Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy


Max Weber long ago aimed to peg modern social and economic behavior on the influence of traditional religious patterns — a way to back up and look at a people’s ultimate relation to society through their orientation towards the metaphysical. Scholars always tend to categorize Japan and the West through the tired “group-orientation vs. individual-orientation,” but this is a nearly worthless distinction without thousands of conditionals, footnotes, and exceptions. (For example, Americans form more spontaneous social groups than the Japanese and belong to more fraternal organizations; whereas the Japanese form a deeper commitment to a single group, often the corporation rather than the family.)

Although I am not a scholar of religion, I find that it is helpful to look at differences in both cultural traditions through the dichotomy of orthodoxy (“correct belief”) vs. orthopraxy (“correct practice”). Christianity, especially Protestantism, is a primarily orthodoxical religion in which believers adhere to their religion through strict belief and faith. In contrast, Confucianism — the moral and ethical backbone of East Asian civilization — is classically orthopraxical in that Confucius preached proper social behavior and adherence to ritual as the key to aligning society with the cosmos. We should add that all religions have both orthopraxical and orthodoxical elements, but in most cases, one side is stressed more than the other.

While most Japanese do not have a firm “belief” in religion or God, they certainly take much of their ethical corpus from a long tradition of Confucian humanistic morality. One needs not to attend Church or pray to make peace with the cosmic order; adherence to daily rituals and respect for hierarchical social relations is enough. Even strict atheism does not necessarily cancel out participation in this mode of moral behavior.

As Confucius argued, perfect performance of ritual requires strict attention to detail. The idea of performing the ritual is not enough — the performance should carried out exactly as intended. Thus, Confucian orthopraxy leads to a strong detail-orientation, whereas the idea of “faith” in Protestant Christianity suggests a broader goal-orientation. To a Christian, the small details of everyday behavior are irrelevant as long as they are done in regards to the deeper purpose of God’s wishes.

Westerners often unfairly see the Japanese as being “illogical,” but clearly they are just embracing a different orthopraxical logic based on adherence to rules and details rather than abandoning protocol to work towards the bigger picture. Why do Japanese wait for the light to change before crossing the street, even when there are no cars approaching? Because the idea is not the safety itself (big picture, the goal) but the adherence to the proper ritual of waiting.

Subsequently this natural inclination to following rules creates a well-ordered society. Orthodoxy, on the other hand, leads to factional arguments between true believers and the subsequent justification of one’s own actions through a specific belief system. With morality living and breathing within the public domain, Japan becomes a pleasant place — as long as the authoritarians who ultimately control the rules work for the benefit of the populace. The West may not have order, but Weber saw the East lacking the very concept of “liberty.” In other words, Confucian orthopraxy reliance on stability means that the benevolent top is responsible for positive social change. In an orthodoxical world, the people can easily overthrow the everday praxis and systems in order to attain a better society.

Both societies have their pluses and minuses, and clearly each civilization has a lot to learn from the other. Within this new age of globalization, however, nations’ outputs are increasingly measured on the same universal scale. Japan’s detail-orientation worked perfectly for its burgeoning quality-controlled manufacturing sector and other Fordist enterprises.

The criteria for many new industrial fields, however, are so marked by the dogma of Western orthodoxical tradition that Japan has great difficulty in competing. The idea of the artist as self-centered creator may be completely foreign to Japan, and while the Japanese have adopted the praxis of 20th century artistic or intellectual endeavor, the fundamental assumptions are not well-understood. Japanese firms tend to run in hierarchical arrangements where leaders micromanage the behavior of their charges. In recent years, this kind of management style — once prevalent around the globe — has fallen out of favor in other countries.

Likewise Japan rarely recognizes the social status of subcultures who drop out of society voluntarily as an orthodoxical protest. Being “punk” in the West is a question of spirit; in Japan, it is a set of social codes in rituals which must be fully embraced to show solidarity. And therefore, when students reach the shakaijin age and enter society, they must don the new uniforms and ritual behavior of their new firms. Few are punk “at heart” and salarymen “by day.” The faith in that belief system is worthless if not expressed through daily affirmation of rituals. In other words, you can’t be punk in Japan unless you dress punk daily.

