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History Japan and the Shackles of the Past

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  • 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 ageing 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 unravelling in ways that will not be to Washington's liking-ironic since the American foreign policy and defence 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

About the author:

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.

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R. Taggart Murphy
Oxford University Press
Year of publication
2016 (reprint)
Number of pages
4,609 JPY

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