Marxist History and Postwar Japanese Nationalism

Marxist History and Postwar Japanese Nationalism

Marxist History and Postwar Japanese Nationalism

Marxist History and Postwar Japanese Nationalism


This book explores the historical writings of postwar Japanese Marxists - who were, and who continue to be, surprisingly numerous in the Japanese academic world. It shows how they developed in their historical writing ideas of 'radical nationalism', which accepted presupposed ideas of Japan's 'ethnic homogeneity', but which they saw as a 'revolutionary subject', creating a sphere of radical political action against the state, the American Occupation and global capital. It compares this approach in both prewar and postwar Marxist historiography, showing that in the postwar period ideas were more elaborate, and put much more emphasis on national education and social mobilization. It also shows how these early postwar discourses have made their way into contemporary ethnic nationalism and revisionism in Japan today. The book's rich and interesting analysis will appeal not just to historians of Japan, but also to those interested in nationalism and Marxism more generally.


National imagery and international Marxism

Marxist history and national imagery in postwar Japan

During the early postwar period Marxist history in Japan played a key role in developing the political nationalism of the Left. Nowhere was this plainer to see than in the writings of historians such as Ishimoda Shô, Matsumoto Shinpachirô, Tôma Seita, Inoue Kiyoshi, Tôyama Shigeki, Uehara Senroku, Eguchi Bokurô and Suzuki Shirô. Amidst the dramatic changes taking place during the early 1950s in Japan, and in East Asia, Marxist historians would confront what they saw as an imminent threat to Japanese culture and the Japanese people by taking up the cause of the “nation.” As part of this socio-political mission, they developed histories that could be mobilized against what they held to be the antagonists of progressive social change, namely, the Japanese state and the American Occupation. in fact, as far as many Marxist historians were concerned, the Occupation did not come to a close in 1952. On the contrary, the formal end of the Occupation signaled a deepening of Japan's “colonization” under the postwar system of capitalism and American hegemony, or imperialism.

In response to this deepening crisis, Marxist historians during the early and mid-1950s set their sights upon promoting a “national awakening” (minzoku jikaku) of the people. the idea of the nation (minzoku) and ethnic national culture (minzoku bunka) were to be the primary instruments through which historians would attempt to enlighten the people about the American presence and its policies in East Asia, so as to push forward the goal of a socialist revolution in Japan. As a result, however, historians would put aside the independent existence of the parts of the nation that did not substantiate the idea of national identity and cultural homogeneity. in effect, one of the consequences of this project would be to insulate both Japanese history and politics from heterogenizing social issues related to local histories, minority rights, and questions of gender. Indeed, Ishimoda and his colleagues were convinced that the Japanese nation could best lay claim to a new domain of political resistance by demarcating cultural authenticity in terms of national history and an elaborate cultural past. in their estimation, the impetus for dramatic social and political change would have to spring out from within a collective national consciousness (minzoku ishiki) of a cultural nation yearning to free itself from the deleterious influences of external manipulation and internal coercion.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.