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Bibliographic Data: Vlastos, Stephen. “Opposition Movements in Early Meiji, 1868-1885.” In The Cambridge History of Japan vol. 5, ed. Marius B. Jansen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989: 367-431.

Main Argument: Why did the oligarchs prevail? "Put simply, they made tactical concessions that reduced the friction between the emerging middle class and the state but crushed movements by socially marginal classes" (426). Also contextual factors: no new impositions from Western imperial powers in the 1870s; opposition movements arose sequentially rather than simultaneously. Even more importantly, "the Meiji reforms destroyed traditional structures of collective action that, if they had remained in place, would have permitted far broader mobilization against the programs of the Meiji government" (431).

Argument, Sources, Examples Peasants not thoughtless rioters: "in the case of the Misaka riots, the villagers considered petitioning the Tokyo government but decided that their appeals would be fruitless and so took matters into their own hands instead. Hence, the apparently irrational 'blood tax' riots and related disturbances stemmed from the peasants' justified fears that political centralization had actually increased their powerlessness and vulnerability to the new government's arbitrary decisions" (372).

Land tax:
- "revision of the land tax must be judged a political as well as an economic success"--compared to the blood tax uprisings, the protests it engendered were tame and orderly affairs
- principal effect was "to equalize and rationalize tax assessments according to market value and thereby to eliminate the arbitrary factor in Tokugawa taxation" (378)
- not everyone benefitted, however, since the tax had to be paid in cash and permitted reductions only if crop loss exceeded half of the harvest, at the same time that it benefitted large farmers and landlords
- local notable farmers (gônô) played a key role in the village protests against the land tax; responsibility for initiating it rested with them, and because they assumed that responsibility they also organized protests, thus making them orderly and restrained
- "the real hardships caused by the Meiji land tax did not readily lead to collective action" because the people who suffered the most were desperately impoverished, but not quite so badly as to become a rural proletariat due to social strictures of benevolence (381)

- the shizoku rebellions failed because "none of the rebellions drew on more than a fraction of the potential recruits to the antigovernment cause" because "the leaders did not develop models of collective action suited to mass mobilization" but rather relied on the methods of the bakumatsu era (401). Only 10 years later, the centralized Meiji government was able to put paid to all of them individually, since they did not act together.

- Freedom and Popular Rights movement failed because "liberals were excluded from power at the time when there was the greatest opportunity for progressive change," weakness and factionalism of the movement versus united oligarchy, but more fundamentally the weakness of Meiji liberalism was "its acceptance of the imperial institution as the fountain of all legitimate political authority" (425). For Vlastos, this reliance on the emperor and the confusion between imperial and democratic relationships is a sign of the "limiting historical conditions" liberals faced: they chose the emperor as a transcendental symbol of progressive politics, but the emperor was also a political actor controlled by the oligarchs.

Bibliographic Data: Iriye, Akira. “Japan’s Drive to Great-Power Status.” In The Cambridge History of Japan vol. 5, ed. Marius B. Jansen et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989: 721-82.

Main Argument: Iriye argues that two things distinguished Japan from its fellow rising modern nation-states: "the emperor system and the military's 'right of supreme command'" (731). He argues that the prestige of the imperial institution gave the Meiji government instant legitimacy, and the fact that the military reported only to the emperor gave it free rein. In other respects, however, "Japanese behavior fitted into the general pattern of the modern Western states" (764). Iriye insists throughout that Japanese imperialism cannot be understood irrespective of its domestic context, partly because "the majority of Japan's leaders and public opinion assumed that all viable modern states were also imperialist" (782).

Argument, Sources, Examples Iriye describes Japan's rise in stages: in the 1870s, the leadership was concerned with establishing "clearly defined geographical boundaries as well as a sense of nationhood on the part of the people living within them" (746-47). "Expansionism" was the watchword of the 1880s, as part of the general sense that Japan was living in a world "red in tooth and claw," in which the weak were very much killed and eaten. The 1880s also saw the rise of the "Asianist" movement and the continental shishi, Japan's own colorful agents of empire a la Gertrude Bell and T.E. Lawrence a generation later. These efforts tended to complicate maneuvers towards treaty revision, but, in Iriye's view, they also "revealed a heightened sense of patriotism that, combined with stronger arms, could eventually be put to use in foreign wars" and thus arguably were not in tension with the government's basic aims, namely military buildup (757). Thus continental and domestic issues became unified after this point, in tandem with the rising importance of foreign trade. After 1895, "imperialism, then, coincided with tarpid industrialization, confirming the prevailing view that all these, as well as great-power status, were part of a single historical development" (771). Even despite the Triple Intervention, however, Japan had gained a seat at the table of the Great Powers and began to play the game along with the rest of them, handily symbolized by its participation in the anti-Boxer intervention five years later.