If the Western critical eye is so deeply shaped by orthodoxical ideas of content primacy or larger notions of innovating upon form (instead of adhering to pre-established models), we are going to hold deep biases when judging Japanese art or music. We hardly celebrate the rock band who can imitate another band perfectly, even though this may be a result of strict orthopraxical orientation. Japanese hip hop will most likely never be able to fully comprehend the “spirit” behind Western hip hop, but Japanese fans are could care less — they want adherence to specific ritual behaviors encoded within the imported meaning of “hip hop.”

Obviously, there are exceptions to the orthopraxical tradition in Japan, but hopefully this dichotomy can become a useful tool in discussing the artistic intentions of Japanese creators in particular.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
February 11, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

23 Responses

  1. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Overall quite a good entry, however I’m not sure that this angle is any less “tired” (to use your term) than the groupist vs. individualist dimension. It’s more likely the case that neither topic has been fully explored, let alone exhausted. But many have written about the influence of the religious background on Japan and East Asia, in general. Max Weber himself devoted an entire book to this, if I recall correctly. Also your analysis considers only Confucianism. Surely Buddhism has played a more important role in Japanese history and culture, at least up until the modern era. The “father of Japanese culture” Kobo Daishi quickly rejected Confucian studies to pursue Buddhism and Taoism. There’s obviously Shinto too, though that’s a problematic and politically charged discussion, in view of recent history.

    With regards to what you describe as “orthopraxy”, I’ve found Boye de Mente’s popular treatment “Kata” covers the topic of behaviour patterns in Japanese culture quite well. It’s not scholarly, but it is at least based on plenty of practical experience. Certainly worth a browse.

  2. Chris_B Says:

    Mmmmm, nice thick juicy post! I suspect that this line may lead me to figuring out the reason why Japanese software and user interfaces always seem bad whether they are attempting to copy western software or trying something original. The notable exception being look ahead prediction for text entry, which is a much more ordered function.

  3. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    We hardly celebrate the rock band who can imitate an other band perfectly

    This was quite an interesting statement. Two or three years ago there was a lot of buzz about a band from Tokyo that could do Ornette Coleman numbers note for note it was claimed. This was totally weird to me because Ornette Coleman plays free jazz. This band was considered to be the most experimental, avant-garde act in an evening at an art school with lots of laptop, and onkyo performances. If fact their performance was pretty far out: their ritualized free jazz was somehow so hard for me to take that I had to leave in the middle of the performance, suffering from a strong, involuntary, sense of disgust.

  4. sparlkigbeatnic Says:

    Chris_B: yes why are software user-interfaces so bad when hardware ergonomics (e.g. Japanese cars) are so good? A interesting puzzle. I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche that Japanese are not good at software, just as they are bad language learners.

  5. marxy Says:

    This post was more to stimulate discussion than be a definitive statement, so I’m happy to have received comments.

    1) Quite a statement after your series of posts on 赤軍, or am I missing a fine point?

    They did all these follow-up studies on ex-Japanese student radicals in the 70s, and basically all of them re-integrated themselves into society and became normal salarymen-types. While there was some of this “selling out” in the U.S., there was also a whole Bobo crowd who brought “hippie” or leftist values into the commercial world. The Japanese sayoku flipped on their Leftist ideology like a switch during their college years and then switched it off when they could no longer keep up the ritual. Believing in dogma is worthless if there’s no social exercise for it.

    The Sekiguns seems to me to be embracing the praxis of Western terrorism without the real “meaning,” although you could argue the Weathermen were just as anarchic and meaningless. The JRA always struck me as the terrorist equivalent of that kid who eats the most hot dogs at Coney island. Yeah, he’s good, but why in the world would you go and make that your life’s work?

    Also, I’d like to add that there are plenty of authentic, non-consumer subcultures, but they are essentially people forced out of mainstream society creating their own cultural systems and meanings. I don’t get the sense that the bosozoku are “dropping out” as much as have already been rejected from society and trying to claim their own sphere.

    2) Kata is basically the same idea as what I am saying. I haven’t read that, but I should. Orthopraxy emphasizes form, orthodoxy emphasizes content is another way to think about it.

    I think Momus has said something about this, but the Japanese couldn’t understand “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Their idea would be, if the cover sucks, how could the book be any good?

    3) Surely Buddhism has played a more important role in Japanese history and culture, at least up until the modern era.

