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Studies in the History of Natural Sciences  2020, Vol. 39 Issue (3): 387-393    DOI:
Historical Studies on Technology in Japan: An Overview
Hiroshima University,Higashi-Hiroshima 739-8511, Japan
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Abstract  This paper aims to trace the development of historical studies on the socio-economic aspects and/or philosophical issues of technology in modern Japan, dividing it into three phases; (1) Serious discussion about philosophical and social problems concerning technology began only in the 1930s. The original approach to philosophical and social issues related to technology was initiated by the Marxian school. Pioneering the way for a new branch named “Gijutsu-ron,” a sort of socio-philosophical and sociological study on technology, they tried to develop their historical studies on technology. In contrast with this Marxian school, another current developed an optimistic view of technology, insisting that almost all social and economic problems could be solved by enhancing the intensiveness of scientific research in industry. (2) After the Second World War, the Marxian school, the intellectual authority of which rose radically, diverged to two directions; while one group considered that the essence of technology is the “conscious application of objective laws,” the other group considered it to be “a system of labor means.” Besides them, a current called “Cultural History of Technology” flourished, producing fruitful empirical studies, which attached great importance to the cultural aspects of technological progress. (3) In the 1980s, there appeared a new trend that regarded Japan's historical experience of economic growth as one of the most successful and universal experiences in world history, rejecting the basic concepts settled in the Marxian school and “Cultural History of Technology” school, such as “backwardness,” “distortion,” and “cultural peculiarity.” Their view had a great impact. In addition, the “Science, Technology and Society (STS)” approach and “Social Construction Theory” were also introduced during this period.

Key wordsJapan      history of technology      “Gijutsu-ron”      historiography      research trend     
Received: 27 August 2019      Published: 17 June 2022
ZTFLH:  N09  
Cite this article:

ICHIKAWA Hiroshi. Historical Studies on Technology in Japan: An Overview. Studies in the History of Natural Sciences, 2020, 39(3): 387-393.

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