its origins in Weber. Thus, Sakai should have contemplated this issue if he sought to overcome "modernization" theory. His theory of feudalism, however, remained primarily a general theory of construction that ignored this point.

The clue to the problem under analysis is uncovered at the very point where Sakai's effort falls short. In reconsidering the importance of Western feudalism, the fact that it formed the premise for modern society and the fact that the ancient European world was transcended by it seem to be intimately related. Medieval society was formed by destroying the ancient society of public law based on blood ties and by creating a new personal universe of private law and of the self.

In Europe this epochal transformation was apparently realized by "feudalism." In other words, "feudalism" connoted the European form by which the ancient world was sublated. If this perception of the issue is acceptable, then clearly we must not limit ourselves simply to whether or not the political system or structure of feudalism existed when we trace the historical


evolution of traditional Asian societies. Previous experience has taught us that the thesis of Asian stagnation originated precisely by limiting the problem in this way. However, the perspective that takes the universal nature of feudalism to be simply serfdom, as was the economic base of Western European feudalism, linked tightly to a decentralized superstructure, and which then locates this system in the various societies of Asia is hard to accept as a method for understanding traditional Asian societies.

To make a proper comparison with Europe inherently requires a search in the societies of Asia to see: (1) how the ancient world—namely, the history from the distant past which formed the origins of world civilization—was transcended; and (2) by what process and in what modes the formation of the medieval world took shape. In a word, it requires a consideration of the "meaning" of feudalism in European history in the context of Asian history.

As we have seen thus far, many scholars have pointed to the bureaucracy as the distinctive feature of traditional Chinese society. This is not mistaken in and of itself. However, few people indeed can deny that there has been a historical development within the "perpetual and unchanging" framework of bureaucratic society. Thus, the problem is not to focus solely on the framework and ask if it is bureaucratic or feudal (let alone falsely or genuinely feudal), but to investigate the structure of the individual development of each society that falls within the bureaucratic framework. It is only natural that bureaucracy did not emerge solely by itself but had a social base that propped it up. Bureaucracy as the edifice together with its foundations existed both in a mutually supportive relationship and in positions mutually opposed. If we can actually prove that the dialectic between the two relationships caused traditional Asian society to move from ancient to medieval times, then would this not lend credence to the possibility that the capacity for self-development would create Asia's distinctive modernity, a modernity that could not be identified with Europe's modernity?


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