Such a worldview virtually guaranteed a gradual reduction in arms. And indeed, although Japan was at one point the world_s biggest producer of matchlock guns following the introduction of firearms in 1543, Edo society quickly abandoned these modern weapons in favor of the traditional sword.
The Ming Chinese took the relationship between themselves and others as a dichotomy between the civilized and barbarian worlds. Thus, while a world order based on the concept of war versus peace was emerging in Europe, one based on the concept of civilization versus barbarism was taking shape in East Asia. While early modern Europe saw the rise of power politics, early modern Japan witnessed the development of moral politics.
A fourth difference was in the way Europeans and Japanese perceived the natural resources at their disposal. To Europeans during the early modern era, the existence of an undeveloped frontier was manifest in the American continent. In Adam Smith_s Wealth of Nations (1776), from which the entire modern discipline of economics descends, there is no concept of resources as being limited. The idea of the scarcity of resources did not appear until the end of the nineteenth century, when modern economics saw the birth of a new price theory, a development termed the _marginal revolution._ The new theory posited that as a resource grew scarce, the price would rise, causing demand to decrease and thus spurring the search for new and more abundant resources. It regarded the price system as the most efficient mechanism for determining the allocation of scarce resources, and its optimistic faith in that system was untempered by any intimation of danger. The modern world system was a resource-wasting economic system, and the industrial revolution created a system of production that was both capital-intensive and profligate in its consumption of coal. In the name of _opening up the frontier;_ the Europeans proceeded with their relentless destruction of nature. Japan_s production revolution, meanwhile, focused on conserving capital and finding ways to recycle resources. The garbage generated by the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo) was transported all the way to Edo Bay by river and canal, and along the way such recyclables as organic matter for fertilizer, metals, and fuels were sorted out and delivered to farms, blacksmiths, public baths, and so forth. The society was pervaded by a basic belief that things should not be wasted, and by a pattern of behavior to match.
Early Modern Edo Society
The modern world system in Europe and early modern Edo society should be seen as developments of comparable significance within the history of humankind in that both built sophisticated economies and achieved independence from older Asian civilizations with the help of a production revolution. It is the European contribution to world civilization that has been prized and spread throughout the world, however, complete with its outward-looking orientation.
When Japan began opening its ports to foreign ships in 1854, these two _de-Asianized_ civilizations met for the first time. In the early years of the Meiji era (1868_1912), Isabella Bird (1831_1904) visited the T_oku district of northeastern Japan_where Edo society still persisted intact_from England, then the nucleus of the modern world system. In her published account, she related her impressions of the Yonezawa area:
The plain of Yonezawa, with the prosperous town of Yonezawa in the south, and the frequented watering-place of Akayu in the north, is a perfect garden of Eden, _tilled with a pencil instead of a plough,_ growing in rich profusion rice, cotton, maize, tobacco, hemp, indigo, beans, egg-plants, walnuts, melons, cucumbers, persimmons, apricots, pomegranates; a smiling and plenteous land, an Asiatic Arcadia, prosperous and independent, all its bounteous acres belonging to those who cultivate them .... It is an enchanting region of beauty, industry, and comfort, mountain girdled, and watered by the bright Matsuka. Everywhere there are prosperous and beautiful farming villages. 2