    Buddhism is also orthopraxical, but more metaphysical than Confucianism. Whether or not the Japanese were ever specifically “Confucians,” the ideals are embedded within the borrowings from Chinese culture, especially the education system. Think of the entrance exams – totally a Confucian idea of objective merit-based achievement rankings that test the memorization of classics. (A perfection of ritual.) Confucianism seems to have a stronger impact on social patterns in Japan than Buddhism, although I’d be interested in learning more about that.

    Shinto had no moral system, so the State Shinto Cult specifically borrowed its moral code from Confucianism.

    4) I think McLuhan would have a fancy theory on why Japanese script leads to bad software design, but I don’t know whether we should believe it.

    Japanese are bad language learners because their education system treates language like a math that can be learned through orthopraxy. It can’t. Learning details and refusing to perform until perfect doesn’t get you anywhere. I don’t think there’s evidence that young Japanese kids exposed to Western languages naturally can’t learn as well as other kids.

    I’d almost go as far to say that the Japanese education system’s only goal is to teach skills that can be measured objectively on entrance exams. English is just an arbitrary set of codes that must be mastered so that one can be accordingly ranked into higher education. They don’t learn English to really “learn” English.

  6. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    You’ve pretty much zero’d in on the theoretical explanation Boye de Mente gives. If I recall correctly he says that Chinese visitors/immigrants to Japan (more likely Korean) brought copies of the Analects as well as instruction in the writing system. It’s really the nature of the Chinese writing system that is significant here, because it takes a lot of rote memorization to learn and this has had a lasting influence on the entire educational system in Japan. Probably the complete mis-match between the (original) spoken language and the Chinese writing system didn’t help either.
    But, as mentioned, he’s not a scholar. Most of the book deals with empirical observations and quite good, practical advice on the kata system.

    One of my former “bosses” was one of those ex-student radicals who went mainstream. In fact he was a close friend of Okudaira at Kyoto University. I’d say this guy is definitely a “punk” (or agent provocateur) at heart and elite beaurocrat/salaryman/academic on the surface.

    I don’t really agree with you about the lack of “content” in the Japanese student movement in the 60’s. In the very early 60’s it was all about ending the continuing occupation of Japan by the American military. And some of that sentiment obviously continues right up to today, though it is much less visible and the numbers are much smaller.

  7. Chris_B Says:

    re marxy’s #2 I encounter this all the time, far too many specific examples to cite and no academic sources known, but it does seem that face value is taken as intrinsic value for the most part.

    re marxy’s #4 I’d love to hear what he’d say and I bet I’d agree. I harbor very strong suspicions that the wrighting system affects thinking. I suspect that a system based on chinese characters limits the expression or acceptance of new ideas. Yes there is katakana, but its of far less imporance in the scope of the written language. I strongly believe in the primacy of the written word in language, and it seems to me that is true in both “eastern” and “western” cultures (“If its in a book it must be true” -Milhouse).

    I think also the educational importance of memorization and perfection of form leaves little room for the creative/human interface part of software. There is no magic forumla to follow and so the parts left exposed are never smooth. Unfortunately I see lots of “beginners mistakes” in back end software where I work as well. All of which can generally be traced back to the programmers just “following the manual” rather than thinking about what they are building. I cant cite specifics here, please understand.

    Perhaps also the “art” of software is too young for any masters to have developed. The only example of good human interface I can think of is the text entry and read-ahead text prediction interfaces for keitei. That is genuinely good software. OTOH, the human interface bit of any other gadget (especially the PSP) just feels cluttered or not well thought out.

    I need to think more about this and hopefully I can come up with something, or prove myself wrong.

  8. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    I’m not sure if it is the writing system per se that is necessarily producing this effect, as much as the influence the writing system has had on the educational system. Learning to write Chinese and Japanese requires a certain amount of rote, and this approach to teaching is applied to other subjects.

    The other factor is that that the application of the already complex Chinese writing system to a completely different language Japanese resulted in what grammatologists widely recognize as one of the most baroque systems in the world.

    The only example of good human interface I can think of is the text entry and read-ahead text prediction interfaces for keitei.

