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Bibliographic Data: Han, Jung-sun N. An Imperial Path to Modernity: Yoshino Sakuzo and a New Liberal Order in East Asia, 1905-1937. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Main Argument: This study argues that
Perceiving the tacit relationship between liberalism and the imperialist order, the Japanese chose to conform to liberal ideas and institutions to direct Japan's transformation into an imperialist power in Asia. … Trying to sustain and rationalize the imperial project, Japanese liberals actively sought to make the domestic political stage less hostile to liberal ideas and practices by appealing to the interests of the new middle class. The press was their main instrument of power. Facilitating the creation of print-mediated public opinion, liberal intellectuals attempted to enlist the new middle class as a social ally in circulating liberal ideas and practices within Japan and throughout the empire. (6, 7)

Historiographical Engagement: Najita, Hara Kei; Gordon, Imperial Democracy; Barshay, State and Intellectual; Duus, Party Rivalry and Political Change; Fromkin, The Peace to End All Peace

Introduction: Argument, Sources, Examples Han argues that insufficient attention has been paid to the role of the "newly emerging class of the urban, white-collar labor force" in the era of imperial democracy, and that Japanese liberals more or less consciously adopted and adapted liberalism less as "a political philosophy of liberation than a technology of governance" (6, 8). She notes the scholarly emphasis on "the structural vulnerability of liberal potential within Japan" in that the party politicians were uniformly elitist and weakly committed to the people as such (4). Han looks at the work of Yoshino Sakuzo, held up as "the apostle of democracy in Japan," and argues that this construction ignores the role imperialism played in his life and work.

Chapter 1: Argument, Sources, Examples Han argues that the diffusion of Euro-American-definied cultural norms in Japanese society was facilitated by the development of the new middle class and of commercial mass media, but that the give and take of this process "accentuated the conceptualization of the nation-state as the sole legitimate agent promoting progress and development" (39). Furthermore, she argues, allegedly universal ideas were adopted into a particularistic Japanese context that changed them and their ambit, as in the elitification of Christianity which arose through its spread through the highly stratified educational system: "the Japanese sense of self enmeshed in social hierarchy was reconstructed to make then-universal ideas of progress and development operational within Japan" (ibid).

Chapter 2: Argument, Sources, Examples Han situates Yoshino's intellectual development within "two seemingly oppositional intellectual trends": one, the debate on imperialism of the late Meiji period, in which the major participants who influence Yoshino espoused the nation-state "as the sole rational actor in promoting the concepts of progress and development, which also entailed the system of competitive imperialism" (60). The second was, in point of fact, Tokyo Imperial itself: in Han's view, it was "profoundly shaped by Japan's international status of late developer," and it became "an intellectual center that catered to state-centered ideologies, including the German-inspired social thought hostile to British political economy in all its phases" (ibid). In the context of the Russo-Japanese War, Yoshino conceptualized the "organic state" by fusing the two.

Chapter 3: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter looks at Yoshino's idea of minponshugi and argues that China played a key role in its development, as well as that it "sprang from his search for a rational and efficient governing institution for the Japanese empire" (87). In Han's view, as a consequence of the crisis of late Meiji that was in no small part brought on by the Chinese Revolution of 1911, as well as the isolation of Germany on the world stage, "Yoshino's liberal project aimed at sustaining a competent imperial development by securing the rational and responsible participation of the populace in national and imperial projects," which would "be efficient in creating a collaborative structure abroad, particularly in China" (88).

Chapter 4: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter looks at the challenges to the imperial order after WWI, in response to which the postwar system "enchanted the centrality of nation-states" via the worldwide acceptance of the ideal of self-determination and also promoted the interests of the current economic powers "by reinstating the ideal of the liberal state embedded in the expansion of self-regulating markets" (119). The League of Nations was supposed to exercise as a check on the ambitions both of the powerful and the weak, which was desirable for Yoshino, who perceived Japan as a lesser power and who thought that multilateral approaches were necessary to restrain growing nationalism on Japan's imperial periphery, i.e. Korea and China.

