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The Chrysanthemum and the Sword
The Chrysanthemum and the Sword
by Ruth Benedict
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.04
153 used & new from $0.74

4.0 out of 5 stars In general I think Ruth Benedict does a pretty good job at a difficult task, December 1, 2014
In general I think Ruth Benedict does a pretty good job at a difficult task, trying to assess what caused the Japanese to engage in imperial expansion and why they did it in a way that Americans had a hard time grasping. She did this without actually going to Japan (as she couldn't, it was during the war). Of course, there are generalizations that are probably too broad and she's viewing all of Japanese culture through the lens of its wartime conduct, so read it with that in mind. However, any person that ever spent any significant amount of time in Japan can see that much of what Benedict writes rings true. It's a good book for what it is, a 1940s anthropological piece. Just as an American reading Tocqueville (who engaged in a similar attempt at gaining a "total understanding" of American culture) can find faults with it, Tocqueville remains relevant today, because cultural habits are very difficult to eliminate and even when they change they do so from a deep base of everyday practices that prove remarkably durable. This is true not just of Japan, but for every culture. So while it would be frightening if Japan did not change at all from 1946, that does not mean all of her insights are no longer relevant.

The basic criticisms I usually hear from this book (and there are many) are not very compelling.

1) She didn't do fieldwork in Japan. Yes, but it was during the war and she couldn't. Many scholars manage to get a lot of information without actually going to their field site (since the site is often in inaccessible). They are called historians. So I don't think this should automatically discredit her.

2) Her work has been turned into myth. Yes, but that's not her problem, take that up with the millions of Japanese that have used it to try and understand and essentialize their own culture. Her book has sold far more copies in Japan than in the US. It is also popular in China. This impulse to auto-Orientalize has its own history, but such phenomena happen in the West too, particularly during periods of crisis when people are seeking a stable identity. Witness the Tea Party Movement in the United States and the desire to go back to the works of the founding fathers to discern the "real" American identity. Mythmaking is a constitutive practice of nationalism wherever you are.

3) This does not match up with what I see in Japan. Maybe not everything, but I would really surprised is someone could tell me that NOTHING here is relevant to even contemporary Japan. I think it's just a characteristic of contemporary political correctness that we just cannot acknowledge that cultural differences exist and we have to muddle everything with a "! what about this?" or "Oh, you can't generalize." Well, is that an ideological or empirical argument? I think the former.

Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge
Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $9.99

56 of 176 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-absorbed governor destroys state to fulfill pipe dream of being the second coming of Ronald Reagan., November 28, 2013
Governs for the upper middle class folks of the white-flight suburbs of Milwaukee and their sympathizers only. Dumps on the two engines of Wisconsin (Milwaukee in Madison) at every chance. Punishes friends and rewards enemies. Gov. Walker bought and paid for by a few out of state gajillionaires and sells the state to the highest bidder. Wisconsin: "you're among friends" no longer.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 30, 2013 11:58 AM PST

Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States (Asia/Pacific/Perspectives)
Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States (Asia/Pacific/Perspectives)
Price: $17.27

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't expect academic reserve, October 21, 2013
McCormack is a critical historian of a New Left persuasion. Nothing against this personally, but this book definitely reflects this viewpoint. He is a great scholar on Japan (I haven't heard of Norimitsu before) and this book is admirable as an accessible overview of Okinawa's history and relations with Japan and the US. However, don't expect objectivity. The authors make many social science "no-no's," one of which is to impute motivations for actors that you don't have evidence for. This stretches the boundaries of interpretive license into a political agenda. The authors often say things like "No doubt this was what many in Washington thought as well," or "Hatoyama was rebuffed in a way no ally has even been." These assertions are just that, assertions, and until evidence is marshalled to prove them they will remain unsubstantiated.

The authors also assume that if the US-Japan would "equalize" or that the alliance would crumble altogether, a new zone of peace and prosperity in East Asia would flourish. They seem to assume that China is basically friendly with everyone, North Korea doesn't exist, Russia doesn't matter, and that an East Asian version of the EU is right around the corner. Maybe so, but darker scenarios could be envisioned as well. "Deterrence" is bandied about as if it was just a smokescreen for American Empire rather than a real security concept that many countries employ...and that includes China. Perhaps Japan and Okinawa will gamble that McCormack is right. Maybe they're wagering that he is wrong, and they actually have more agency in the relationship with the US than he seems to think.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 10, 2014 12:03 PM PST

MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy, 1925-1975
MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy, 1925-1975
by Chalmers A. Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $26.95
120 used & new from $0.03

5.0 out of 5 stars Still the Best, January 28, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book was written 30 years and it is still the most insightful, clear, and well-written book on Japanese politics, economy, and bureaucracy. Johnson based his analysis off of a wealth of primary material and firsthand knowledge, something that is sorely lacking in much of what passes for scholarship on Japan in the Western world. Required reading.

China Modernizes: Threat to the West or Model for the Rest?
China Modernizes: Threat to the West or Model for the Rest?
by R. P. Peerenboom
Edition: Paperback
Price: $24.95
49 used & new from $0.76

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Provocative but Overly Apologetic, November 28, 2010
In an attempt to go against the grain of Western public opinion, Peerenboom's work often sounds like a nuanced apologia for the shortcomings of the Chinese government (party and state) than of a detached intellectual view. Much of the premise of this book seems to be that human rights are contingent on the level of economic development and social stability in a country. While this may seem reasonable on the surface, some of Peerenbloom's claims are Panglossian. The author's remarks on the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) could have been published by the Information Office of the Chinese Communist Party. He severely understates the level of oppression in Tibet in particular and views cultural destruction as something of a non-issue.

I gave this book three stars because it does bring up some valid arguments about the importance of considering the economic and sociocultural context of a country when looking at such things like human rights. Peerenboom is right to highlight some of the areas where China has made progress and to marshal evidence against reflexive China-bashers. However, in some areas his conclusions are questionable and biased in favor of presenting China in a positive light.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 17, 2012 10:19 AM PDT

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