Kōzō Uno

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Kōzō Uno, 1952

Kōzō Uno ( Japanese 宇 野 弘 蔵 , Uno Kōzō ; born November 12, 1897 in Kurashiki , † February 22, 1977 in Kugenuma, Fujisawa ) was a Japanese Marxist economist. He is considered one of the most important theorists in the field of Marxian value theory. His main work Principles of Political Economy was published in 1964. His most important students include Thomas T. Sekine and Makoto Itoh .


After studying at the University of Tokyo (1918 to 1921), the UN stayed in Berlin for two years (1921/22). In 1924 he became a professor at Tōhoku University for economic policy. Between 1934 and 1939 he was persecuted for belonging to a progressive group of professors. From 1944 to 1947 he was an employee at the Mitsubishi Institute for Economics, from 1947 to 1958 professor at the University of Tokyo. From 1949 to 1952 he was director of the Institute for Social Sciences there. Since 1958 he was a professor at the Hōsei University and the Risshō University in Tokyo.


After his return from Germany in 1922, the UN dealt in his first work with Hilferding's finance capital and with Lenin's imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism ; he made both works known in Japan. His essential contribution to the Marxist discussion in Japan was the so-called "stage theory" with which he wanted to specify the method of appropriation and representation of capitalism. The UN was of the opinion that the subject of research on political economy is divided into three stages: the conceptual clarification and presentation of the laws of motion of capital, the historical development of capitalism and the empirical analysis of current capitalism.

Although the UN made a major contribution to the spread of Marx's capital in Japan, its aim was to rid it of "inconsistencies" and to concentrate it on a pure labor theory of value. In its own work, the UN divides the principles of the economy into the three spheres of circulation, production and distribution, in contrast to Marx. In doing so, he makes circulation independent and assigns the theory of value to the production process of capital, since it is only fully valid under capitalism due to the transformation of labor into a commodity. According to the UN, the main contradiction of the capitalist mode of production lies in the fact that human labor acts as a commodity, although it cannot be produced by capital like any other commodity. In his crisis theory, in contrast to Marx, the UN sees precisely in the crisis the possibility of capital overcoming the decline in production due to the unreachable labor potential by increasing the composition of capital.


The UN was the founder of the “UN School” that developed in the 1950s and 1960s, an economic school of thought that attracted numerous intellectuals interested in Marxist theory formation. For many young intellectuals in Japan, Kozo Uno and his school formed a convincing theoretical alternative to the dogmatic Marxism-Leninism from which the UN consistently set itself apart. He was critical of the doctrine of dialectical materialism and only gave historical materialism - which was of great scientific importance in the theoretical understanding of Japanese intellectuals close to the CPY - as an "ideological" hypothesis. In addition, he broke the postulate of the "unity of theory and practice" and placed value on separating the theory-building process from direct political activity. For these reasons, Uno did not see itself as a Marxist, but theoretically placed itself in the tradition of Marx, whose criticism of political economy he recognized as having a "scientific" character.

His views, however, were not without criticism within Marxism. In particular, he was reproached for a distance from the class character of political economy (by his Japanese critic Samezo Kuruma, among others ). It was also criticized that the analysis of current capitalism was neglected in his contributions.

Publications and editions (selection)

  • Kozo Uno: The Types of Economic Policies under Capitalism . Translated from Japanese by Thomas T. Sekine, ed. v. John R. Bell, Leiden 2016.
  • Kozo Uno: Principles of Political Economy. Theory of a Purely Capitalist Society . Translated from Japanese by Thomas T. Sekine. Brighton, Atlantic Highlands / New Jersey 1980.
  • Th.T. Sekine (Ed.): The Collected Works of Kozo Uno , 10 volumes, Iwanami Publishers (1973-74)



  • Hiroomi Fukuzawa: Aspects of the Marx Reception in Japan. Late capitalization and its socio-economic consequences, illustrated using the example of Japanese society , Bochum 1981
  • Hyeon-soo Joe: Political Economy as Social Theory. Studies on the reception of Marx by Isaak Iljitsch Rubin and Kozo Uno , PhD Philipps-Universität Marburg 1995.
  • Th.T. Sekine: Unoriron. A Japanese Contribution to Marxian Political Economy . In: Journal of Economic Literature , 1975, vol. XIII


Individual evidence

  1. On the basic data of the UN's thinking see: Masao Oguro: Uno, Kozo , in: Werner Krause, Karl-Heinz Graupner, Rolf Sieber (ed.): Ökonomenlexikon . Berlin, Dietz 1989, pp. 584-586
  2. On the history of the UN's impact cf. Jan Hoff: Marx global. On the development of the international Marx discourse since 1965. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2009 ISBN 978-3-05-004611-2 ; Pp. 52-56.
  3. See Masao Oguro: Uno, Kozo , p. 585