Kuga Katsunan, regarded by his contemporaries as one of the three leading publicists of the eighteen nineties, was something of a hero to many young intellectuals who were attracted by his synthesis of liberalism and nationalism in the concept known as kokumin. This effort to construct a theoretical justification for fusing the two predominant forces of modern Japan in a union in which the individual and the state would be balanced in a condition of interdependence was Katsunan's contribution to Japan's early liberal tradition. Rejecting for himself the label “liberal” in its orthodox sense of advocacy of doctrinaire individualism, Kuga was no more willing to regard himself as a “nationalist” unless that term were so defined as to include a positive affirmation of the value of the individual. He sought to develop instead a theory within which liberalism and nationalism could coexist in almost perfect balance.

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