Passings: Thomas T. Sekine   

A field of flowers at sunset

Tomohiko Sekine (Thomas T. Sekine), professor emeritus in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), died on Jan. 16, 2022. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Kazuko Sekine, his two children Takasuke Sekine and Reiko Salib, and his four grandchildren.  

Professor Sekine was born on Nov. 22, 1933, in Tokyo, Japan to Toshiko Sekine and Hideo Sekine, a noted scholar of French literature and translator of Michel de Montaigne’s essays. Professor Sekine was a loving husband, father, grandfather, friend and teacher, with a never-ending zest for learning, who continued his study of French (in homage to his father), alongside his professional research of Unoist economics throughout his life. Professor Sekine was an avid skier and traveller and enjoyed taking daily walks.  

Early in life, he was a classmate of Japan’s former Emperor Akihito at Gakushuin Primary School. During the Second World War, Sekine was evacuated to Kanaya Hotel in Nikko, Japan with his school and later returned to Toyko in 1946 to enroll in Gakushuuin Middle School. He was taught English by American professional librarian and author Elizabeth Gray Vining.   

In 1953, he enrolled in the Department of Commerce at Hitotsubashi University’s Department of Sociology for his undergraduate degree, where he belonged to Professor Shigeto Tsuru’s seminar group. After graduating, Professor Sekine enrolled at McGill University as the first Canada-Council Student in 1958 where he completed his master’s degree.  

Professor Sekine went on to work at the United Nations Department of Statistics for two years, studied at the London School of Economics, earning a PhD in 1966 and began his teaching career at the University of Simon Frazer in British Columbia.  

During his 25-year career at York University, Professor Sekine focused his research on modern and Marxian economics. He was invited as a guest professor from 1982-84 by the International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. He continued to teach until 1994 in the Department of Commerce as the director of the International Research Center at Aichi Gakuin University in Nagoya, Japan.  

Some of his notable publications include An Outline of the Dialectic of Capital: A Study of the Inner Logic of Capitalism, The Dialectic of Capital and Towards a Critique of Bourgeois Economics: Essays of Thomas T. Sekine.  

Professor Sekine’s colleagues remember him  

“Two long speaking tours in Japan partially organized by Sekine were absolutely fascinating to me given Japan’s culture. Sekine was part of this culture, a part that has truly enriched the world as well as Japan: the place of his birth. I cannot help but shed tears over such a loss, and I feel deeply for Kazuko and her children, and I will never forget my enormously rich friendship with Tom Sekine. He was a wonderful and brilliant man.” – Robert R. Albritton, professor emeritus, LA&PS  

“I remember him again in Greece on our visit to the mountainous Delphi archeological site under the August blazing sun. As we were slowly making our way uphill, he said to us to keep going and he would catch up with us later…but as we could see him from higher up five or 10 minutes later, he wasn’t just sitting on that bench to rest, he was reading a small book which we didn’t know he had. His wife explained that this was how he was. He would seek moments of unannounced meaningful intellectual and spiritual solitude to do something which had a special meaning or connection for him.” – Stefanos Kourkoulakos, York University alumnus and former tutorial assistant with LA&PS

“One aspect of Tom’s life that I might have had more opportunity to observe than others had to do with the Japanese economy and Japanese studies. As I recall, when I returned to Canada and York University to complete my PhD work…Tom was teaching a course on the Japanese economy… I remember Tom having neatly handwritten lecture notes largely based on the Uchino text. At the time it was popular to write about the Japanese economic model and Tom certainly recognized distinctive features of the Japanese economy, but he would emphasize the importance of not losing sight of the evolution that took place in the Japanese economy even during the post-Second World War period.” – Brian MacLean, York University alumnus and former assistant professor,

“His theoretical treatment of Marx and Uno in his Dialectic of Capital (of which there were several editions) demanded a long-term intellectual commitment for it to be genuinely understood. His (and Uno’s and Rob’s) approach to understanding capital and capitalism lies in the back of my mind whenever I think of contemporary issues directly or indirectly involving some understanding of our economic life.” – John Simoulidis, associate professor, LA&PS  

“I was a member of a reading group that met at Rob Albritton’s home, where Tom Sekine would drop by regularly. Tom Sekine’s personality exuded warmth, grace and dignity. He was the model of intellectual rigour and displayed the patience of a mountain with my innumerable questions regarding his original intervention he made in economic theory. Tom Sekine was kind enough to give me one of his books written in English that laid the foundation for my intellectual journey.” – Randall Terada, York University alumnus   

“Thomas Sekine opened a new world of thinking to students like myself about economics and political economy…Besides his personal warmth, he was always extremely generous with his time and thoughts and strongly encouraged me in my intellectual pursuits. My final personal meeting with him was in Fall 2018 at my hotel in Tokyo where my wife and I hosted a dinner for him. As the conversation turned to questions of economic thought it reinforced my view that if ever a Nobel Prize for economics was to be handed out to a worthy thinker it would be Thomas T. Sekine.” – Richard Westra, York University alumnus   

“Professor Sekine’s immense interdisciplinary command of the traditions in philosophy, political economy and history of science reflected in his own writings and conveyed in collegial discussions with him provided an important foundation for my own intellectual and moral development. For this I will be forever grateful.” – Marc Weinstein, adjunct professor, LA&PS

“I was fortunate to meet Professor Sekine as a York U undergraduate at the beginning of 2000s at a conference on new directions in Marxism organized by Professor Robert Albritton. Professor Sekine was the quintessence of wisdom and impeccable politeness, treating novice students on an equal footing with seasoned scholars. He will be sorely missed.” – Michael Marder, York University alumnus