The Dilemmas of Growth in Prewar Japan

The Dilemmas of Growth in Prewar Japan

by James William Morley


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The Dilemmas of Growth in Prewar Japan by James William Morley

The sixth and final volume in the series published for the Conference on Modern Japan reviews the political, economic and foreign policy problems faced by Japan during the 1930's and '40's. James Morley's introductory chapter, "Choice and Consequence," and Edwin O. Reisehauer's conclusion. "What Went Wrong?" define the context of the discussion.

Contents: "Foreword," John Whitney Hall. 1. "Introduction: Choice and Consequence," James William Morley. PART ONE: Political and Military. II. "The Bureaucracy as a Political Force, 1920-45," Robert M. Spaulding, Jr. III. "Retrogression in Japan's Foreign Policy Decision-Making Process," Chihiro Hosoya. IV. "The Failure of Military Expansionism," Akira Iriye. V. "The Radical Left and the Failure of Communism," George M. Beekmann. PART TWO: Economic and Social. VI. "Rural Origins of Japanese Fascism," R. P. Dore and Tsutomu Ouchi. VII. "The Economic Muddle of the 192O's," Hugh I. Patrick. VIII. "Big Business and Politics in Prewar Japan," Arthur E. Tiedemann. PAKT THREE: Intellectual. IX. "Intellectuals as Visionaries of the New Asian Order," James B. Crowley. X. "Nakano Seigo and the Spirit of the Meiji Restoration in Twentieth- Century Japan," Tetsuo Najita. XI. "Oyama Ikuo and the Search for Democracy," Peter Duus. PART FOUR: Comparisons and Conclusions. XII. "Japan and Germany in the Interwar Period," Kentaro Hayashi. XIII. "What Went Wrong?" Edwin O. Reischauer. Index.

Originally published in 1972.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691618647
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 03/08/2015
Series: Princeton Legacy Library Series
Pages: 538
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.40(d)

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Dilemmas of Growth in Prewar Japan

By James William Morley


Copyright © 1971 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-03074-6


Introduction: Choice and Consequence


Back to Hakone

Ever since the preliminary seminar was held in Hakone in 1960, participants in the Conference on Modern Japan have been troubled by the relationship between democratic values and the historic process of modernization. Kawashima Takeyoshi raised the issue at the start, insisting that the desire for democracy has played an "important role" in providing the "motive force" for modernizing Japan. Certainly one cannot deny its presence. At the first seminar, in Bermuda, Marius Jansen reflected on the appeal of individualistic values to intellectuals early in the Meiji period; and in the present volume Tetsuo Najita and Peter Duus show how important egalitarian, populist values were in the thought of others who backed parliamentary politics in the Taisho period. The depth of the attachment to democracy of most of Japan's prewar leaders is not, however, very impressive. To most participants in the Conference, the motive for modernization that has seemed dominant in Japan is that set forth by Jansen: the ambition to secure Japan's independence and to make Japan the equal of any nation in the world. Scratch a modernizer and find a nationalist.

John Hall concludes from this motive that there was no viable liberal alternative to the bureaucratic structure of power erected in the late nineteenth century. More than this, he and a number of others have been impressed with what they feel is the extraordinary efficacy of the prewar imperial, oligarchic, and bureaucratic attitudes and institutions for the advancement of Japan's modernization — at least in the Meiji period.

This difference of opinion about the role of democracy stems in large part from differences in definition, both of the concept of modernization and of the scholar's role in society. Kawashima contends that any definition of modernization which does not include "the values of 'democracy' or the social and political structure which goes under the name of 'democracy'" has little meaning. There would seem to be three assumptions in this definition: (1) that democracy is an integral part of the good society that the Japanese have been and are striving for; (2) that scholars should take an active part in that struggle; and therefore, (3) that problems for analysis should be framed and concepts like modernization defined so as to be useful for that struggle.

