2073 47 Ronin paper

Making explicit references to the texts in your writing, write a paper (1500 words) in which you use all that you know of the 47 Rōnin Incident and the structure of Tokugawa Japan (economic, political, social, ideological, etc.) to interrogate the adequacy of the quotation below. Like Berry in “Samurai Trouble,” this is a paper on the usefulness of history and historical thinking for taking on big questions. This is done differently than it would be in Political Science, Psychology, or Economics. This sounds daunting. Fall back on our questions.

  1. How is power organized?
  2. What are the mechanisms of power/how is power exercised?
  3. What are the fault lines, internal and external sites of resistance, in that organization of power and those mechanisms?

Note: The quote, too, has a theory of power. Your job is not to compare or contrast the two or more answers to the above questions, but to use both the historical record and the quotation to say something accurate and deep about both Japan around 1700 and the nature of state/violence/law/etc.

“…it is not uncommon for decisions and regulations issued by the higher order to go unheeded. Similarly, when violent conflict breaks out between clans, the higher-level grouping lacks the power to halt it…. Seen in this light, it becomes clear that the state emerges when reciprocity between communities is prohibited. For example, in Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi, a compilation of legal codes that had existed since Sumer, we find the famous ‘eye for an eye’ clause. This is not a call for engaging in ‘tit for tat.’ Instead it marks a ban on endless vendettas. It means that criminal acts or discord between communities are not to be resolved by the parties themselves but rather through judgments rendered by the state that exists over them. In terms of the history of law, ‘an eye for an eye’ represents the beginning of nulla poena sine lege, the doctrine that there can be no punishment without law. Because vendetta signifies the autonomy of the community with regard to higher-level organizations, the law of ‘an eye for an eye’ amounts to the negation of autonomy for the lower-level community.”

—Karatani Kōjin, The Structure of World History (2014)

Due in class at the start of class on Monday 13 April at 2:00 pm. Papers received after 2:05 pm will be considered “one-day late” and downgraded one third of a grade: i.e. from A- to B+ or B to B-. Papers received after 11:59 pm on the 13th will be considered “two days late” and downgraded two thirds of a grade: i.e. from A- to B or B to C+. After 11:59 pm on the 14th = three days late” and a full grade deduction. Papers received after 11:59 pm Friday will not be graded.