Total War Mobilisation and the Transformation of the National Public Sphere in Japan, 1931–45

  • Kyu Hyun Kim
Part of the Mass Dictatorship in the Twentieth Century book series (MASSD)


This chapter examines the transformation of the Japanese national public sphere (kokumin kōkyōken) during the decade and a half between 1931 and 1945 in relation to the rise of mass dictatorship in the specifically Japanese context. What I attempt to do here is make a small contribution not only to the much larger debates on the elusive and complicated nature of the state-society relationship in 1930s and early 1940s Japan but also to developing the conception of mass dictatorship as a theoretical framework through which to assess the often seemingly self-contradictory character of state mobilisation and its effect on social life in Japan during this period, especially on the public-private demarcation and the distinction between mobilisation and consent, or voluntary activism. The present essay will attempt to suggest directions for examining (1) the growth and transmutation of the state organs and apparatuses that sought to dismantle the critical function of the public sphere and ‘engulf’ civil society; (2) the accompanying ideological articulations of the ‘totalistic’ state-society relationship (whether ‘fascist’ or not) expected to suppress or eradicate critical functions of the public sphere and monopolise the discourse on nationhood; and (3) the critical counterdiscourse that nonetheless continued to emerge in the shifting national public sphere and challenge the totalising claims of the Japanese state.


Civil Society Public Sphere Total Mobilisation Japanese State Imperialist Project 
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© Kyu Hyun Kim 2013

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  • Kyu Hyun Kim

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