Against Harmony traces the history of progressive and radical experiments in Japanese Buddhist thought practice from the mid-Meiji period through the early Showa period. Perhaps the two best representations of progressive Buddhism during this time were the New Buddhist Fellowship (1899-1915) and the Youth League for Revitalizing Buddhism (1931-1936), both non-sectarian, lay movements well-versed in both classical Buddhist texts and Western philosophy and
religion. Their work effectively collapsed commonly held distinctions between religion, philosophy, ethics, politics, and economics. Unlike many others of their day, they did not regard the novel forces of modernization as problematic and disruptive, but as opportunities.
James Mark Shields examines the intellectual genealogy and alternative visions of progressive and radical Buddhism in the decades leading up to the Pacific War. Exposing the variety in the conceptions and manifestations of progress, reform, and modernity in this period, he outlines their important implications for postwar and contemporary Buddhism in Japan and elsewhere.