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Tanaka: The Making of Postwar Japan Paperback – January 3, 2001

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From the Back Cover


Kakuei Tanaka was the most powerful politician in Japan for nearly two decades, and his followers have dominated Japanese politics for most of the country's recent history. Implicated in scandal from the beginning of his career, he was forced from office under a cloud of suspicion and later convicted of bribery, but Tanaka continued to control Japan from behind the scenes. Even after his power waned in the mid-1980s, most Japanese prime ministers continued to operate in the style which he had perfected and taught them.

Tanaka was a self-made man with little education who used corruption and a sharp mind to advance in business and politics. He spent his time with geisha and in the teahouses buying loyalty and power. At the same time, his rough style made him an immensely popular figure with the public. Tanaka's political abilities cannot be doubted, but modern Japan continues to confront his legacy:

# dynamism which helped to build the post-war economic miracle in Japan
# massive spending on public works and public subsidies to assist disadvantaged rural areas which brought Tanaka votes
# policies of expansion and a tolerance of corruption at the root of the serious difficulties the country now faces
# political tactics based on opportunism, money politics and unstable coalitions

This full-length account of the life and times of Tanaka explores the public profile and private power-broking of this controversial and powerful politician, opening up in the process the intimate political history of modern Japan.

James Babb is Lecturer in Japanese Politics at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He has taught in universities in the United States and Japan, and writes a regular column 'Who's Who in Japanese Politics' in the magazine 'Insight Japan'.


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Product Details

  • Series: Profiles In Power
  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (January 3, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0582382157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0582382152
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,427,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yoda on May 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most of the biographies in Longman's "Profiles in Power" series tend to be quite superficial in that they provide a very rudimentary history of their subjects (i.e., educational backgrounds, etc.) and tend to concentrate more on the history of the times as the main subject. It is as if an overview of the times and historical circumstances surrounding the subject almost entirely determined the character's actions and personality. Hence these books tend to be unable to provide an analysis as to why, specifically, different personalities would make different decisions in different in the same historical circumstances. It is as if the period determines the man (or differ, for that matter, from each other). The reader rarely gets a decent insight at how the particular subject differs from others of this time, especially in terms of the policy decisions they make. This is not to say that a historical background is not important, just that it does not explain nearly 100% of the time a character's decisions and policies. This is a serious weakness in Longman "Profiles in Power" biographies of personalities such as DeGaulle and Nasser. The biography of Nasser does this despite the fact that it is considerably shorter than most in the series (about 110 pages versus an average length of around 150 to 180 pages).

This Longman biography differs from most in the series in that it provides unique insights into the subject that are beyond just "the man was formed by the historical circumstances around him" framework. The book is helped especially by the fact that the author, James Babb, is very knowledgeable regarding the personality covered, not just the historical context. Most of the authors of the "Profiles in Power" series are historians with broad historical knowledge of the times.
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By Joe6Pack on April 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To this date there are few good biographies of Japanese politicians available in English. This is one of them, albeit a short one. A lot of space is spent to explain Japan's postwar political system to a student reader (which was redundant for me, but may be still useful to others). Yet the man and his policies are presented vividly enough and in sufficient detail, so to be still useful and readable. Also Japanese sources have been used, which is always a sign of quality and serious research work. Inspite of being somewhat dated it is still a worthwhile read, covering in fact Tanaka's entire life.
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