For a number of reasons this approach did not appeal to most of the Western participants at Hakone. One reason, I think, was the feeling that the concept of democracy had become so confused in the emotional polemics between liberalists, progressives, and Marxist-Leninists in Japan, that an attempt — at least at that time — to define modernization in terms of democratization would have consigned the concept of modernization to the graveyard of ideological controversy before it was possible to see if it could have any new life of its own. Moreover, and more fundamentally, the problem consciousness of the Western participants was different. They were being stimulated, not so much by the hopes and frustrations natural to their Japanese colleagues living within Japanese society, as by currents in the West, two in particular: an overwhelming consciousness of change throughout the world and the desire for a more objective, more universal social science.

At Hakone, Edwin O. Reischauer described this great "transformation" as shaping not just Japan, but all countries in the world. Indeed, he suggested, it had been doing so for several centuries, affecting nations that were profoundly different in many ways and drawing them along in certain apparently similar directions. Was it possible to formulate a concept that could be applied to this global transformation, a concept neither so vague that it obscured essentials, nor so restrictive that it excluded most examples? Benjamin Schwartz thought that it could, and most Western participants agreed. This led in turn to a search for a definition that was value-free, that is, free of the value preferences of the observer, a definition that would make the concept of modernization useful for analyzing not just the dynamics of Japanese life, but a large number of changing societies with such different value systems and developmental characteristics as, for example, Japan, the Soviet Union, the United States, India, or Ghana.

Concepts of course are tools for intellectual analysis; they are not more or less correct, but more or less useful, depending on their power to help explain the phenomenon under consideration. In this case, the value-free concept of modernization has proved to be extraordinarily useful. It has led to new insights by inviting comparisons between the Japanese experience and that of such different countries as China, India, and Germany. It has stimulated the search for certain long-continuing pressures relevant to the modern transformation — such as, for example, the drive for more and more education, or the high propensity to save, or the sophistication of the bureaucracy — that have been influential from at least Tokugawa times to the present, through periods of very different political orientations. It has also permitted the recognition of the fact, as already noted above, that certain antidemocratic political institutions and values, particularly in the Meiji period, exerted an obviously positive influence on Japan's modernization.

But the questions about democracy raised at Hakone by Kawashima, Toyama, and others have surfaced repeatedly at subsequent seminars of the Conference. Various participants have been unable to suppress the feeling that, when history has run its course, the processes of modernization will be seen as incompatible with political forms and ideas other than democracy. John W. Bennett, for example, argues that Japan's economic and social transformation has closely resembled that of the advanced countries in Europe and North America, and that for "industrialized societies of this type" democracy is the natural political concomitant. His formulation leaves open the possibility of a typology of modernization for industrialized societies of some other type, societies that would not require democratic politics; but Robert E. Ward puts the thesis more broadly, albeit hesitantly, suggesting again the possibility "that in a secular sense liberalizing tendencies are inherent in the modernizing process and that even political systems as authoritarian as Meiji are not in the long run immune to the effect."

This raises an even more fundamental question about the concept of modernization than that of its relevance to democracy: to what extent is the process of modernization best conceived of as choice-free as well as value-free? To what extent is it defined as a process with an inevitable result, or at least one so universally desired as to seem inevitable, and to what extent is it better understood to have alternative courses depending on human choice? A minimum deterministic definition has appealed to some. Ward, for example, in commenting on what he feels are eight "essential elements of politically developed societies," suggests that four of these are needed in some "minimal quantity and combination" for the process to "go critical," that is, to "acquire a capacity for sustained and self-generating political change or development that is so characteristic of all modern societies." Ward restricts his comments to the political sphere, but Bennett seems inclined to find the "modernizing" changes in both the society and the economy to be proceeding not only on sustained courses, but also on courses which must inevitably be compatible and therefore presumably part of the same self-generating process.

The argument for indeterminacy has been put equally as strongly. Ardath W. Burks addresses himself to the relationship between the political and the social and economic subsystems, insisting on the "relative autonomy of political decision-making." His remarks carry implications beyond Ward's toward a position that political development itself remains to the end indeterminate, the product of specific human choice. In the economic sphere, Kazushi Ohkawa and Henry Rosovsky also take up the problem, rejecting the idea that there is any necessary "law" of development or any such thing as "self-sustained growth." The history of Japan shows, they argue, that economic progress can stop as well as go: "a series of alternative paths was open to the economy at almost any time." Instead of talking about "stages" through which Japan had to pass, they prefer to talk about "phases" through which it did pass. Harry T. Oshima follows this up with a critique of Meiji economic policy, suggesting that the growth rate could have been accelerated and future political strains reduced if the Meiji leaders had spent less on the state administration and the military and more on the economy, particularly agriculture. And Reinhard Bendix concludes, following Schumpeter, that there are greater varieties of political, social, and economic forms compatible with each thier dian is immediately apparent from our parochial experience.

