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From WFC are five College Radio in Amherst Massachusetts. We present Japan 1868 through 1968. This year has been officially designated as the centennial of the beginning of the modernization of Japan and this is the 12th of a series of broadcasts with John a Machian professor of government and vice dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Massachusetts. The title of today's broadcast is Japan the new society. Professor Markey in this broadcast I would like to discuss some of the changes that have come over the face of Japan Society sence 1945. In a sense the last well approximately a quarter of a century has been what might be described as the most recent chapter in Japan's process of modernization by way of a general introduction. I would like to take a quick look backward to
approximately the first quarter of Japan's modern century. The period that I emphasized at the beginning of this series between roughly 1870 and the end of the 19th century. You will recall perhaps that I describe this period as a transitional one one during which Japan built the foundation for they transition from a pre-modern feudal society to a modern national society. I suppose that this period from 1870 to 1900 could be described as one of institution building. I emphasized that Japan created a modern government a centralized bureaucratic form of government. During this earlier period Japan built the necessary foundation of industrialization for a modern economy
and that in a very real sense Japan created for itself what could be described in the terms of 1900 as a modern society. Japan did develop well modern cities. There were a lot of non modern features about those cities at the time. On the other hand the basic structure of a modern urban concentration characterized Japan at that particular time. There was also the building up of a system of mass communication and going right along with it was the system of mass education. And indeed Japan developed during that period and many new ways of life ways of life that were strange to Japanese history and that certainly had not been developed inside the country ways of life that obviously were of western origin. On the other hand as I emphasized earlier the foundation of this new society in Japan was
very definitely the traditional. There were many elements which were very consciously kept by the leaders of modern Japan as the core as the unifying Well theme around which this new society in Japan was being developed. Now this last quarter of a century that is from roughly one thousand forty five down to today it has also been what can be described as a transition period in Japan's history. And this has been and indeed perhaps still is a transition from a modern authoritarian society to a modern democratic society. In other words you might say that the general well the prevailing theme of Japanese society has been shifting from authoritarian to Democratic. And Japan's authoritarian
society was again an almost automatic development out of Japan's traditional past and to call Japan's modern society an authoritarian society is in many respects a purely descriptive term and not a term well known seeing the content of that society. On the other hand certainly many things that took place in Japan from roughly 930 down to 1945 were just as authoritarian and therefore I suppose worthy of a political denunciation as were things in other authoritarian societies again during this 20th century. Now I would like to outline some of the changes that have come over the face of Japan in a very brief period of slightly under a quarter of a century. In one of the areas of Japanese life that has been perhaps most profoundly
affected by this change is the political area in which there has been the development of a Japanese variation on the theme of democracy. Japan's democracy is not a perfect democracy. Japanese students of Japanese society would perhaps be the first to say that Japan's democracy has a long ways to go yet. On the other hand perhaps it could be argued that no democracy is a perfect one. But on the other hand it is a characteristic feature of all democratic societies modern democratic societies that we have observed to strive for perfection that is perfection as defined in democratic terms. Now on the other hand I think it is clear beyond any question that Japan does have the basic features of any democratic society. Now under the constitution of
1947 which as I emphasized earlier grew out of a desire on the part of the occupation to have a democratic fundamental law for Japan but a constitution of soul that became very rapidly integrated into the Japanese political way of life. That Constitution guarantees the Japanese people all of the fundamental human rights that is all of the basic freedoms that are familiar to any democratic society. Now not only does that guarantee exist in the written document of the 1947 constitution but it exists in real life. That is to say the Japanese do enjoy the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed in the Constitution. It is not simply this guarantee is not simply that it exists. Well on paper. Now also Japan does
have a system of responsible government that is to say the political and governmental leaders of Japan and the party that they represent parties that they represent must regularly go to the people for election. Now it so happens that under the peculiar development of contemporary Japanese politics a series of conservative parties have dominated Japanese government and the political scene since the end of the second world war with one very brief exception. Back in one thousand forty seven when the Socialist Party was very briefly and shakily in power. Now many Japanese observers of the Japanese political scene feel that it is a weakness of Japan's system of responsible government that conservative parties and particularly one conservative party the Liberal Democratic Party have enjoyed. Well virtual monopoly on government.
