Books  General Natural History  Environmental History 

Bad Water: Nature, Pollution, and Politics in Japan, 1870-1950

Series: Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

By: Robert Stolz (Author)

280 pages, 8 illustrations, 1 table

Duke University Press

Paperback | May 2014 | #212464 | ISBN-13: 9780822356998
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £15.99 $20/€18 approx
Hardback | May 2014 | #212465 | ISBN-13: 9780822356905
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £56.99 $70/€64 approx

About this book

Bad Water is a sophisticated theoretical analysis of Japanese thinkers and activists' efforts to reintegrate the natural environment into Japan's social and political thought in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth. The need to incorporate nature into politics was revealed by a series of large-scale industrial disasters in the 1890s. The Ashio Copper Mine unleashed massive amounts of copper, arsenic, mercury, and other pollutants into surrounding watersheds. Robert Stolz argues that by forcefully demonstrating the mutual penetration of humans and nature, industrial pollution biologically and politically compromised the autonomous liberal subject underlying the political philosophy of the modernizing Meiji state.

In the following decades, socialism, anarchism, fascism, and Confucian benevolence and moral economy were marshaled in the search for new theories of a modern political subject and a social organization adequate to the environmental crisis. With detailed considerations of several key environmental activists, including Tanaka Shozo, Bad Water is a nuanced account of Japan's environmental turn, a historical moment when, for the first time, Japanese thinkers and activists experienced nature as alienated from themselves and were forced to rebuild the connections.

"In Bad Water, Robert Stolz has created a fascinating, complex synthesis of intellectual history, environmental studies, and critical theory. The book will speak to readers interested in capitalist modernity, the dialogue between the cosmopolitan and the local production of knowledge, and social movements and the possibilities of criticism. Thoughtful and provocative, it is a superb book and one that I expect will be widely read."
– Christopher Nelson, author of Dancing with the Dead: Memory, Performance, and Everyday Life in Postwar Okinawa

"Bad Water is a vitally important study of the growing incidence of recognizable pollution of the environment in Japan's late Meiji period (1890s–1900s). It is both a prescient and penetrating critique of the costs of the country's modernizing transformation and a withering assault on the political paradigm that informed it. Above all else, Robert Stolz has constructed a brilliant critique of the price extracted of the country's liberal endowment and, by extension, of liberalism everywhere."
– Harry Harootunian, author of History's Disquiet: Modernity, Cultural Practice, and the Question of Everyday Life


Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction  1
1. A Decade of Leaks  19
2. Pollution and Peasants at the Limits of Liberalism  51
3. Nature over Nation: Tanaka Shozo's Environmental Turn  85
4. Natural Democracy  117
5. The Original Green Company: Snow Brand Dairy  159
Conclusion. Bad Water, a Theoretical Consideration  191

Appendix. Tanaka and Kotoku's Appeal to the Meiji Emperor  207
Notes  211
Bibliography  243

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Robert Stolz is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Virginia.

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