These citations from the preliminary discussion at Hakone and the five succeeding seminars are not meant to suggest that problems of broad social theory have dominated the deliberations of the Conference, but they do show a deep and continuing concern for the broader meaning of history. They testify also to the fact that some of the questions raised at Hakone about democracy, value, and choice remain deeply relevant to the search for a useful and generally accepted concept of modernization.

It was to turn more directly to these questions that a sixth seminar was held in Puerto Rico in January 1968. The earlier seminars, having been organized largely along disciplinary lines, had tended to emphasize the long flow of the modernization process, the deep continuities in separate spheres of life — intellectual, economic, political, social and cultural. At the same time, partly as a result of having tried too hard to look at the secular trends from the late Tokugawa to the present, the Conference had inevitably become impressed with the extraordinary overall success of various phases of the modernization effort in Japan and therefore had devoted considerable effort to trying to explain why things had gone so well.

On the other hand, the discussion of favorable trends frequently lapsed when reference was made to the 1920's and 1930's, everyone recognizing that, for reasons of which they were not sure and in ways they found difficult to define, something in that period had gone wrong. As R. P. Dore points out in this volume, many of the processes of modernization which had been set in motion in earlier periods and which seemed to hold such promise for a peaceful, orderly, more satisfying society, continued during that period to shape Japan in even more "modern" directions — more education, bigger cities, and the like. But, at the same time, certain other processes faltered, and no one could deny that the peaceful evolution of society was increasingly thwarted by the intensification of social, economic, and political strains, the rise of revolutionary protest movements, the spread of violence, and the intensification of repression until war finally brought Japan to collapse. Was this tragedy necessary? Could an interdisciplinary band of pathfinders concerned about the process of modernization shed any light in that dark valley of Japanese experience? Could a study of that valley lead in turn to a clearer understanding of the modernization process?

Back to the Interwar Period

The road to the interwar period is already strewn with the monuments of conflicting historical interpretations. Some appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of their positions is necessary before one attempts to plot another course.

On one side stands the judgment of the Allied governments that defeated Japan in the Pacific War: Japan's tragedy was entirely of Japan's own making. According to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, Japan's difficulties had been caused in the first instance by a group of twenty-eight "criminals" who had conspired to wage "aggressive war." These included some of the highest military and civil officials of the realm, but not the emperor. The "criminals" were tried and convicted in 1948, the evidence for the charge having been spread on the records of the tribunal. Secondly, according to the Basic Initial Post-Surrender Directive, this "conspiracy" was supported by the elite in nearly all areas of Japanese life. All persons who had held "key positions of high responsibility since 1937" were suspected of advocating "militarism and militant nationalism"; hence, the purge. In the third instance, judging from the reforms required by this same document, the fault lay broadly with the political and social structure of the nation which produced this elite and induced the people to follow it. Specifically, this means that the fault lay in the "feudal and authoritarian tendencies" of the government, which the Constitution of 1947 was designed to correct; in the "military machine," which was dissolved and which included not only the armed forces, but also the munitions industry, the "ultra nationalistic," terroristic, and secret patriotic societies, the religious institutions, such as established Shinto, which were seen as "cloaks" for militaristic movements, and militaristic instruction in the schools and propaganda in the mass media; and in the antidemocratic forces in society. Antidemocratic forces were identified especially as the lack of protection for "individual liberties and civil rights," the lack of "democratic political parties" and of democratic organizations in labor, industry, and agriculture, the concentration of income and the ownership of the means of production and trade in a few hands, and the lack of information about and appreciation of democracies in the educational system and mass media.

