[KS] Montesquieu on Relative Bravery of North and South Koreans

Bruce Cumings bcumings at midway.uchicago.edu
Mon Jul 15 11:40:16 EDT 2002

In re: David Kosofsky's posting:

This is an interesting reference. But Montesquieu was hardly alone in 
sounding like Marx on the "Asiatic Mode." Same was true of Hegel and even 
Adam Smith. Perry Anderson has a fine essay on all this in Lineages of the 
Absolutist State, the "note" on China at the end of the book that goes on 
for a few dozen pages. He traces the distinction between progressive West 
and indolent East all the way back to the Roman Empire; the "Asiatic mode" 
came much later of course. Among 18th and 19th century European 
philosophers, perhaps only Nietzsche rejected invidious distinctions 
between Europe and Asia; he viewed them as a provincial European attempt to 
claim superiority as against Asia (and every other part of the world). 
"East and West are chalk lines drawn to fool our timidity" was one such 
nicely-put reference.

Bruce Cumings

At 09:33 PM 7/11/2002 -0700, you wrote:
>I wonder if anyone involved in Korean Studies has ever
>noticed what must surely be one of the earliest
>mentions, at least in a Western language, of a
>regional-character difference between North and South
>Koreans: the claim that people "in the south of Korea
>have less bravery than those in the north," made by
>none other than Baron de Montesquieu, just a tad short
>of 200 years before the political division of the
>I just blundered on it in "The Spirit of the Laws"
>(See the 2nd paragraph)
>And the whole section makes interesting reading if for
>no other reason than the glimpse it gives into the
>well of misinformation that 18th-century Europeans had
>to draw from in their efforts to understand Asia.  Not
>that things changed all that much in the next century:
>seems to me there are distinct echos of Montesquieu in
>what Marx had to say about the "Asiatic Mode of
>Production," "Asiatic Despotism," etc.
>David Kosofsky
>Washington, DC
>Do You Yahoo!?
>Sign up for SBC Yahoo! Dial - First Month Free
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