Modern Japan: A Social and Political History

Modern Japan: A Social and Political History

Modern Japan: A Social and Political History

Modern Japan: A Social and Political History

Synopsis

This textbook provides a concise and fascinating introduction to the social, cultural and political history of modern Japan. It incudes coverage from the Tokugawa period to the present day and a detailed analysis of the social aspects of Japanese history.

Excerpt

Series editor’s preface

If there is an unforgettable date that marks the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is that of 11 September 2001. Whether and how far the terrible events of that day will have changed the history of the new century and set it on a course other than that it would otherwise have taken will be for future historians to say. The terrorist attacks on the United States led to a war that largely eliminated the Taliban and the Osama Bin Laden organization from Afghanistan. Its rationale was proclaimed to be that of an international struggle against terrorism. In February 2002, President Bush publicly described Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an ‘axis of evil’, in that they were dictatorial states sponsoring terrorist activities. Despite the great sympathy outside the United States for the Americans after the terrorist outrage, this speech met with widespread criticism on the grounds that it did not discriminate between three very different regimes, and that in any case terrorism was not the only ‘enemy’ that should be combated. The critics argued that more thought should be given to the causes of terrorism and to an understanding of why terrorists regarded US interests as a legitimate target. American ‘unilateralism’ and singlemindedness were becoming a deepening concern in Europe and elsewhere.

One effect of 11 September has been a revival of interest in the concept of ‘civilization’ and of ‘the civilized world’. A manichaean vision of forces of civilization pitted against forces of darkness infuses much of the commentary to which the events of that day have given rise. In practice, however, ‘civilisation’ does not fit easily with those hundreds of millions of people who cannot escape from dire poverty, intolerance and exploitation. Unless these problems are tackled with determination and intelligence, it should surprise nobody that terror will be used to horrifying effect against the world deemed ‘civilized’.

In all significant senses Japan today is part of our ‘civilized world’. The average standard of living of the Japanese people is high. The GNP of Japan is second only to that of the United States, and is larger than the combined GNP of all the other countries of Asia. Even the economy of China, though attracting much attention for the rapidity of its growth and for its success in Japanese markets, is many times smaller than that of

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