First published in Pacific Affairs, Vol. XLI, No. 2, Summer 1968
THE VIEW THAT Japan may be regarded as a 'post-Marxist society' 1 has been expressed most forcibly by Robert Scalapino in his recent book on Japanese communism, 2 but also seems to be a hidden premise of some other writing on contemporary Japanese politics. 3 Scalapino puts it most clearly in the final paragraph of his book:
The chances for Communist success in Japan, however, do not appear promising barring external interference. In the most fundamental sense, Japan is a post-Marxist society. Marxist doctrines, whether of economics or of revolution, have less and less validity for this society as it joins the ranks of the advanced nations of the world. Japanese Communists, whatever the doctrinal changes they can effect, will never be able to use the Communist appeal that has had the greatest impact in our times, namely, the appeal that only they can eradicate the deep-seated obstacles to change in stagnant or fragmented societies, and that only they can fully mobilize the people for a drive toward modernization within one generation. The Japanese, having attained modernity, can afford freedom. 4
It is possible to distinguish four separate points here, which may be spelled out as follows: (1) Marxism (or perhaps Communism, for the two do not appear to be distinguished) is objectively irrelevant to the task of solving the problems of an economically advanced society; (2) Japan has already attained, or is well on the way to attaining, the status of an economically advanced society; (3) Communism (or perhaps Marxism), irrespective of whether or not it is objectively valid as a doctrine, strikes people as credible only in situations and societies where a need is felt for a ruthless instrument of rapid modernization; (4) Communist (or Marxist) parties will therefore not possess credibility, and thus presumably have no future, in societies which have already achieved modernization.
It should be obvious that each of these four propositions needs to be demonstrated separately, for an erroneous or irrelevant doctrine can still command a wide appeal.