- Series: Japan in the Modern World
- Hardcover: 358 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (March 28, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765607670
- ISBN-13: 978-0765607676
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,250,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence (Japan in the Modern World) 1st Edition
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From Library Journal
The author or editor of numerous books on Asia (e.g., Democracy in Contemporary Japan, M.E. Sharpe, 1986) and a professor at Australian National University, McCormack here scrutinizes the political economy, national identity, and war remembrances of Japan in an attempt to understand an apparently successful economic model with its own unique problems. The author has spent years studying and working in Japan, and it is evident that he knows the country well. Some of the more intriguing war legacies he relates are the "Shinjuku Bones Affair" (bones of prisoners tortured and killed at a military hospital during World War II are discovered years later) and the "left-behind children" of the Manchukuo area of China. Finally, we are left with a plea for zero population growth and more equitable economic distribution. Not a Japan-bashing book, McCormack's work is well documented, with extensive footnotes. Recommended for economics collections.?Lisa K. Miller Paradise Valley Community Coll. Lib., Phoenix
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
"It is to McCormack's great credit that he diagnosed so well Japan's condition... when it was still possible to refer to Japanese affluence without irony. Now that that is no longer the case, his careful analyses are all the more compelling; for we must acknowledge that Japan once provided world history with an astonishingly successful version of capitalism. Even at its height, or rather, especially at its height, McCormack shows, this success was blighted at its core, being unsustainable." - From Norma Field's Foreword"
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McCormack, fluent in Japanese and deeply interested in the society he'd chosen to study for life, delves deeply into the underside of the economic "miracle" and--surprise, surprise--finds out that Godzilla might have feet of clay. But if anyone thinks that mine is a snide comment, let me hasten to say that he proves that he has every reason to doubt. The book is divided into several sections. In the first, he argues that "Japanese expansion has outrun the social and political structures necessary to determine social priorities and needs and has begun to threaten the fragile ecosystem." That is, such a giant boom was not sustainable. He analyzes three areas: construction, leisure, and farming, noting the way the first two impact the third. The use of state-financed construction of public works (whether necessary or not) and the encouragement of vast "leisure" areas for a population rather deprived of actual leisure time (areas whose construction helped destroy the environment of a not very large country) have wreaked havoc on the Japanese environment and depleted farming land. Though not an expert on these matters, I very much appreciated that McCormack used JAPANESE sources for his arguments and did not indulge in "Japan-bashing" from afar. The book goes on to discuss Japanese identity and the ins and outs of being a "peace state", that is, one without a formal military (though Japan's "self-defense force" is one of the major militaries of the world). I think this section is usefully connected to the first part of the book because knowing who you are and where you want to go help a nation to decide its long-term goals. The last part of the book, on Japan's treatment of its past, especially World War II, may be accurate and compelling, but seemed to me to be tangential to "the emptiness of affluence". However, a country that cannot unwind itself from its mid-20th century imperialist vision, that is led by people with the same mindset, cannot find a proper path to that more sustainable affluence that McCormack and many Japanese scholars envision. Now that China has become an enormous power---not really foreseen in this book---the chickens may come home to roost. This is a most serious study of Japan. If you'd like the background to Japan's current malaise, you've definitely come to the right place.
Disclosure: I was a colleague of Gavan McCormack's a couple decades ago at La Trobe University. I have not seen him or contacted him in 25 years and so have no reason to praise without merit. He always seemed to be determinedly iconoclastic and not one to take sides easily. His view of Japan was not the usual one found in Australia. In this case, I think time has proven him to be right.