Inside Japan. Now on the other hand this party and the government that it has controlled both have been responsible responsible in the sense that they have or their members have regularly gone to the polls that the government has not attempted in any way to control the outcome of either particular he lections or of the election in general. And so it can be said very definitely that the party that rules Japan has been in power because it has been able to command the support of a majority of the Japanese people. Now on the other hand it is interesting to note that under Japan's political system the dominant liberal Democratic Party failed for the first time to win a majority of the popular vote. Polling just under 49 percent in the election last general election which was held almost
exactly a year ago. This result came about from the fact that the rival minority parties were able successful late to eat into the majority that the party had been able to control. Up to that time. Now also this system of responsible government that characterizes Japan's democracy. Obviously it reflects another extremely important element of any democratic political system namely the responsible exercise of the right of suffrage by the electorate of Japan. Now Japan does have a system of universal suffrage. Women wear and franchised in one thousand forty six at the order of the occupation but this enfranchise much of the population is written into the constitution of 1947. Now the responsibility of the
exercise of the suffrage is well demonstrated among other things by the fact that in all elections there has been an average turnout of between 70 and 75 percent. And this again indicates that the Japanese electorate appreciates the importance of this fundamental democratic political act of the casting of the ballot. Now also this democracy new democracy inside Japan is the other side of the coin of authoritarianism. In other words as I emphasized in the previous broadcast the authoritarian features of Japanese society particularly the political system. These things were eliminated by the occupation. On the other hand it was demonstrated very rapidly and deed that the Japanese people themselves welcomed the elimination of these authoritarian features. Indeed it was the very
strength of the rejection of the recent authoritarianism in Japan that lent a great deal of the strength to the new democracy that was introduced into the country. Now also another extremely important political characteristic of Japan since 1945 has been the extremely strong wave of pacifism that has motivated Japanese society almost without exception. In other words there has been this very strong rejection as I indicated earlier of war war in general. The resort to war as an instrument of national policy and of course this feature of militarism that unfortunately was so characteristic of the first three quarters of Japan's modern century. Now this pacifism is not simply a moral failing on the part of the majority of the Japanese. It is one of the most
important Well political considerations within the country. No individual candidate or no political party in Japan can afford to take a position that seems to be a modification of pacifism. In other words the Japanese people as a result of their bitter lesson in the Second World War have felt that they can do nothing which would bring them close to the brink of another conflict whether it would be one inspired by acts of their own or by acts of a government with which it might be associated. And indeed it is this spirit of pacifism that has created inside Japan a very considerable reaction against the security arrangement with the United States a security arrangement that is as it has existed since 1951. Now on the other
hand one of the more significant developments inside Japan over the last couple of years has been an indication that both the government and an important segment of the Japanese population have been forced to rethink their position on pacifism and particularly on the state of constitutional disarmament that Japan has been in now sense. Well 1947. I say constitutional disarmament because of the fact that the Constitution in the famous Article 9 of the Constitution provides that Japan will have no land sea or air forces. On the other hand Japan does possess today a military organization which is referred to by the title the self-defense forces. These are military
forces in everything save name. They are small but they are efficient. But in addition to that they seem to be defensive in other words it seems impossible that these forces could be utilized for purposes of military aggression. As the old Japanese military establishment was used. Now these forces came into existence as a result of the development of a very real and undeniable situation around Japan. What I am referring to specifically is the fact of the Korean conflict which went on from 1950 to 1953. A major military conflict the fighting front of which was just a couple of hundred miles away from Japan itself. Now this Korean conflict was not a conflict carried out in a vacuum but it was a manifestation of the
confrontation as of the early 1950s between the communist world and the so-called free world. And this was has been of course in political terms and in military terms the great fact of postwar international politics and Japan has not been able to isolated itself from this international situation and reluctantly the Japanese government did create these self-defense forces in apparent violation of a constitutional provision. Now these defense forces have been the source of a great deal of controversy inside Japan but in general their existence has been accepted although extremely reluctantly by many Japanese. Now the complicating factor that I referred to a few moments ago has developed across the way in China where the Chinese communist government has been carrying out
atomic tests of its own culminating recently within the year in the explosion of an H-bomb device of some kind. Now the Japanese have regarded these developments with a very great deal of concern and for the first time there have been indications inside Japan that the country may be considering a stepping up of its military strength again in purely defensive terms. A few Japanese have even very cautiously raised the possibility of Japan's joining the nuclear arms club. Japan incidentally has a well-developed atomic industry for peaceful purposes but of course has for very obvious reasons not dared to venture into the field of nuclear armaments. While I stress this element of pacifism in the Japanese political
scene not simply because of its own intrinsic interest but because it is another mark of the extent of change that has come over the face of the Japanese political scene in less than a quarter of a century. No I would like to shift away from an examination of the order of political change inside Japan and take a brief look at what has come to be universally referred to as the economic miracle of Japan. Now what are the general components of this economic miracle. Well in the first place I think the first element the could be should be emphasized is something that is taken place and has already been completed. And that was the period of economic reconstruction that took place between the end of the war and approximately 1955.
