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Kojin Karatani

Kojin Karatani is a Japanese philosopher who teaches at Kinki University, Osaka, and Columbia University. He is the author of Architecture as Metaphor (MIT Press, 1995) and Origins of Modern Japanese Literature. He founded the New Associationist Movement (NAM) in Japan in 2000.

Titles by This Author

On Kant and Marx

Kojin Karatani's Transcritique introduces a startlingly new dimension to Immanuel Kant's transcendental critique by using Kant to read Karl Marx and Marx to read Kant. In a direct challenge to standard academic approaches to both thinkers, Karatani's transcritical readings discover the ethical roots of socialism in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and a Kantian critique of money in Marx's Capital.

Karatani reads Kant as a philosopher who sought to wrest metaphysics from the discredited realm of theoretical dogma in order to restore it to its proper place in the sphere of ethics and praxis. With this as his own critical model, he then presents a reading of Marx that attempts to liberate Marxism from longstanding Marxist and socialist presuppositions in order to locate a solid theoretical basis for a positive activism capable of gradually superseding the trinity of Capital-Nation-State.

Language, Number, Money

Kojin Karatani, Japan's leading literary critic, is perhaps best known for his imaginative readings of Shakespeare, Soseki, Marx, Wittgenstein, and most recently Kant. His works, of which Origins of Modern Japanese Literature is the only one previously translated into English, are the generic equivalent to what in America is called "theory." Karatani's writings are important not only for the insights they offer on the various topics under discussion, but also as an example of a distinctly non-Western critical intervention.

In Architecture as Metaphor, Karatani detects a recurrent "will to architecture" that he argues is the foundation of all Western thinking, traversing architecture, philosophy, literature, linguistics, city planning, anthropology, political economics, psychoanalysis, and mathematics. In the three parts of the book, he analyzes the complex bonds between construction and deconstruction, thereby pointing to an alternative model of "secular criticism," but in the domain of philosophy rather than literary or cultural criticism.

As Karatani claims in his introduction, because the will to architecture is practically nonoexistent in Japan, he must first assume a dual role: one that affirms the architectonic (by scrutinizing the suppressed function of form) and one that pushes formalism to its collapse (by invoking Kurt Godel's incompleteness theorem). His subsequent discussions trace a path through the work of Christopher Alexander, Jane Jacobs, Gilles Deleuze, and others. Finally, amidst the drive that motivates all formalization, he confronts an unbridgeable gap, an uncontrollable event encountered in the exchange with the other; thus his speculation turns toward global capital movement. While in the present volume he mainly analyzes familiar Western texts, it is precisely for this reason that his voice discloses a distance that will add a new dimension to our English-language discourse.