Constructing East Asia: Technology, Ideology, and Empire in Japan's Wartime Era, 1931-1945

Constructing East Asia: Technology, Ideology, and Empire in Japan's Wartime Era, 1931-1945

Constructing East Asia: Technology, Ideology, and Empire in Japan's Wartime Era, 1931-1945

Constructing East Asia: Technology, Ideology, and Empire in Japan's Wartime Era, 1931-1945

Synopsis

The conventional understanding of Japanese wartime ideology has for years been summed up by just a few words: anti-modern, spiritualist, and irrational. Yet such a cut and dried picture is not at all reflective of the principles that guided national policy from 1931- 1945. Challenging the status quo, Constructing East Asia examines how Japanese intellectuals, bureaucrats, and engineers used technology as a system of power and mobilization-what historian Aaron Moore terms a "technological imaginary"-to rally people in Japan and its expanding empire. By analyzing how these different actors defined technology in public discourse, national policies, and large-scale infrastructure projects, Moore reveals wartime elites as far more calculated in thought and action than previous scholarship allows. Moreover, Moore positions the wartime origins of technology deployment as an essential part of the country's national policy and identity, upending another predominant narrative-namely, that technology did not play a modernizing role in Japan until the "economic miracle" of the postwar years.

Excerpt

In December 1990, Japan’s Science and Technology Agency and the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy published a report titled Historical Review of Japa nese Science and Technology Policy— a “postwar comprehensive history of Japan’s science and technology policies.” The report’s purpose was ambitious: to educate the world about how Japan’s science and technology policy had played an essential role in its economic and social development and to reflect on how Japan could adopt policies “aimed at not only creating a wealthy nation but a wealthy world as well.” The report was written during the 1980s “economic bubble” era, when Japan was viewed as the global leader in technology and technical innovation in such areas as consumer electronics, automobiles, semiconductors, manufacturing technology, and robotics. Numerous books with such sensational titles as The Technopolis Strategy: Japan, High Technology, and the Control of the Twenty- First Century and Japan as a Scientific and Technological Superpower detailing Japan’s unique approach to economic development appeared during this time. Kodama Fumio, dean and professor of engineering management at the Shibaura Institute of Technology, described Japan’s model of promoting technological innovation as one that represented a global “techno- paradigm shift” and went so far as to credit the Japa nese cassette tape recorder, videocassette recorder, and fax machine for making possible the Ira ni an and Philippine revolutions and the Tiananmen uprising. Thus, in the 1980s and early 1990s, Japa nese . . .

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