The Need for Reform in Japanese Politics

Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


At one time it was widely believed by Western observers of Japan that since Japanese culture was situationally relativist rather than individualistic and principled, the Japanese found little difficulty in changing direction fundamentally should the situation demand it.2 It seemed to follow from this that Japan was prone to sudden changes of policy direction, and indeed that the most fundamental structures of politics, such as the current constitution or the political system itself, might be expected to change suddenly in response to new circumstances and pressures. Examples usually cited to support this case were the conversion of dissident samurai during the 1860s from rejection to emulation of advanced Western countries; the shift from semi-parliamentary politics in the 1920s to ultranationalism in the 1930s; and the rapid conversion from Emperor-centred military rule to a broadly liberal and democratic order after 1945.


Political System Electoral System Liberal Democratic Party Coalition Government Government Ministry 
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  1. 2.
    For instance, Herman Kahn, The Emerging Japanese Superstate, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1970.Google Scholar
  2. Kahn’s thinking about Japan was heavily influenced by Ruth Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1946.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    General Douglas MacArthur, US Senate, 82nd Congress, 1st session, Hearings before the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Relations, Military Situation in the Far East, Washington, 1951, pp. 310–13; quoted in Chalmers Johnson, Conspiracy at Matsukawa, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1972.Google Scholar
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    Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Fragile Blossom: Crisis and Change in Japan, New York, Harper and Row, 1972.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Karel van Wolferen, The Enigma of Japanese Power, London, Macmillan, 1989.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    For a comparison of single-party-dominant political systems, see T. J. Pempel (ed.), Uncommon Democracies: The One-Party Dominant Regimes, Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    See L.F. Crisp, Australian National Government, Melbourne, Longman, Green and Co., 1965, Chapter 6.Google Scholar
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    See J.A.A. Stockwin et al., Dynamic and Immobilist Politics in Japan, London, Macmillan, 1988.Google Scholar
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    Stephen Wilks and Maurice Wright, The Promotion and Regulation of Industry in Japan, London, Macmillan, 1991.Google Scholar
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    Kent Calder, Crisis and Compensation: Public Policy and Political Stability in Japan, 1949–1986, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1988.Google Scholar

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© J. A. A. Stockwin 1997

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