Japan and the Shackles of the Past

ISBN : 9780199845989

R.Taggart Murphy
472 ページ
162 x 242 mm
  • Sweeping, magisterial historical account of Japan from the feudal era to the present day by a leading scholar of Japan
  • Features a powerful analysis of contemporary Japanese society, politics, and culture as well as its economy
  • Focuses in particular on the history of the US-Japan relationship, and what the prospects for it are going forward

Should we care about Japan anymore? It has a long history and a rich artistic heritage; kids today can't seem to get enough of its popular culture; and it is supposed to be America's number one ally in Asia-Pacific. But Washington treats the place with something between absent-mindedness and contempt, and while some fret that Tokyo could drag the US into an unwanted confrontation with China, it has otherwise essentially disappeared from the American radar screen.
A quarter-century ago, Tokyo's stock exchange was bigger than New York's and the Japanese industrial juggernaut seemed destined to sweep all before it. Now, Japan is seen as a has-been with a sluggish economy, an aging population, dysfunctional politics, and a business landscape dominated by yesterday's champions. Does it even matter today except as an object lesson in how not to run a country? R. Taggart Murphy argues that yes, we should care about Japan and, yes, the country matters-it matters very much. Murphy concedes that with the exception of its pop culture, Japan has indeed been out of sight and out of mind in recent decades. But he argues that this is already changing. Political and economic developments in Japan today risk upheaval in the pivotal arena of Northeast Asia; parallels with Europe on the eve of the First World War are not misplaced. America's half-completed effort to remake Japan in the late 1940s is unraveling in ways that will not be to Washington's liking-ironic, since the American foreign policy and defense establishment is directly culpable for what has happened.
Murphy traces the roots of these events far back into Japanese history and argues that the seeming exception of the vitality of its pop culture to the country's supposed malaise is no exception at all but rather provides critical clues to what is going on now. Along the way, he shares insights into everything from Japan's politics and economics to the texture of daily life, gender relations, the changing business landscape, and both popular and high culture. He places particular emphasis on the story of the fraught, quasi-pathological US-Japan relationship, arguing that it is central to understanding Japan today - and to the prospects for continued American global hegemony.


Introduction: Does Japan Still Matter?
Part One: Past

Chapter One: Japan Before the Edo Period.
Chapter Two: The Incubation of the Modern Japanese State.
Chapter Three: Restoration to Occupation
Chapter Four: The Miracle
Chapter Five: The Institutions of High-speed Growth
Chapter Six: Consequences (Intended and Otherwise)
Part Two: Present

Chapter Seven: Economy and Finance
Chapter Eight: Business
Chapter Nine: Social and Cultural Change
Chapter Ten: Politics
Chapter Eleven: Japan and the World
Suggestions for Further Reading


R. Taggart Murphy is Professor and Program Chair of the MBA Program in International Business at the Tokyo campus of the University of Tsukuba. He is the author of award-winning books on modern Japan and a number of articles in publications from the New Republic to the National Interest and the New Left Review. A former investment banker, he has also taught at the university's main campus, was a Non-Resident Senior Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and is a coordinator of the web's leading clearing-house for serious writing on Japan, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.

"Tag Murphy knows so much about Japan that he can be elegantly spare and thematic in his analysis. He clearly loves the people there so much that he can be highly critical of many of their institutions. He is so serious about the country that he can be playful and earthy in his approach. This is a very well-informed, equally well-written book that I highly recommend to anyone dealing with or thinking about Japan." --James Fallows, The Atlantic

"When I started visiting Japan in the early 1990s, I looked for a book that would explain to me the country's history. I wasn't interested in what restaurant to visit, or in a dry recitation of dynastic succession, but in the historical interplay of the country's politics, economics, and culture, Taggart Murphy, who previously wrote a definitive study of Japan's bubble economy, has written that book, and it comes as well with a provocative thesis about the breakdown of the American relationship with Japan. Anyone interested in Japan or in the U.S.-Japan relationship should read this book." --John Judis, Senior Editor, The New Republic

"Japan is not a free country, and this book tells you why. It is present-day Washington's biggest and most significant vassal, dwarfing any European country. It has adopted America's enemies to its own detriment, inviting future disaster for the region and possibly the world. By the time that Murphy's book gets to that crucial part of recent history, not yet told in any other book, he readies the reader for these shackles by offering a tapestry of the integrated political-economic strands, along with cultural institutions, under the feet of Japan's bureaucrats, politicians, bankers and industrialists." --Karel van Wolferen, author of The Enigma of Japanese Power

"Murphy sheds much light on Japan's current dependence upon the U.S. for maintenance of its political system and its future prospects, closing with an in-depth analysis of the current administration." --Publishers Weekly