Natsume Sōseki (夏目 漱石) is and was the most prestigious and respected novelist in modern Japan and every student has to engage with such novels of his as Botchan (坊っちゃん, “Young Master”) and Kokoro (こゝろ, or in post-war orthography こころ, “Heart”). Sōseki died in 1916.
Sōseki’s feeling that the modern world is some kind of runaway train with no brakes is expressed clearly in his 1913 novel, Kōjin (行人 , “The Wayfarer”).
One of Sōseki’s dialogues in the novel is about the current science and technology world, which was quite visible already then, and has a very nerve-racking or frightening tempo of a turbulent tsunami.
One character says:
“Now what you call insecurity is the insecurity of the entire human race, and it isn’t peculiar to you alone. Constant motion and flow is our very fate.
“Man’s insecurity stems from the advance of science. Never once has science, which never ceases to move forward, allowed us to pause. From walking to ricksha, from ricksha to carriage, from carriage to train, from train to automobile, from there on to the dirigible, further on to the airplane, and further on and on, no matter how far we may go, it won’t let us take a breath. How far it will sweep us along, nobody knows for sure. It is really frightening.”
Yes, it is frightening, indeed, I agreed.
“It is frightening because the fate that the whole of humanity will reach in several centuries, I must go through—in my own lifetime—and at that all alone. That’s why it is frightening. In short, I gather within myself the whole insecurity of the human race, and distill that insecurity down into every moment, that is the fright that I am experiencing.”(Natsume Sōseki, Kōjin [行人], Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1991, 9th printing, page 285)
Comment: There’s no need to dismiss these feelings as Luddite. They represent a reaction to the vertiginous or dizzying pace of the modern techno-protean change machine with no pause button.
Notice that Sōseki’s life (1867-1916) is basically congruent with Globalization I (i.e., the period of 1870-1913) discussed in the previous essay on Arthur Lewis’s classic Growth and Fluctuations, 1870-1913.
Sōseki has been, like his spokesmen in the citation above, swept up into a change-storm which led to a globalization backlash from 1914-1945, the era of deglobalization. WWI is the beginning bookend of all this.
Notice that the micro world of feelings and moods in the novel are resonant with the macro world though people at a certain time, such as the Sōseki protagonists, are not rigorous or prophetic theoreticians but rather groping in the dark.