Viren Murthy, Rethinking Resistance: Takeuchi Yoshimi and the Conundrums of Global Modernity

Viren Murthy

Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Rethinking Resistance: Takeuchi Yoshimi and the Conundrums of Global Modernity

The Japanese public intellectual Takeuchi Yoshimi (1910-1977) is particularly interesting to us today because through reading China, he constructs a critique of Eurocentrism that anticipates postcolonial discourse.  However, he does so at a time when socialism continued to be a powerful ideal.  For this reason, if we examine Takeuchi from our present historical conjuncture, we can grasp some of the tensions between postcolonialism and Marxism and, in particular, the tension between universalism and particularism.  In this context, Takeuchi uses Lu Xun as a lens to understand political actors such as Sun Zhongshan and Mao Zedong.  While most works on Takeuchi have touched on his reading of Lu Xun, they have rarely dealt with his attempt to understand Mao Zedong.  Consequently, they have failed to grasp the relevance of Takeuchi’s work for Marxist theory both historically and theoretically.

During transition from wartime to postwar Japan, Takeuchi constantly returns to Lu Xun and Mao Zedong to develop a vision of Asia as an alternative to a modern world dominated by abstraction and alienation.  Through Lu Xun and Mao, he rethinks the relationship between intellectuals and the people in way that he believes would be a new path for Asia.  In short, he envisions the people as an amorphous force that cannot be quite subsumed under capitalism and the state.  With respect to Marxism, Takeuchi’s work anticipates recent postcolonial attempts to question the Eurocentric nature of Marxism, while at the same time rethinking concepts such as the people and the working class. Takeuchi’s work might seem obsolete today with the passing of Mao’s China.  However, since his death in 1977, scholars have built on elements of his legacy.  Towards the end of my presentation, I will touch on how themes of Takeuchi’s work live on in the work of the Japanese sinologist Mizoguchi Yūzō and the Chinese critical intellectual Wang Hui.

Viren Murthy teaches transnational Asian History and researches Chinese and Japanese intellectual history in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He is the author of The Political Philosophy of Zhang Taiyan: The Resistance of Consciousness (Brill, 2011) and The Politics of Time in China and Japan: Back to the Future, (Routledge, 2022). He is also co-editor with Joyce Liu of Marxisms in East Asia (Routledge, 2017), co-editor with Fabian Schäfer and Max Ward, of Confronting Capital and Empire: Rethinking Kyoto School Philosophy (Brill, 2017) co-editor with Axel Schneider of The Challenge of Linear Time: Nationhood and the Politics of History in East Asia (Brill, 2013), and co-editor with Prasenjit Duara and Andrew Sartori of A Companion to Global Historical Thought, (Blackwell, 2014).  He has published articles in Modern Intellectual HistoryModern China, the Journal of Labor and SocietyCritical Historical StudiesFrontiers of History in China and Positions: Asia Critique and the International Journal of Asian Studies. and his book Pan-Asianism and the Legacy of the Chinese Revolution, will appear in University of Chicago Press, in 2023.

This workshop will focus on pre-circulated materials (attached below) and will be largely discussion-based. We hope to see you there!

NEXT THURSDAY, March 9th, 3:30 PM, Swift 201

Co-Hosted​ by the Philosophy of Religions Workshop and the Arts and Politics of East Asia Workshop at the University of Chicago.


The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to being a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinators Danica Cao (, Audrey Guilbault (, or John Marvin ( in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.