    Yes I prefer Japanese over English for keitai mail, even though my written Japanese is still pretty limited. I think it is partly that the kana syllabary fits quite well with 12-key keypads like those on a phone. Strikingly, there are USB input devices for computers that allow text input via a keitai like keypad! I suspect that’s because there are a lot of kids out there who know how to text Japanese on phones but do not know how to input Japanese on a regular computer keyboard, which involves using romaji. The old, direct kana mappings for keyboards are not widely used anymore.

    And, yes, text prediction works quite well with Japanese. I think that’s partly because once you’ve got a couple of syllables in it’s quite predictable what kanji compound you are likely to want. Also text input was viewed as an important technology in Japan from the early days of computing and some smart people have worked on the
    problem over the years, including in recent years a very smart guy at SONY by the name of Masui who developed the POBox engine used on the SONY phones (and others perhaps?).

    But yes, the few bits of Japanese-developed software I’ve been forced to use have tended to have poor (lousy actually) human interfaces.
    I’m still puzzled though, because Japanese device controls, automobile control panels etc… tend to be pretty good. So I would have expected the user interface to be the good part of Japanese software. There’s something I still don’t understand about it.

  9. marxy Says:

    Learning to write Chinese and Japanese requires a certain amount of rote, and this approach to teaching is applied to other subjects.

    Well, don’t forget that only the upper classes could read and write until the late 19th century. Rote memorization became a virtue of the educated class, and the aceticism required to learn Japanese fit well with the samurai bushi ethics as well. While the bulk of Japanese were learning to read, the Western educated classes had already splintered into Bohemianism and other anti-rote schools of thought.

    Another important example of orthopraxy I forgot to mention is that most Japanese bands start as “copy bands” of other bands and then finally move into original material in their 3rd or 4th year. Again, there is some of this in the States as well, but it’s pretty institutionalized in Japan.

    I suspect that’s because there are a lot of kids out there who know how to text Japanese on phones but do not know how to input Japanese on a regular computer keyboard, which involves using romaji.

    Well, it’s a bit unfair because we make Japanese people translate their language into phonetics before they can input on a computer. I’m a much faster typist in Japanese than any natives I know. English somehow became a pre-requisite for computer input here.

  10. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Well, it’s a bit unfair because we make Japanese people translate their language into phonetics before they can input on a computer.

    It’s by choice. Ever seen what an old Japanese or Chinese typewriter looks like?

    As mentioned there are direct kana keyboards. Keyboards in Japan still have kana marked on the keys but nobody I know is using those mappings. They’re all doing romaji input. I think it’s because there is a steeper learning curve to learn the direct kana mapping. Also if you’re going to be using the romaji mapping anyways for English input, might as well use the same mapping for kana.

    But the keitai system is something else altogether. Much closer to the Japanese language. I think that may be one reason why keitai were accepted much more quickly than home computers.

  11. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Well, don’t forget that only the upper classes could read and write until the late 19th century.

    I thought so too, but then several months ago I checked. Seems that the first Europeans to arrive in Japan were surprised by the relatively high rate of literacy.

    I think it depends on how you define literacy though. Syllabaries are much easier to learn than alphabets (vis the rapid spread of literacy amongst Cherokee after the invention of a syllabary by Sequoyah). But it’s much more difficult to attain a high degree of literacy with logographic writing systems such as the kanji.

    To the extent that I’ve read Japanese soldiers in WWII were blowing themselves up because they couldn’t read the instructions on bombs.

    One of the first things that was done after the defeat was to standardize and simplify the writing system.

  12. Sarmoung Says:

    As far as I remember from Ronald Dore, who may well be wrong but not that wrong, Japanese literacy in the middle of the Tokugawa period was around 50% for boys and 20% for girls. Most certainly equal, and more probably greater, than levels of literacy in Britain at the time. I’m not sure what you mean by upper classes in this context. There were the schools known as hanko that taught children of the samurai class and there were the more open terakoya which taught children from all classes. Admittedly, I’ve not read anything recently on the matter and Dore’s research forms a backbone of the “Japan came pre-loaded for modernisation” theory. Whatever it’s called formally! I read somewhere that Japanese NGOs were operating some schools modelled on terakoya in Afghanistan not long back.