Chapter 5: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter looks at Yoshino's new imperial project as a response to the rising postwar tensions within Japan in the 1920s. Yoshino discovered society and argued that it must be pluralistic--in order to govern a multiethnic and multicultural empire--and in fact he confused society with the ethnic community; "as a result, the new imperial collectivity became vulnerable to the encroachment of the prevalent particularistic and racist terms of Japanese ethnic identity" (151). At the same time, his prewar conception of "organic statism" continued as a deep strain in his thought, leading to the absence of a self-regulating economic body in his imperial project that led to a widening gap between international and Japanese ideas about economic conduct globally. At the same time, Yoshino's project, in its hostility towards Marxist conceptions of society and promotion of gradualist approaches to social reform, "cultivated a social field favorable to state intervention in society in the sense that it contributed to disarming the most systematic social critique of state power" (ibid).

Chapter 6: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter looks at Royama Masamichi, who inherited and transformed Yoshino's vision of parliamentary democracy into what Han characterizes as a "constitutional dictatorship" under the banner of the "cooperative community." This community consisted of a new order in East Asia that would be led by imperial Japan and which would be sustained by collaborative relations between metropole and colony and between China and Japan, which would require "the rational, scientific, and multicultural redefinition of the guiding principles for governing the home country, Japan, and the Orient so as to promote voluntary individual participation in the multiethnic imperial project" (154). In Han's view this was not, for Royama, a tenkô so much as "a rationalization of internationalist liberalism," by which she means "the intellectual process through which the notion of efficient and effective economic development became the supreme ideal of social organization" (155). In Han's argument, the kyôdôtai needs to be understood as "inextricably bound up with the torturous process of internalizing and rationalizing the transnational norms of progress and development through cross-cultural understanding and communication" (186). Since Chinese intellectuals insisted that China was (or should be) a fully-fledged member of the international community, it became necessary for Japanese intellectuals--unable to resist developmental logic--to argue that China was not yet a modern nation-state and thus deserved none of those privileges (thus assuming a single path in world history). This difference between China and Japan was conceived of as a temporal difference in economic development, thus authorizing coprosperity under Japanese leadership, i.e. coexistence. However, in Han's view, precisely because it was a regional solution to nationalism, "the formulation of the idea of kyôdôtai undermined the legitimacy of the existing order and encouraged a rejection of the conditions necessary for the survival of the Japanese empire," i.e. its embeddedness in the global capitalist order (187).

Conclusion: Argument, Sources, Examples Han quotes Gotô Shinpei to reaffirm "the centrality of empire-building in the creation of the liberal, international identity of Japan," and argues that what made Japan distinctive among the early C20 empires was "the manner and degree to which the empire-building process shaped the formation of the liberal project" (188-89). Yoshino's imperial project, the new liberal project, was shaped by the dynamic interplay between transnational and national forces in Han's view. Although the new liberal project failed to address domestic social issues and thus failed to secure popular support, Yoshino and other new liberals provided the intellectual justifications for imperial foreign policy through the 1920s and 30s. They authorized the regionalist turn of the kyôdôtai under the sign of the overall progress and development of international society, and in this respect, "it was less the shallowness or limitations of Japanese liberalism than its rationalization that catalyzed the fall of the Japanese empire" (192).

Critical assessment: This book has several related problems that are all features of its single overarching problem, which is that it never articulates its central intellectual problem and why it matters. As Professor Berry would say, it lacks gravitas, and particularly compared to a book like State and Intellectual in Modern Japan, it's kind of bloodless--as a certain wise scholar said to me, there's never a sense of why people in general thought of Yoshino as the great Japanese democratic hope, so ironically given her remarks in the introduction, Han winds up reiterating the elitism that other scholars have identified in the "liberals" of late Meiji and Taisho. She also never explains why Royama Masamichi is the person to follow of of Yoshino's circle, or to what extent all this theorizing of the cooperative community had any impact on the people who were setting it up, and setting it up to run itself into the ground. There are some good points in here, but they all need to be expanded by a significant percentage, in my opinion. In other words, this is a missed opportunity.

Further reading: Fogel, Politics and Sinology; Jones, Developmental Fairy Tales

Meta notes: But no really, why do we care? The book needs to tell us this.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-21 04:12 (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
its single over aching problem

seems particularly apt in this case

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ahorbinski: shelves stuffed with books (Default)
Andrea J. Horbinski

October 2014

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