Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan

Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan

Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan

Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan

Synopsis

"There has been no truly major study of twentieth-century Japanese intellectual life in either Japanese or English, until now. "Overcome by Modernity" is the product of a major scholar working at full stretch at the height of his career. It is informed by an astonishing breadth of learning and depth of reflection, and demonstrates a seriousness of intellectual engagement that can only be salutary in our current situation."--William Haver, Binghamton University

"Harootunian frames his masterful analysis of Japan with a sure grasp of the malaise of modernity in other places. By juxtaposing a wide variety of writers within a single argument, he reveals how much they had in common in their efforts to overcome the profound unevennesses that are the hallmark of modernity everywhere. A powerful and important book."--Carol Gluck, Columbia University

Excerpt

Although the Meiji state put into place the infrastructure of a modern capitalist political economy, the economy itself did not grow at a constant speed between the years 1887 and 1920. The time span was punctuated by business cycles and variations produced by the growth process itself and by specific events like the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895 and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905. This meant a rather shaky round of spurts and retrenchments, the deflation of the 1880s, subsequent recovery based mainly on the development of textile and traditional handicrafts industries, railway construction, and the stimulus supplied by the SinoJapanese War. But the decision to switch over to the gold standard in 1897 braked serious expansion, while the Russo-Japanese War boosted the development of heavy engineering industries. The end of the war drove the country into recession and then into a pattern of slow growth again. World War I removed most of Japan's advanced, industrial competitors from both domestic and world markets and thus provided the country with the opportunity to substitute domestically produced goods for imports and to increase exports of manufactures despite the relative backwardness of this sector. The war also signaled the transformation of the industrial base from light to concentrated heavy industries and the ceaseless migration of rural populations to the urban sites of industrial production.

The result of Japan's participation in the war was an unprecedented stimulus in all sectors of the economy, but especially those involving engineering, shipbuilding, machine tools, and electrical engineering. Despite the continuation of growth and slumps in the postwar period, the expansion stimulated by the war lifted the economy to the status of a modern industry. Even though traditional sectors such as agriculture and small businesses would continue to be responsible for producing the bulk of the output and providing employment, by the 1920s the economy's future was firmly rooted in expanding industrial and financial sectors. Critics, along the way, noted the sharp lines of unevenness between newer, modern capital industries and the so-called traditional sectors, which, in the Meiji period, had grown concurrently and even complementarily rather than competitively. But by 1920 and the succeeding years, the sharply silhouetted contrast was widely observed in the uneven relationship between the large metropolitan sites like Tokyo/Yokohama and Osaka/

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