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Japan is a subprime culture, whose cultural landscapes are unduly leveraged, from within and from without, until it looks like a culture of global importance. Who is accountable for this bubble culture? How did it develop?
In his new book "Soft Power and Its Perils," Takeshi Matsuda shows the US occupation policy of postwar Japan had carefully nurtured pro-American, pro-democracy intellectuals, who nonetheless proved to be self-serving, self-aggrandizing elitist leaders, who fundamentally failed to understand the larger meaning and ideas of democracy, such as social justice and regional equity. The Japanese were only smart and quick enough to learn the technique of soft power that relied on multilateral promotion of cultures.
The strength of this book is sure-footed empirical robustness, which comes from the Wisconsin school of history, where Matsuda was trained to challenge other schools. And his soft power study constitutes a double challenge - one for Harvard school of social sciences, and the other for new-history historians. As a Wisconsin historian, his approach is rather orthodox - a positivist, archive-reading, fact-seeking style as opposed to Harvard scholarship that tends to unfurl a theoretical dragnet too wide, as if to grapple the whole universe, which is to say an academic adventure complicit with America's imperial misadventure.
On the other hand, Matsuda challenges himself, with his expertise in US diplomatic history, to enter into an uncharted territory of foggy monsters, where he battles with what the new-history writers overlook, a defiant pattern of power, which often poses as an overwhelming complexity of political, cultural, and economic power.Read more ›
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