    What your account lacks is an account of how Confucianism has evolved over time, for it seems too static, specifically the reinvigorated growth of Neo-Confucian schools and cliques during the Tokugawa era. I’m not convinced with regard to the entrance examinations. Although these were to some extent embedded within Confucian teaching, these didn’t operate in Japan. Unless you can suggest a line of evidence, rote learning and merit-based achievement rankings may just as well be seen to derive from the West via China. Europe had itself adopted a rather Confucian system of entrance exams for its civil servants and the like. Both Western and Japanese specialists in the Meiji period may have been in perfect agreement that this was the way to educate. I did my fair share of rote learning of classics as a child. Just not the Five Classics…

    I’m intrigued by the idea of Japanese soldiers blowing themselves up because of poorly understood instructions. Is it that they couldn’t read the instructions or that the language used was so opaque in its specialised vocabulary or character usage?

    I’m certainly used to hearing how the Japanese don’t encounter nearly such high levels of dyslexia among schoolchildren. Never really looked into that.

    With regard to the music (finally!) I don’t get the “spirit” behind hip-hop full stop, whether that be Japanese, American, Armenian or Finnish. The postures copied in Kobe are the same as those copied in Kirby. Both these groups will grow up and the records will gather dust. I’ve met plenty of middle-aged Japanese who, a few glasses in, will freely talk about the ideals of their youth and what they are “at heart” despite appearances. I’m not sure that there is actually such a great difference between the West and Japan here. In some ways, it seems like you might be using two distinct languages to describe rather similar situations.

    I disagree that being punk in the West is a question of spirit. That may be a US-punk vs British-punk thing (and what about a German punk or an Argentinian one?). It wasn’t really about spirit in the UK suburbs. It was about boredom. You’d buy crappy copies of Westwood/Boy clothing out of the back of music papers or get your mum to adapt your existing wardrobe. You’d stand around the shopping centre and leer. You’d buy, or admit to buying, what your peers wouldn’t look down on. You’d stretch out cups of tea in cafes for as long as you could and cadge cigarettes off strangers. You’d go home for baked beans on toast. It was something to do. A set of social codes and rituals to show solidarity? Most certainly. Are my peers still punk at heart? Well, they might get excited in a drunken moment if you put on a Damned record or something, but generally these days, like their Japanese counterparts, they’re busy trying to hold down a job and raise a family. They too have become shakaijin.

  13. Chris_B Says:

    marxy said: Well, it’s a bit unfair because we make Japanese people translate their language into phonetics before they can input on a computer. I’m a much faster typist in Japanese than any natives I know. English somehow became a pre-requisite for computer input here.

    I asked my wife and a few of her friends and some of my friends about when they learned to type. All the 30 somethings learned in college and it was an optional class not required. At that time they had a choice between learning the kana keyboard or romaji. They were pretty much the last group to be given the chance because the general opinion in academia was that the roman text entry system was easier to learn and considered more flexible. It wasnt that it was forced upon them it was they chose it.

  14. marxy Says:

    As far as I remember from Ronald Dore, who may well be wrong but not that wrong, Japanese literacy in the middle of the Tokugawa period was around 50% for boys and 20% for girls.

    Yeah, I may have been completely wrong about this, although I have a feeling this is more “functional literacy” than being able to freely read literary works. But on the other hand, how many in Europe could do that?

    I don’t get the sense, however, that Japan had higher educational institutions until the 19th century, whereas America even had Harvard by the 1630s. not to mention the archaic Oxford and Cambridge in the UK.

    The rote-memorization seems to be a part of the language and part of the national mobilization towards modernity. Pre-Ford Fordist education – standardized to get the top people into the bureaucracy.

    Dore has a book called The Diploma Disease that says the later the development, the more rationalized and strictly functional it becomes. He hates the modern Japanese education system.

    Unless you can suggest a line of evidence, rote learning and merit-based achievement rankings may just as well be seen to derive from the West via China.

    Good point, but I think Japanese values in terms of orthopraxy could understand the Prussian education system better than, say, the American one. Just having Confucian values embedded in the culture chose them to pick the European systems that best fit their own needs and preferences.

    Are my peers still punk at heart? … They too have become shakaijin.

    Yes, but I think there are less people who take subcultural values into their post-youth lives in Japan than in the West. There are more hippies for life in Vermont than in all of Japan.

