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From Foot Soldier to Finance Minister: Takahashi Korekiyo, Japan's Keynes (Harvard East Asian Monographs) First Edition Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674026018
ISBN-10: 0674026012
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Smethurst's biography is a major achievement reflecting some 20 years of work. Not to exclude the general reader--the book is a very good read--Takahashi's biography should interest not only Japanologists, but also students of economic history everywhere. Smethurst admits that it was difficult to balance the anecdotes of Takahashi's adventures with the necessary analysis of his historic accomplishments. He has succeeded, giving us a wise and immensely competent biography of a great Japanese and a vibrant human being. (Rod Armstrong Asahi Shimbun 2008-02-16)

Japan emerged from worldwide economic depression in the 1930s more successfully and quickly than the other modern world economies. Without denying the role of rapid militarization in prompting economic growth, this new biography of Japan's seven-time finance minister shows how Takahashi's countercyclical fiscal and monetary policies overcame a steep deflationary spiral and in the process engineered a remarkable record of growth built on a novel deficit spending approach... In telling Takahashi's story, Smethurst uncovers some of the pushes and pulls shaping Japan's modern economic growth, and it is a story he tells well. (W. D. Kinzley Choice 2008-05-01)

About the Author

Richard J. Smethurst is Professor of History and UCIS Research Professor, University of Pittsburgh.
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Product Details

  • Series: Harvard East Asian Monographs (Book 292)
  • Hardcover: 377 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Asia Center; First Edition edition (September 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674026012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674026018
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.2 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,044,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A fascinating biography, but not without my own points of contention. I have in particular three points of departure from Professor Smethhursts interpretation of the man and the zeitgeist. Number one: Like Chiune Sugihara the famed Japanese diplomat and contemporary of Takahashi, Korekiyo absorbed some fundamental Christian virtues from being exposed to Christianity. The Christian virtues of doing the right thing in-spite of popular or societal opinion; Not being afraid to fail or the fear of public humiliation in having to start over; and the choosing humanitarian values over professional advancement in the all-important Japanese hierarchical pecking order - are not Japanese traits much less Japanese 'Samurai-Bushido' virtues. Number two: The book failed to capture the 'Gambari' Japanese spirit of the time which saw an entire generation of Japanese go from a medieval society to a modern one in less than fifty years. Yes, attacking Pearl Harbor was incredibly stupid, but my grandparents and their peers laboring in the fields of the plantations of Hawaii cheered and were overwhelmed by a sense of pride in witnessing what they understood to be a Japanese David standing up to the racist, bigoted and condescending Franco-Dutch-Anglo-American Goliath who claimed democracy and egalitarianism while in reality practicing economic slavery over their perceived racial inferiors in colonies around the world. Finally, there is a decidedly absent emphasis on what the Manchurian colonial acquisition did for the Japanese economy in 1931-32. In conjunction with Keynesian policies implemented by Takahashi it opened a migration door for thousands of unemployed Japanese who were eager to exploit the newly minted colony. I would, however, definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in biographical reads on fascinating historical personalities.
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Format: Paperback
For anybody interested in Japanese history from 1868 (the start of the Meiji era) till the 1930s, and especially the financial aspects thereof, this fascinating biography is a must-read. One curiosity is the mention of Sir Ewen Cameron (1841-1908), head of the London branch of HSBC and great-great-grandfather of David Cameron the present leader of the UK Conservative party, who assisted Takahashi with loans for the Russo-Japanese War, though the link is not specifically stated. I was also personally disappointed that there was only a brief mention of Kaneko Kentaro who travelled from Japan to the U.S. on the same boat as Takahashi in February-March 1904. (See Masayoshi Matsumura, Baron Kaneko and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05): A Study in the Public Diplomacy of Japan which I translated into English.)

It has taken 20 years to produce this book, and the result is a masterpiece. We follow Takahashi Korekiyo (1854-1936) from humble samurai beginnings all the way to the top of the political ladder - seven times finance minister and once briefly prime minister.
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This is a very well written book - a biography of an almost larger that life character set against a background of tumultuous history, economics and international finance. I highly recommend it.
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Great. Not easily accessible topic.
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