JAPAN'S PSEUDO-DEMOCRACY By Peter J. Herzog. New York University
Press 279 pp., $40.
MAKING COMMON SENSE OF JAPAN By Steven R. Reed. University of
Pittsburgh Press, 188 pp., $49.95 cloth $15.95 paper.
CONTROLLING THE WAVES: DEAN ACHESON AND US FOREIGN POLICY IN
ASIA By Ronald L. McGlothlen. W.W. Norton & Co., 320 pp., $27.95.
DISPATCHES FROM THE PACIFIC CENTURY By Frank Viviano.
Addison-Wesley, 252 pp., $21.95.
THE recent and unprecedented electoral shift in Japan and the
planned Pacific summit on which the Clinton administration has
placed so much emphasis offer the United States new strategic
opportunities in Asia.
Nevertheless, as long as Washington's relations with the
region's dominant power, Japan, remain bedeviled by distrust,
America's influence in this vast, rapidly evolving arena will be
restricted. Is Tokyo ultimately a rival or an ally? A partner in
the quest for global and democratic markets or a bastion of
economic and political chauvinism the US must strive to contain?
Those who believe that the current Japanese order is
fundamentally irreconcilable with basic Western political standards
will find a large store of ammunition in "Japan's
Pseudo-Democracy," by Peter Herzog. Herzog writes from an
unusually close vantage point; three decades ago this former Roman
Catholic priest obtained Japanese citizenship and went on to become
a researcher for Fuji Bank. Now he regards Japanese society with a
Jesuit's sense of order and a businessman's insistence that the
figures add up.
Herzog bases his critique on the assumption that the Japanese
Constitution of 1946, a democratic framework imposed by the
victorious Americans, has never been truly assimilated into the
Japanese political consciousness. The Japanese government, Herzog
argues, has continually subverted its own explicit constitutional
order by tolerating cultural reactionaries and institutional
Herzog analyzes Tokyo's record on various constitutional
subjects, including the judiciary, civil rights, and separation of
church and state. He applies, in effect, the standards of the
American Civil Liberties Union to Japanese society. Along the way,
he discusses everything from the systematic suppression of the Ainu
(the indigenous people that once populated the Japanese islands) to
the heavy censorship imposed on textbooks. One particularly
valuable chapter recounts with precision the major scandals that
have disgraced a succession of Japan's prime ministers.
Out of numerous examples and citations Herzog has crafted a
powerful indictment; he makes a compelling case that graft,
influence peddling, and contempt for civil liberties have tainted
the Japanese postwar legacy.
Unfortunately, Herzog has little to say about the other
significant forces within Japanese society - including journalists,
political opposition parties, and the Westernized intelligentsia -
that have constantly fought the policies of the Japanese power
elite. In fact, the once-dominant Liberal-Democratic Party seems to
have methodically squandered the allegiance of ordinary Japanese,
who increasingly insist that their leaders obey Western standards
of political behavior.
As an antidote to Herzog's analysis, readers may turn to Steven
R. Reed's "Making Common Sense of Japan." Attacking what he
derides as the "mystical concepts of culture"- the notion that
culture is irrational and untouched by political and economic
change - Reed argues that the Japanese respond to the same basic
forces that shape all societies. He emphasizes that while Japanese
culture is different - even radically different - from American
culture, the Japanese react in commonsensical ways to their
environment and history.
Reed rejects the theory of human behavior that says people are
at the mercy of deep, often subliminal, cultural forces. Most
mainstream Western attacks on Japan (Michael Crichton's "Rising
Sun," for example) depict Japan as a "strange and wondrous
country" where people are driven by cultural imperatives that
Westerners cannot understand. …