Now considering the amount of devastation and destruction that was visited on Japan's economic structure by the end of the war in one thousand forty five. The fact that that economy could be reconstructed could be gotten back into effective operation in the space of approximately 10 years was indeed a remarkable achievement. Now on the other hand it is obvious that this economic operation was more or less mechanical mechanical in the sense that certain physical things in the way of reconstitution and reorganization had to be carried out and were carried out successfully by the Japanese government by the business sector herd the labor sector and the Japanese people in general. Now as striking as that aspect the aspect of reconstruction of Japan's economic miracle may have been what has captured the
attention of the world since 1955 is a combination of other economic elements. Of course one of the most outstanding features of Japan's economy particularly since about 1955 has been the extremely high rate of economic growth. A rate of economic growth that in very recent years the last four or five years has been averaging around 10 percent per year. And in the years before that from 1055 into the early 1960s was at an even higher rate. Now this is one of the highest growth rates of any economy in the world. And incidentally it was a growth rate based on an already well developed economy. So it is not the fact that a percentage increase in an underdeveloped
economy has hit a high level. But the fact that an already developed economy has been going ahead very rapidly indeed. Now one of the more obvious manifestations of this high rate of economic growth has been the development inside Japan. Again since about one thousand fifty five of a consumer economy of a true mass market. Now in other words the general health and well-being of the Japanese economy taken in general has been reflected in the development of a very high rate of prosperity for the people in general. And well to sum it up very briefly indeed the Japanese people today are better fed. They are better clothed. They are well in a sense better housed Although housing is still a problem inside Japan and they have more
material goods of every kind than has ever been true at any time in all of their long history and beyond any question the Japanese are the best off of any people in all of Asia at the present time. And indeed the general level of their economic well-being is not far below that of the so-called advanced Western economies at the present time. Now also another economic development of considerable significance has been the extremely rapid rate of technological advance technological and scientific advance that has been woven in to this economic miracle. In other words the economic miracle would not have been possible had it not been for technological and scientific advances. But at the same time these advances have been made possible by the rapid development of the Japanese economy in general.
Now what are some of the features of this economy this economic miracle the major components of which I have just outlined. Very briefly indeed. Well one thing that has been a matter of very great significance both economic and political and sociological has been the very high rate of land ownership by the farmers. As I mentioned very briefly in an earlier broadcast it was occupation policy to bring about the so-called land reform enabling the farmers of Japan to own their own land. Now this was one occupation reform on which a significant amount of Japanese attention governmental attention had been devoted. Prior to the end of the war. The Japanese government for a number of decades had been extremely concerned about the
poverty in the countryside and in general the backwardness of Japanese agriculture. And there were plans on paper plans worked out particularly from the late 1930s onward to bring about a fundamental reform in the Japanese countryside. But for obvious reasons namely the complications of the Second World War the Japanese government had never been able to do anything about the projected program of land reform. Now this operation of land reform went ahead very rapidly in the early stages of the occupation. Artificially low prices were established for land and under the conditions of the time the Japanese farmers had the money that enabled them to purchase their land. Now this was an economic development of very considerable importance not simply because of the fact that
some millions of Japanese farm families were able to own their own land. But because it is generally accepted that this is a foundation for the again unprecedented prosperity that the Japanese farmer has been able to enjoy prosperity again that has resulted in some fundamental changes both in the nature of Japanese agriculture and the organization of well shall we call it rural sociology. Now the Japanese farmer has been enjoying as I just said an unprecedented degree of prosperity resulting from the fact that prices for his product have been good. From the fact that for the first time in Japanese history the farmer has been able to work for himself because he has owned his own land. And because of the very significant developments in the well the general technology of Agriculture.
Now also there has been a significant degree of unionization of labor union movement in Japan is very strong and is very active active not only in matter in economic matters matters relating to salaries and working conditions and so forth and so on. But in political affairs as well. Another outstanding Kerry touristic of Japan's postwar economy has been public investment and public savings. Japan all during the modern period has been noted. The Japanese people I should say have been noted for their capacity to save savings which have been important not simply in personal financial terms but because savings constitute very obviously a source of capital capital used again for purposes of the development of the economy. Now finally big business has played an extremely important role in
Japan's suppost 1045 economic development. There is no denying that the large corporation plays a very important role in the economy. Now in the next broadcast I shall conclude this very rapid overview of Japan since 1945 by saying a few things about some striking changes that have come about in Japan Society as a whole. You have just heard a broadcast on the topic of Japan the new society the 12th of a series titled Japan 1868 through 1968 with John MRK professor of government and vice dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Massachusetts. The title of the last broadcast in the series is Japan a century of change. Japan 1868 through 1968 comes to you from WFC are five College Radio in Amherst Massachusetts.
This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
Japan: 1868-1968
Japan: The New Society
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WFCR (Radio station : Amherst, Mass.)
Four College Radio
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Producing Organization: WFCR (Radio station : Amherst, Mass.)
Producing Organization: Four College Radio
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-35-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:22
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Chicago: “Japan: 1868-1968; Japan: The New Society,” 1968-11-23, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2024,
MLA: “Japan: 1868-1968; Japan: The New Society.” 1968-11-23. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Japan: 1868-1968; Japan: The New Society. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from