Dictionary of the Modern Politics of Japan

By J. A.A. Stockwin | Go to book overview

Preface

The idea of this Dictionary was generated in the mid-1990s in discussion with Gordon Smith at Routledge, and subsequently with other editors. At that time, the politics of Japan appeared to have entered a period of change, and possibly of radical reform, but like any such process, the facts were often obscure and capable of various interpretations. Suddenly, the old predictabilities of Japanese politics seemed to have been turned on their head, and confusion reigned. I had taught regular courses on the subject at the Australian National University in Canberra between 1964 and 1981, and at the University of Oxford from 1982 into the new Millennium. One of the most persistent demands from my students was for a book that would serve as a factual database of the subject. They had textbooks providing a general overview and monographs that went into great detail about some narrow topic. But books of reference in English were either too broad (on Japan in general) or too narrow and dated (for instance on political parties). A Dictionary might supplement these and fulfil a real need.

For various reasons the project was delayed, but the increasingly confused, and confusing, nature of Japanese politics made the need for a comprehensive Dictionary of the Modern Politics of Japan more, rather than less, urgent. My University gave me a welcome period of sabbatical leave for two terms from January 2002, and this enabled me to complete the project.

Japan remains the second largest economy in the world, after the United States, and it has a massive economic presence in Asia. Even though Japanese now talk of the period from the early 1990s to the early 2000s as the 'lost decade', in which effective systemic reform has been shirked, and powerful vested interests have been tamely protected, the Japanese economy remains massive and crucial in regional and global terms. It may eventually be overtaken by the dynamic economy of the People's Republic of China, but such a process will be counted in decades rather than years. Much hinges on whether Japan can put its own house in order in the immediate period ahead.

The experience of Japan with constitutional government goes back to 1889, and with democratic government to the late 1940s. No Asian country, apart from India, has such a long experience of democracy as Japan. Some have contested the quality of Japanese democracy, and have argued that it is overlaid with authoritarian values and practices. But others have even hinted that Japanese politics is too democratic, in the sense that the central authorities lack sufficient power to overcome obstruction from a plurality of entrenched interests well represented within Government. However this may be, the

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