Democracy without Competition in Japan: Opposition Failure in a One-Party Dominant State

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Democracy Without Competition in Japan: Opposition Failure in a One-Party Dominant State Ethan Scheiner Cambridge University Press, 2006

Medieval Japan experienced a troublesome history of warring states until it eventually became unified under a strong and enduring government. During the ensuing centuries it acquired a distinctive culture of conformity, at first enforced upon it, and then quietly absorbed as a dominant part of its national psychology. It was this spirit of loyalty to the ruling government, symbolized in the person of the divinely-descended Emperor, that helped Japan to convert rapidly into a modern industrialized economy when confronted by the West, and then to successfully militarize to an extent that it was able to challenge the great powers of the Western world. On the negative side of the coin, it was this same sense of unified conformity that made it possible for Japan to embark upon what was a virtually unwinnable World War II.

After its crushing defeat in that war, and the forced introduction of democracy by the Western victors, the spirit of compliance once again enabled Japan to develop (with the aid of Western investment) into one of the world's economic giants. Historically, it might have been expected that democracy would have led to political divisions that in the eyes of some people would have strengthened the country, but in the eyes of others could have retarded it. But this did not happen, hence the title of this book. Despite its democratic structure, Japan's government has been dominated by a single party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), since 1955.

Ethan Scheiner, who clearly belongs to the first category of thinkers, which believes that a democracy which too consistently allows one party to remain in power is not a true democracy, offers an explanation for why no opposition party has been able to offer itself as a credible challenger to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. …