Japan in War and Peace: Selected Essays

Overview

More than any historian of his generation, John Dower has changed the way we view our relations with Japan. In his prize-winning War Without Mercy, Dower showed the depth of the racial antagonism that gave the war in the Pacific its particularly violent and brutal tone. In Japan in War and Peace, he examines unexplored continuities and connections in Japanese politics, economics, and society at large. Drawing on decades of experience and research, Dower highlights resemblances between wartime, postwar, and ...
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Overview

More than any historian of his generation, John Dower has changed the way we view our relations with Japan. In his prize-winning War Without Mercy, Dower showed the depth of the racial antagonism that gave the war in the Pacific its particularly violent and brutal tone. In Japan in War and Peace, he examines unexplored continuities and connections in Japanese politics, economics, and society at large. Drawing on decades of experience and research, Dower highlights resemblances between wartime, postwar, and contemporary Japan. He argues persuasively that the origins of many of the institutions responsible for Japan's dominant position in today's global economy derive from the rapid military industrialization of the 1930s and not from the post-Occupation period, as many have assumed. The brilliant lead essay, "The Useful War," sets the tone for the volume by incisively showing how much of Japan's postwar political and economic structure was prefigured in the wartime organization of that country. Japan in War and Peace goes beyond the popular images of Japanese culture - whether the idea of the "fanatical nation at war" or the mystified vision of a postwar "economic miracle" - to examine the tensions within Japanese society that have shaped its outlook toward the rest of Asia and the West. These pathbreaking essays also deal with such subjects as Japanese wartime cinema, Japan's own hapless attempts to build an atomic bomb, the social upheaval revealed in the secret wartime records of the Thought Police, and the dynamics of the postwar U.S. Occupation of Japan. Dower's final essays frankly discuss the stereotypes that Japan and the United States used to demonize each other during the war, which to this day play a role in their relations as allies. This new book from one of the foremost American observers of contemporary Japan is essential reading for all people attempting to understand a nation that has emerged as one of the superpowers in a fast-changing world.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Japan's racism, rooted in pride in the purity and homogeneity of its society, has remained constant from the feudal era to the present and is potentially dangerous to its relations with the rest of the world, according to Dower, who is Henry Luce professor of international cooperation and global stability at MIT. In this collection of powerful, evenhanded and crystalline essays, he tracks manifestations of racism in the nation's mythology, cinema, wartime behavior and adaptations to the postwar occupation. He analyzes the nature of Japanese capitalism, the nation's emergence as a world power, its politicians and its government. Dower examines the Japanese sense of superiority to the mongrelized U.S. population as a factor in trade problems, but he also argues that the U.S.'s own sense of superiority and enduring contempt for the ``little yellow devils'' still underly our fear and awe of the Japanese. He punctures manipulated postwar myths in both Japan and the U.S. of a frail, kindly Hirohito and reviews General Douglas MacArthur's dealings with him. Dower warns of new dangers: that Japan's extreme conservatives will continue to ``sanitize the `holy war' waged in the emperor's name,'' that they will remilitarize and that ``the cult of Japanese uniqueness can stimulate highly irrational nationalistic emotions.'' Illustrations. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Historian Dower, whose classic study, War Without Mercy ( LJ 4/1/86), examined racial attitudes in the United States and Japan during World War II, here offers a collection of 11 essays on the wartime and postwar periods. Written over the past 15 years, the essays cover a wide range of subjects, from Japan's wartime cinema and atomic bomb research to the effects of the war and the U.S. occupation on Japanese postwar political and economic development. Of particular interest are several essays that utilize materials drawn from popular culture (films, cartoons, colloquial expressions, etc.) to examine racial attitudes and stereotypes in both societies, past and present. Altogether, this collection is useful in providing a solid cross-section of contemporary scholarship on Japan by one of the leading academics in the field as well as for the intrinsic interest of its subject matter. Recommended for informed general readers.-- Scott Wright, Univ. of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.
Booknews
Dower, Henry Luce Professor of International Cooperation at MIT and author of the acclaimed War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific, examines continuities and connections in Japanese politics, economics, and society at large, highlighting resemblances between wartime, postwar, and contemporary Japan. Most of the essays have been previously published. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Here, Dower (War Without Mercy, 1986, etc.) offers a collection of essays on Japan and its complex relations with the US over the past half century—a period that roughly corresponds to the reign of Emperor Hirohito. While most of the pieces have been previously published in academic journals, they afford accessible perspectives that go provocatively against the grain of received wisdom on a nation whose economic accomplishments have set the West scrambling for explanations—and scapegoats. Drawing on a host of nontraditional sources (cartoons, movies, rumors, subversive graffiti, and other aspects of popular culture or public opinion), Dower offers a decidedly contrarian appraisal of the Asian powerhouse. He sets the tone in his lead piece, "The Useful War," which makes a persuasive case that the estimable enterprise and productivity of Japan's business establishment dates back to the early stages of WW II, when the military was in charge, and not to the postwar era, during which Allied occupation forces introduced democratic reforms. Nor does the author put much stock in either community or consensus theory: From the 1931 Manchurian Incident through the height of WW II and beyond, he shows that potential revolutionary dissent, tension, and turmoil have been hallmarks of Japan's putatively harmonious society. Covered as well are grassroots perceptions of the atomic bomb; the desultory efforts of Japan's armed services to develop nuclear weapons prior to V-J Day; the policies of ex-P.M. Shigeru Toshida (who made subordinate independence a keystone of his country's foreign policy); and the role that racial antagonisms still play when Tokyo and Washington seek to do businesswith one another. Challenging views of a land whose industrial and sociopolitical institutions may well defy conventional analysis. (Profusely illustrated throughout with line drawings, stills from propaganda films, political cartoons, and posters, as well as a wealth of tabular material)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780788155642
  • Publisher: DIANE Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Pages: 368

Table of Contents

List of Tables
Introduction 1
1 The Useful War 9
2 Japanese Cinema Goes to War 33
3 "NI" and "F": Japan's Wartime Atomic Bomb Research 55
4 Sensational Rumors, Seditious Graffiti, and the Nightmares of the Thought Police 101
5 Occupied Japan and the Cold War in Asia 155
6 Yoshida in the Scales of History 208
7 Japanese Artists and the Atomic Bomb 242
8 Race, Language, and War in Two Cultures 257
9 Graphic Others / Graphic Selves: Cartoons in War and Peace 287
10 Fear and Prejudice in U.S.-Japan Relations 301
11 Postscript: Two Reflections on the Death of the Showa Emperor 337
The Emperor in War and Peace: Views from the West 339
Showa as Past, Present, and Future 349
Sources and Credits 355
Index 361
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