How were ‘people (min)’ imagined or assumed to be in the early Meijiperiod when the concept of people was undergoing change? This paperpresents a variety of views held by Meirokusha intellectuals. In whatMeiroku Zasshi has described as the ‘controversy on the role of scholars,’Fukuzawa Yukichi, Katō Hiroyuki, Mori Arinori, Nishi Amane and TsudaMamichi debated the relationship between the government and people. Previous studies have characterized this controversy as a confrontationbetween private scholars and public officials, emphasizing the people’srights versus the state’s rights or Fukuzawa Yukichi versus other Meirokushaintellectuals. Beyond this dichotomy, however, there is a discourse hiddenwithin this dispute which needs to be analyzed. Thus:why did they argue amongst themselves despite sharing similar views? The core issueunderlying their contention was Fukuzawa’s idealized conception of therelationship between the government and the people:his opponentscould not agree with Fukuzawa’s metaphor of the body, which representedthe people as analogous to an external stimulus, in order to criticize thegovernment. Other Meirokusha intellectuals also had subtle disagreementswith Fukuzawa, and these seem to have been caused by epistemologicaldifferences about the body.


Meirokusha, discussion on the role of scholars, Fukuzawa Yukichi, popularly elected assembly, enlightenment