Ever since the appearance of Eto Jun's essay on Pre-Raphaelite paintings and Soseki's early novels, there has been a strong tendency to echo the same idea about Soseki's literary career and thought. The idea was that Soseki was deeply influenced by fin-de-siecle Pre-Raphaelite paintings at the Tate Gallery during his stay in London as a student sponsored by the Meiji Government. Although this is not definitely wrong, the influence, if such it may be called, was not only limited to his eralier days as a novelist, but was not so essential as Eto seems to suggest.
What is essential, if you come to think about the importance of his critique of Bunmei-kaika, Westernization or modernization of Japan in the Meiji Period, is Soseki's encounter with social Darwinist theories propounded in Benjamin Kidd's Social Evolution, Max Nordau's Degeneration and J. B. Crozier's History of Intellectual Development. Scrutinize, for example, his notes writen in the margins of some of the books which Soseki purchased in London, and you will find underlined social Darwinist ideologies like the following : "Progress is a necessity and a part of nature just like the unfolding of a flower", "Without a struggle for existence, there can be no progress", and "If Natural Selection ceases to work, progress stops too and degeneration will begin."
The main argument in Soseki's critique of Bunmei-kaika is that it is a necessity but it is not "spontaneous" as Western progress is, and that the appetite for success is more insatiable than in Western modern society ; the spirit of self-interest is all the intenser becaue it is unspontaneously inflamed after a few centuries of repression. The present paper has made it clear that the critique was inspired by the social Darwinist ideologies mintioned above.