  15. r. Says:

    very serious question here: isn’t the SAMPLING of music a kind of non-mediated (i.e. we don’t copy the sounds with our instruments, we copy the very sounds themselves with our computers) hyper-orthopraxical musical technique insofar as it is a modification of the audio-cultural meme (as opposed to the mythical ex nihilo creation of original musical ‘substance’)? and, other than the sheer question of $$$, isn’t THAT the real reason sampling has been so persecuted in the west (by the industry)? the reasons for answering ‘yes’ are actually quite compelling. but for the moment, just humor me with your consensus. so if the japanese orthopraxical by nature, and if this extends to their musical endeavors (as I believe you maintain), then isn’t it natural for the zenith of sampling as hyper-orthopraxical musical culture to occur in Japan thru such folks like plus tech squeezebox? naturally primordial examples of this would be keigo and friends…this is probably why the album by plus tech has been the darling of all of my avant-musical friends. for them, it is a kind of ultra-potent form of rebellion. imagine what a paradigm shift it would be if all of the albums that resulted from ‘turntableism’ and ‘bad boys of sampling’ in europe and america in the mid/late 90s were actually PROFITABLE! naturally, everything first has to be ‘danceable’ but that is a given, no? for the japanese, it is just as natural as taking off your shoes before you enter your room. let me know your thoughts on this.

  16. Chris_B Says:

    r: I realize your comment was directed at david, but that there is some super heavy stuff you just dropped. You have really given me something to chew on with this. I’ve always seen this question phrased in terms of “is composing with samples ‘real’ music”, but you turned it around entirely. How is it I’ve been involved with and thinking about this stuff for almost 20 years and never seen it that way? (I guess I really have been living under a rock)

    It looks to me like you have gone right to the root of the question. If in the west we regard art and music as fundamentally orhodoxical creative processes, it would naturally follow that turntablism/sampling lacks the original elixir vitae of “true” art.

    I suspect that is connected to why I’ve never had the guts to actually call myself a musician…

    As to your actual question of if sampling is the ne-plus-ultra orthopraxical form for japanese music, I’ll let you two guys work on that one. I dont know anywhere near enough to comment.

  17. r. Says:


    thanks for your kind words.
    i don’t know if it is anything heavy that i’ve dropped…in fact reading now what i wrote a few hours ago, i think i could have been a little less spurious with my wording. but all in all, it seems to hold water.
    the question of sampling as a hyper-orthopraxical musical technique has been bugging me ever since david started this post on the doxy/praxy dichotomy. david, too a few wild swings at the (non-)art of the japanese ‘cover/copy’ band, but i never felt quite satisfied with the parallel that he was trying to draw between the ‘praxical’ element of the japanese cultural meme and the analogous situation in music.

    the sample has been viewed for as long time as being to the ‘performance/cover’ what the photograph is the the portrait.
    so it only serves as a kind of streamlined ‘praxical’ intensifier for the japanese.

    this, by the way, explains the pervasive love of karaoke in japan by the japanese, and also the reason that karaoke is viewed as the entertainment of social lepers in the west: the ‘praxy’ness is off the charts.

    this also explains (nice how everything is just falling into place here in one fell swoop) the reason why that fact that westerns were never able to find a a way to rebuke ‘the non-performativity critique of laptop music’ brought that whole “boring” (btw, the japanese don’t think laptop music is boring, nach) house of cards crashing down in the west around 1995.

    this is why momus can go on tour in japan with just his laptop and still get away with it…

    this is also why ‘cover’ bands will always be cheesy in america.

    and so on and so forth…

    so marxy is right, more or less, and the implications and MOREOVER the reasons why he is right are staggering.

    anyway, getting back to the sample as a ‘praxical’ intensifier…this is why all of the ‘bad boys of sampling’ (CHRISTIAN MARCLAY, kid606, the ‘plunderphonic’ tradition in europe and the states, etc.) is all about REBELLION against ‘doxy’. please remember there are ‘good boys’ of sampling’ too…and DIGIKI is in danger of becoming one of them i fear!

    in japan, to sample (again, as i mention plus tech squeezebox as the momentary peak…but soon someone will probably come along and sample plus tech squeezebox, no?) is to ‘mainline’ the musical ‘praxy’…

    which, if you prefer drinking single malt whiskey to the blended ones, actually offers a strange reason to STILL NOT listen to japanese copy/cover bands: more potent stuff may be had!!!

