Obituary: Masao Maruyama

Article excerpt

Obituary: Masao Maruyama

In a Japan becoming ever more standardised, the innovative political scientist Masao Maruyama provided the welcome example of a free-thinking anti-establishment figure of great authority amid a multitude of consensus- minded businessmen and administrators whose concept of intellectual analysis reposed on the recitation of production figures and the percentages of everything. He was an outspoken critic of post-war government irresponsibility, of fascism masquerading as the new-found "democracy". He was a significant opinion leader among the progressive spirits of that time.

Maruyama was one of the few contemporary Japanese think-ers to have gained credibility in the west, and his writings and opinions can be found quoted not in popularising ego-boosting blockbusters like Japan as No 1, but in serious works of social criticism like Karel van Wolferen's The Enigma of Japanese Power and Peter N. Dale's The Myth of Japanese Uniqueness.

But Maruyama also erected a system of thought that greatly influenced Japanese intellectuals in their studies of Japan's often mystifying political processes. Soon there was a "Maruyama Current" and the "Maruyama Sect" of his supporters.

Masao Maruyama was born in Osaka Prefecture, the son of a political journalist. After graduating from the law department of Tokyo University in 1937, he was made a faculty member. He suffered from ill-health nearly all his life, but he fought during the Pacific War, and that experience and his sense of guilt became the motive powers of all his writing, as he explains in a 1961 work, Nihon no Shiso ("Japanese Thought"). He resumed his post at Tokyo University and in 1950 was made full professor, a post he held until his retirement in 1971.

He took the standpoint of a democratic humanist in his teachings and writings, which contributed immeasurably to the development of political scientific thought in Japan from the Occupation onwards. His work is a penetrating analysis of Japan's social and ideological situation, as can be seen in his seminal work, Chokokka shugi no ronri to shinri ("The Logic and Psychology of Ultranationalism") which in 1946 brought him to the forefront of sceptical commentators in the early excited misapprehensions of the nature of "freedom" and "democratic ideals".

After years of repressive military rule, Maruyama's book created shock waves in the Diet and in university circles. It analysed unsparingly the spiritual underpinnings of pre-war and post-war antidemocratic organisations, especially the Emperor system. …