Collected Writings of J.A.A. Stockwin: The Politics and Political Environment of Japan

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

First published in Dissent (Melbourne), Autumn 1967


22

Perceiving Japanese Politics

IT IS HARDLY surprising if the politics of 'mystery' countries (whether closed or merely alien) give rise to a variety of incompatible and often single-factor theories. This is well known in the case of the Soviet Union, until recently at least the most 'mysterious' of them all. Japan, with a unique culture and opaque language, has also tended to attract the attention of model-builders and categorizers. A brief look at the postwar Western literature on Japanese politics reveals something of the influences upon the writers themselves, as well as many insights into the nature of the system.

Two anthropologists working with the Occupation isolated four prevailing attitudes to the Japanese among the Occupation forces. The first was the 'G.I.-vulgar' view that the Japanese were 'gooks' or inferior beings to be despised. The second was the 'G.H.Q. image' of them as a highly intelligent but amoral people in need of stern authoritarian control. The third was the 'progressive' attitude that the Japanese were amenable to reason and had been fundamentally on the right track politically, until they were misled by a bunch of reactionary militarists. And the last was the 'gone native' perspective of the 'tatamifled' expatriate intellectual. 1 Needless to say, the anthropologists in question identified themselves with third category, into which one could probably fit most serious academic students of modem Japan, although there have been occasional excursions into categories two and four.

Within a single genus, however, it is usually possible to isolate a number of species. Let us categorize the categorizers and divide their attitudes according as they reflect:

(1) the influence of the Occupation, especially upon those writers who were directly involved. (2) subsequent problems in American policy towards Japan. (3) pessimism or optimism over the functioning of the economy. (4) preoccupation with democracy as a unique, definable and universally desirable political system. (5) Preoccupation with the modernization of developing countries and the application of modernization theory to Japan.

The Allied Occupation of Japan attracted attention from many concerned with the science of politics. It was a veritable laboratory for the testing of political theories. If it was impossible to try a run through of Roman history without

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