Society and the State in Interwar Japan

Society and the State in Interwar Japan

Society and the State in Interwar Japan

Society and the State in Interwar Japan

Synopsis

The social history of Japan between the first and second world wars is a neglected area of study. The contributors to this volume consider factors such as nationalism, class, gender and race. They also explore the ideas and activities of a number of new social and political groups, such as the urban white collar class (including middle class working women), socialists, industrial workers and emigrants. The book questions the myth of Japanese homogeneity, and gives an emphasis to the diversity, cross-currents and socio-political tensions that characterised the 1920s and 1930s.

Excerpt

Japan in the latter half of the 1990s is the dominant economic power of the Asia-Pacific, which in turn is the most dynamic economic region of the contemporary world. Japan’s dominance remains in place even though economic growth is sluggish, reform of the political system is needed but slow in coming and public alienation from the ruling Establishment has become uncomfortably high. Other parts of the region, such as South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, have borrowed much from the Japanese model and exhibit economic dynamism of a high order, while China, despite its many problems, has moved decisively in the direction of economic growth. Japan, however, remains by far the largest economy in the area, and globally second only to that of the United States. in a world set free from the constraints of the Cold War, Japan seems set to become not only a major national, but also a truly regional power. To ignore Japan, play down her significance in world affairs, or indulge in facile stereotyping would be increasingly unwise.

The Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies Series seeks to foster an informed and balanced, but not uncritical, understanding of Japan. One aim of the series is to show the depth and variety of Japanese institutions, practices and ideas. Another is, by using comparisons, to see what lessons, positive or negative, can be drawn for other countries. the tendency in commentary on Japan to resort to outdated, ill-informed or sensational stereotypes still remains extraordinarily strong, and needs to be combated.

The interwar history of Japan has been much written about, and the focus of much of this writing is to attempt an explanation of the slide into militarism and war that took place during the 1930s. Understandably much of this literature concentrates on elite politics, on the salient role of the armed forces, and what is seen as the development of a totalitarian state by the early 1940s. the present work, however, seeks a different perspective. Sceptical of the ‘totalitarian’ paradigm in relation to the immediate prewar and wartime periods, the authors direct their focus onto society rather than the state. the discovery that they have made is that Japanese society in the interwar period, by contrast with the state-sponsored ideology of uniformity and submission to a higher national order, was diverse, often contradictory

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