Critical assessment: I don't think that right of supreme command + emperor system = imperial disaster, and though what Iriye is saying is more complex than that, I also think the picture needs to be complicated considerably more than that. I don't think it's true at all that the Meiji government had instant legitimacy (cf. the Freedom & Popular Rights movement), and if the bureaucracy were sacrosanct one would not have seen the drive for imperial democracy and party government. And while the military did have a dangerously high degree of autonomy, it would be fatuous to say that it was under the control of the emperor, or that the colonial armies were under the effective control of the metropole. Iriye is writing very much in the "tragic mistake" vein, as though the understanding that modern state = imperialist power were all a sad misunderstanding, rather than the order of the day. Which is by no means to excuse Japan or imperialism, but presenting the Meiji leadership as fundamentally misguided in their assessments of the situation does everyone a disservice. To put it another way, a la Eckstein - looking solely at unit-level factors and neglecting the parameters of the system cannot be correct.
Bibliographic Data: Pyle, Kenneth. "Meiji Conservatism." In The Cambridge History of Japan vol. 5, ed. Marius B. Jansen et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989: 674-720.

Argument, Sources, Examples Meiji conservatism was formulated in response to the Japanese Enlightenment, and in particular several of its themes: 1) "negative view of Japan's traditional institutions and the learning that underlay them" (676); 2) stress on "the cultural example of the West" (677); 3) "wholehearted commitment to science, technology, and utilitarian knowledge"; 4) "a new view of humanity with revolutionary implications for society and the state" (678). For the conservatives, the immediate problem was how to anchor traditionalist values: was it confidence in their universal validity, in terms of the new rationalist thought, or was it in a nationalist justification? By the 1890s, Japanese conservatism had become suffused with cultural nationalism, culminating in the jubilation surrounding the Sino-Japanese War. The oligarchs turned to the conservative reform tradition of German thought, since they "needed to find ways to avoid the severe antagonism in society that would undermine the effort to achieve their national goals" (698) and also not coincidentally to legitimate the new order in terms other than natural rights philosophy: thus, the imperial constitution and the emperor-centered state. Economic and industrial policy were also fomented with a clear eye to forestalling social problems (read: Marxism), drawing on the experiences of the West and heavily influenced by Bismarckian ideas. The counterpart of this was a program of conservative reform in the countryside, which Pyle describes as a "pragmatic effort of Japanese conservatives to make limited reforms within a nationalist framework as a means of cushioning society from the traumatic effects of the industrial revolution" and to promote both economic development and social harmony (712). By the end of Meiji, the liberals were in disarray and the conservative reaction had triumphed, because, according to Pyle, "the main themes of the bunmei kaika had lacked a strong social constituency to defend them" (717). Its new social values went against Japanese mores and "above all, were incompatible with the institutions of the countryside where the great majority of the populace had its roots" (717-18), and finally, by the turn of the C20, the West had lost its status as unthinking exemplar. Although the bureaucracy's two fold strategy of pressing for social reforms and relying on local groups to propagate the desired collectivist ethic, overall, "Meiji conservatism methods set a pattern for handling the problems of industrial society that tended under these circumstances to lead to more and more extreme measures" (720).

Further Reading: Bowen, Rebellion and Democracy in Meiji Japan; Gluck, Japan's Modern Myths; Kim, The Age of Visions and Arguments; Fujitani, Race for Empire; Beasley, Japanese Imperialism

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-06 17:30 (UTC)
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
From: [personal profile] lnhammer
Who are these "continental shishi" a la Gertrude Bell and T.E. Lawrence, and what did they do?


(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-06 22:01 (UTC)
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
From: [personal profile] lnhammer
I've seen mentions betimes of Yuan Shi-Kai's advisors (and something like half the bios of leaders of the anti-Qing revolution and early Republic mention time spent studying in Japan), but haven't seen hints of anything earlier. Korea, yes, even before the Sino-Japanese War, but not in China itself.



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Andrea J. Horbinski

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