Tsuda Mamichi and the Global Enlightenment: A Confucian Liberalism


  • Axel A. Julsrud University of Oslo




This article reassesses the political thought of the Japanese nineteenth-century scholar of “Western studies”, Tsuda Mamichi, by looking at the ways in which he utilized the Confucian concept of “Principle” in his adaptation of Western political and philosophical ideas. It is argued that Confucianism has been under-appreciated as a dynamic and inventive component of the transnational intellectual transfer of the nineteenth century, termed by Sebastian Conrad the “global Enlightenment”. Tsuda’s use of the concept of Principle legitimized a progressivist world view which accommodated the establishment of new political institutions inspired by Western civilization, most importantly the establishment of a popularly elected national assembly. It is therefore possible to follow Kiri Paramore’s lead and speak of a “Confucian liberalism” when discussing Tsuda’s thought. Finally, it is suggested that Tsuda’s writings provide evidence to refute the historiographical error by which the central concepts of Confucianism have been assumed to be inherently incompatible with “modernity” or “enlightenment thought”, caused in part by earlier Eurocentric scholarship such as “modernization theory”.