Notes/ Connections: Kojeve and Japan

In Kojeve’s footnote in his reading of Hegel, he introduces the concept of Japanese snobbery. While it notices it first in Japan, he also sees the potential for the “Japanization” of the “Westerners.” Snobbery in this sense for Kojeve, therefore, seems to be something inherently Japanese focusing on the pure formalization of life. If Kojeve’s notion of Japanese snobbery could be in a way exported to other places, like Russia or the US, is it then something that is or will remain particularly Japanese?

For Japanese snobbery to exist, Kojeve proposes two pre-conditions: post-history and the human. Post-history for Kojeve’s Japan is defined by a negation of other value systems, such as European politics, marked by and end of history in the Hegelian sense where there is a discourse of the (or a) world ends. Insofar as the (a) world ends, snobbery is limited to the human or subject who has a sense of the world to begin with. No animals, says Kojeve, “can be a snob,” which also seems to follow Heidegger’s logic of animals being poor in world. For Kojeve’s animals, they live in nature but do not have a subjective identity, and are therefore “given beings” in nature that cannot make worlds (can animals who are poor in world lose a sense of the world? Are partial worlds possible?). Although I initially thought that snobbery was opposed to world or world making in some way, it is, perhaps, inextricably, couched in a concept of the world that man makes through a constituted form of knowledge and breaks down revealing form simply for the sake as form. Pure form and formalized life can only emerge when world and history had once existed.


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