Since 1948 neither the conspiracy thesis nor the blanket indictment of Japan's wartime leaders has received much support from Western writers. Robert J. C. Butow perhaps comes closest in his Tojo and the Coming of the War (1961), where he conveys the impression that for Tojo the conviction may have been justified, but his approval is partial at most: in his Japan's Decision to Surrender (1954) he exonerates others. Richard Storry, who also relies heavily on the trial materials in his Double Patriots (1957), directly challenges the plot thesis, but he does not completely deny it when he concludes that the plots and the "incidents" which he describes in the prewar period "conformed very broadly — with the possible exception of the Ketsumeidan affair — to the same general design." On the other hand, most Western writers have been noncommittal, following the lead of the general historians, like Hugh Borton, Edwin O. Reischauer, and W. G. Beasley, who have treated the period in broad summary fashion, stressing trends rather than personalities and simply reporting the verdict of the trial and the conduct of the purge without commenting directly on their validity. James B. Crowley is frankly revisionist. In his Japan's Quest for Autonomy (1966) he declares that in the period from 1932 to 1938 Japan's "political and military leaders," including presumably those held for trial, not only were not engaged in any conspiracy, but also "did not perceive problems and devise politics in terms of a Pacific War. ... They were honorable men, loyal servants of the Throne; they sought what their predecessors had sought, security and prosperity."

In Japan, the staunchest supporters of the Allied indictment have been the orthodox Marxist-Leninists, the so-called Kozaha or Lectures faction, who have consistently championed the classic 1927 and 1932 theses of the Japan Communist party. To be sure, they have largely passed over the fate of the individuals accused at the trial and the charge of conspiracy. Indeed, the two leading works of this school, the Showashi (History of the Showa Era, 1955) by Toyama, Imai Sei'ichi, and Fujiwara Akira, and the Nihon kindaishi (Modern History of Japan, 1957) by Inoue Kiyoshi, do little more than mention the "conspirators" by name; but, they leave no doubt of their condemnation, not only of those tried, but also of the entire Japanese elite who were purged broadside.

It is not surprising that these works have been criticized as "history without people" and have not yet found a grateful acceptance by most Japanese. The war was a personal thing, a time of grief through which all Japanese have passed, either in their own experience or vicariously in the experience of their fathers and brothers. Surely there is fault somewhere, but, in a land where group responsibility, the virtue of loyalty, and a consciousness of fate have been so interwoven in the sensibilities of the people, there has been a deeply felt demand for an attitude more humane than that of the victors or the Marxist-Leninists, and for a more humane history, one to be sure that will not deny the wrong paths taken, but one which will also build a bridge over the great gulf of defeat, so that surviving Japanese can live with themselves and so that future generations can look back on their ancestors with love and pride or, at the very least, understanding.


Excerpted from Dilemmas of Growth in Prewar Japan by James William Morley. Copyright © 1971 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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Table of Contents

  • Frontmatter, pg. i
  • Contents, pg. v
  • FOREWORD, pg. vii
  • CHAPTER I. Introduction: Choice and Consequence, pg. 1
  • CHAPTER II. The Bureaucracy as a Political Force, 1920-45, pg. 33
  • CHAPTER III. Retrogression in Japan's Foreign Policy Decision-Making Process, pg. 81
  • CHAPTER IV. The Failure of Military Expansionism, pg. 107
  • CHAPTER V. The Radical Left and the Failure of Communism, pg. 139
  • CHAPTER VI. Rural Origins of Japanese Fascism, pg. 181
  • CHAPTER VII. The Economic Muddle of the 1920’s, pg. 211
  • CHAPTER VIII. Big Business and Politics in Prewar Japan, pg. 267
  • CHAPTER IX. Intellectuals as Visionaries of the New Asian Order, pg. 319
  • CHAPTER X. Nakano Seigo and the Spirit of the Meiji Restoration in Twentieth-Century Japan, pg. 375
  • CHAPTER XI. Ōyama Ikuo and the Search for Democracy, pg. 423
  • CHAPTER XII. Japan and Germany in the Interwar Period, pg. 461
  • CHAPTER XIII. What Went Wrong?, pg. 489
  • CONTRIBUTORS, pg. 511
  • INDEX, pg. 515

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