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In this major, paradigm-shifting work, Kojin Karatani systematically re-evaluates Marx's version of world history, shifting the focus of critique from modes of production to modes of exchange. Karatani seeks to understand both capital-nation-state, the interlocking system that's the dominant form of modern global society, and the possibilities for superseding it. He traces different modes of exchange, including the pooling of resources that characterizes nomadic tribes, the gift exchange systems developed after the adoption of fixed-settlement agriculture, the exchange of obedience for protection that arises with the emergence of the state, the commodity exchanges that characterize capitalism, and, finally, a future mode of exchange based on the return of gift exchange, albeit modified for the contemporary moment.

EAS348H1: Gift, Plunder, and Exchange: Japan and World History

He argues that this final stage - marking the overcoming of capital, nation, and state - is best understood in light of Kant's writings on eternal peace. The Structure of World History is in many ways the capstone of Karatani's brilliant career, yet it also signals new directions in his thought. Would you listen to The Structure of World History again?

I had read the print version previous to listening. I'll refer back to the print version for key points. What other book might you compare The Structure of World History to and why? Structure of World History takes a long, broad, multidisciplinary look at human processes of social exchange.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Bob Dunsworth? It must be someone that has a much better grasp of western intellectual history and associated individuals from that history than the reader of this work. The mispronunciation of names Kant pronounced Can't , technical philosophical terms he murdered the term utilitarianism , blending of section headings with narrative text portions; these miscues, though forgivable nevertheless became grating and took away from a certain intellectual authority that is expressed by the author in the text. That is, the lack of precision on the part of the narrator impedes the credibility of the work being read.

Karatani's emphasis on modes of exchange for purposes of human connection and the approaches to power and domination, humans over other humans, or human domination over the nonhuman world is not only cogent in looking at history; but, the future projection of that history as call to abandon the modes of exchanges based on plunder, exploitation and capital accumulation to something of our earlier human beginnings. That is, he sees our need to recapture a life of exchange of pure gift-giving, or exchanges of reciprocity and mutuality, even if this is just an ideal to stretch towards.

These alternative modes of exchange from our ancient past are still with us, never having totally left. They must be done because our alternative future based on the modes of exchange based on conquest and capitalism is a potential state of Hobbesian nature of all out war of all against all, the Schopenhauerian end we are already getting our bellies full of in our current life together on our finite planet. Any additional comments? This was an appropriate book of intellectual history for narration because of the clear writing style and the author's systematic return to his themes in circular and repetitions fashion.

Please keep offering recordings of newer more academic works-regardless of the previous review that lacked exposure to understand the work. Some of us like to listen to works that we've read, or will read, to help give a different way approach and interpret the text.

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By: Kojin Karatani. Narrated by: Bob Dunsworth. Length: 15 hrs and 18 mins. Categories: History , World.

An Analysis of The Structure of World History by Kojin Karatani | Kibin

They are ambiguous in nature, supporting the new hierarchical regime but at the same time also posing an opposition to B in that they provide a space for new struggles for equality D and potentially free the individual from the constraints of community. However, B could not dominate the submargins of the world-empires Greece and later Germania.

Even here reciprocity and plunder are not superseded entirely but transformed in such a manner that they connect in the capitalism-nation-state trinity.

The fact that this triplex system emerged for the first time in Western Europe in the sixteenth century has thus nothing to do with an alleged legacy of the classical antique democracy, which is held to be superior to Asiatic despotism. It took shape in the interaction with other world systems, expanded globally from their margins, and slowly dissolved the world empires.

This merchant capital is of great importance in the strengthening of the absolutist monarchies of Western Europe as sovereign states characterized by the monopoly to use force and a functioning bureaucracy.

It was in their interest to recognize and to support the autonomy of the urban trade capital as social bearer of the commodity exchange principle in order to increase their own power. Yet this capital-state relation could only stabilize with the bourgeois revolution and industrial capitalism. At the same time, industrialization leads to enormous social inequalities and conflicts, threatening to tear society apart.

This is countered by the formation of the nation-state. The nation is formed by capital-state, but it is at the same time a form of protest and resistance to the conditions brought about by capital-state His first critique concerns a crude base-superstructure concept, in which nation and nationalism are viewed merely as phenomena of the ideological superstructure, which could be overcome by reason enlightenment or would disappear together with the state.

But the nation functions autonomously, independent of the state, and as the imaginative return of community or reciprocal mode of exchange A, it is egalitarian in nature. As is the case with universal religions, the nation thus holds a moment of protest, of opposition, of emancipatory imagination.

The second critique concerns the conception of the proletariat, which Marxism reduced to the process of production, in which its labor force is turned into a commodity. Production i.

Mode of Production

Nonetheless, according to Karatani surplus value is only achieved by selling commodities, in the process of circulation, which does not generate surplus value itself, but without which there cannot be any surplus value. Understanding the proletariat as producer-consumer opens up new possibilities for resistance against the system.

In late capitalism, in which capital and company are often separated, workers in the broadest sense of wage and salary earners are usually not able to resist their dependency and inferiority in the production process. By contrast, however, in the site of consumption, capital is dependent on the worker as consumer.


Whereas capital can thus control the proletariat in the production process and force them to work, it loses its power over them in the process of circulation. If, says Karatani, we would view consumers as workers in the site of circulation, consumer movements could be seen as proletariat movements. In the same way in which Karatani points to the possibilities that consumer-producer cooperatives, local currencies, and credit systems offer for creating an economic sphere beyond capitalism in order to transcend it, he also thinks about countermovements against the state.

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  6. In other words, he actively searches for ways to realize a world system grounded in the principle of reciprocity—a world republic. Citation: Steffi Richter.