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Tetsuo Najita explores a powerful theme in the economic thought and practice of ordinary citizens in late Tokugawa and early modern Japan. He examines commoners writings on the virtues of commerce, the reconstruction of villages, and groups offering credit and loans, particularly the traditional cooperative, the ko, which citizens created to save one another in times of famine and fiscal emergency without turning to their government. The alternative genealogy of early Japanese capitalism that emerges is based on cooperative action, whose motive for profit was combined with a concern for social well-being. Najitas discussion centers on the relationship of economics, ethics, and the epistemological premise that nature must serve as the first principle of all knowledge, and he illuminates comparative issues of poverty, capitalism, and modernity.
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