  18. sparligbeatnic Says:

    r. – Interesting analysis, but consider this: a fundamental mode of human cultural interaction is ‘monkey-see, monkey-do’. Computers mechanize this to the extreme, but it is still a difference of degree, not quality. Some level of imitation is implicit in any cultural or communicative act; nothing is created out of thin air. Perhaps it comes back to the old saw: the plagiarist steals from one source, the scholar (or the artiste) steals from twenty. Or in other words, I wonder if pure orthodoxy or pure orthopraxy, aren’t illusory folk beliefs.

  19. r. Says:

    the ‘monkey’ in your ‘monkey-see’ carries holds in its maw the seed of a judgement from a western ‘doxical’ position, but hey, i’m down with that.

    but the way, your list of a fundamental modes of human cultural interaction isn’t complete. allow me to help.

    * monkey-see, monkey-do (as you state)
    * monkey-see, monkey-do better (in the west we decided that we could get things called patents for this kind of activity)
    * monkey do something (by accident or premeditation) that hasn’t been done before (or had been forgotten about long ago)
    * where is the ‘monkey’, and where is the ‘do’? (sorry, bad time for zen humor)

    >but it is still a difference of degree, not
    >quality. Some level of imitation is implicit in >any cultural or communicative act; nothing is
    >created out of thin air.

    true enough. but perhaps is might be useful to look at the value of imitation as one of degree, not quality as long as the scale is finite. approach the infinite, and then we have to run and get our baudrillard off the shelves and start talking about the value of simulacrums and such. naturally, we could just watch the matrix a few times until everything sinks in, but the sequels were so bad…hey, wait! isn’t THAT ironic!?! (sorry, i’ll stop playing around)

    >Perhaps it comes back to the old saw: the
    >plagiarist steals from one source, the scholar
    >(or the artiste) steals from twenty.

    i’ll see you that and raise you this, buddy: the plagiarist steals from one, the scholar and artiste many, the japanese…(you can finish this one any way you like)

    >Or in other words, I wonder if pure orthodoxy or >pure orthopraxy, aren’t illusory folk beliefs.

    of course. pure anything is pure kaka. but that doesn’t make it any less fun to talk about!

  20. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    r. Yes OK, but what i was leading up to was this: that kata or ‘orthopraxy’ may just be another approach to creativity that makes it explicit what is being copied. Here’s a random, somewhat wild thought: could kata be the ‘patents’ of the East? But btw, I believe Japan submits more patents per capita than any other country in the world. The nature of those patents is debatable, of course.

  21. r. Says:


    good questions!

    >kata be the ‘patents’ of the East?

    they are insofar as they function as cultural memes. but don’t forget that these things are not infused with the idea of ‘intellectual property’either. so…

    >But btw, I believe Japan submits more patents >per capita than any other country in the world.

    i:m sure they do…after we showed them (for better or for worse) the concept of patents/copyright and the fact that ‘ownership’ = $$$. isn’t this issue at the very core of the music copyright battle that is being fought (and lost) by the music industry around the world? record sales DOWN in japan. hello???

    >The nature of those patents is debatable, of >course.

    in fact, sometimes the more useless the better, as in the case of 明和電気, right?

  22. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Patents will help Japan a bit in the short-term – there have already been a handful of patent-suit victories against Chinese companies. I don’t yet see how intellectual property can offset the effect of the sheer scale of Chinese manufacturing capability in the long term.

    Yet clearly elements of Japanese society are scrambling to do something to maintain or improve Japan’s economic competitivity. For example, here is an example of a new faculty of business (sharing a building with one of Japan’s new graduate law schools) which opened last year:


    It’s a reasonably convincing recreation of what I imagine an Ivy league American biz school to be like, with a smattering of a few academics from top-notch American and British schools.

    To bring it back to the topic of the thread, if you can get your orthopraxy down pat, and recreate successful foreign institutions in a detailed-oriented fashion, why not go with it? The goal-orientation is obvious enough isn’t it?

    It seems that the key to the success of this approach is that you figure out which details are the important ones. Also, that you’re not just concerned with putting on a face of ‘right practice’. I’ve seen plenty of that and it’s the main failing of the system. But Japan has a history of getting the important details right.

  23. Chris_B Says:

    now this is a stickey gooey meme for me. All day at work I’m seeing orthopraxy everywhere. Dang you marxy!!!!