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Selected Essays

by John W. Dower

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1-56584-067-4
Publisher: New Press

 Here, Dower (War Without Mercy, 1986, etc.) offers a collection of essays on Japan and its complex relations with the US over the past half century--a period that roughly corresponds to the reign of Emperor Hirohito. While most of the pieces have been previously published in academic journals, they afford accessible perspectives that go provocatively against the grain of received wisdom on a nation whose economic accomplishments have set the West scrambling for explanations--and scapegoats. Drawing on a host of nontraditional sources (cartoons, movies, rumors, subversive graffiti, and other aspects of popular culture or public opinion), Dower offers a decidedly contrarian appraisal of the Asian powerhouse. He sets the tone in his lead piece, ``The Useful War,'' which makes a persuasive case that the estimable enterprise and productivity of Japan's business establishment dates back to the early stages of WW II, when the military was in charge, and not to the postwar era, during which Allied occupation forces introduced democratic reforms. Nor does the author put much stock in either community or consensus theory: From the 1931 Manchurian Incident through the height of WW II and beyond, he shows that potential revolutionary dissent, tension, and turmoil have been hallmarks of Japan's putatively harmonious society. Covered as well are grassroots perceptions of the atomic bomb; the desultory efforts of Japan's armed services to develop nuclear weapons prior to V-J Day; the policies of ex-P.M. Shigeru Toshida (who made subordinate independence a keystone of his country's foreign policy); and the role that racial antagonisms still play when Tokyo and Washington seek to do business with one another. Challenging views of a land whose industrial and sociopolitical institutions may well defy conventional analysis. (Profusely illustrated throughout with line drawings, stills from propaganda films, political cartoons, and posters, as well as a wealth of tabular material)