Japan’s Industrial Development, 1868-1939: Lessons for Sub-Saharan Africa

  • E. Wayne Nafziger
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


Japan, whose 1868 level of economic development was only slightly more than other Afro-Asian countries, has had the world’s fastest growth in real GNP per capita since then (Nafziger, 1990, pp. 46–7), or second fastest to Sweden if computed through the early 1950s. Africa and Asia are ‘looking East’ to learn development lessons from the major non-Western industrialized country, Japan. With recent US slow growth, ‘modernization’ theorists have emphasized capitalist Japan as an alternative model to the socialist approach.


Cotton Textile Adjustment Program Small Industry Foreign Expert Export Expansion 
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  1. 1.
    Scholars have usually rejected concepts of abrupt historical thresholds like Rostow’s take-off (1971) or Engels’ industrial revolution. Even Kuznets’ modern economic growth (1966), a rapid, sustained increase in real per capita GNP associated with capital accumulation and rapid technical change under private or state capitalism, begins so gradually that its start cannot be dated by a given year or decade. In Japan, we cannot pinpoint the beginnings of modern (or capitalist) growth more precisely than the Meiji reform era of the late nineteenth-century.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Nafziger, 1990, pp. 230–2, discusses possible LDC strategies for more appropriate technology.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    In contrast, independent Siam, which in 1868 faced initial conditions somewhat comparable to Japan, did not establish government factories or provide assistance to private industrial entrepreneurs in the latter part of the nineteenth century.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Calculations are from five-year moving averages from Ohkawa and Shinohara, 1979, p. 86; and Hayami, 1975, p. 228.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1995

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  • E. Wayne Nafziger

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