REMAKING JAPAN: The American Occupation As New Deal by Theodore Cohen

REMAKING JAPAN: The American Occupation As New Deal

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A worldly-wise memoir that offers fresh perspectives on the genesis of Japan's post WW II emergence as an economic superpower. Cohen, who died in 1979, was an Occupation insider, serving as civilian labor chief in MacArthur's storied command. His vivid chronicle spans a critical era that ran from 1943 through the early 1950's, when the island-nation once again became self-supporting. Well before the end of hostilities in the Pacific theater, Cohen recounts, New Deal planners were preparing position papers that contemplated the breakup of Japan's financial combines, a purge of big business, encouragement of trade unions, and other liberal objectives. By and large, he judges, the typically conservative military men charged with democratizing a semi-feudal society did well in a not wholly congenial assignment. Indeed, many became more dedicated than their progressive masters to social engineering. By 1949, Cohen reports, effective control of the Japanese economy has passed from the occupation forces to Washington, where budget-conscious political appointees and bureaucrats were bent on saving money for American taxpayers. By the author's account, this transfer of power (which was little noted at the time) had substantive long-term consequences. With the benefit of hindsight, he argues that US authorities' insistence on a fiscally orthodox recovery was both premature and ill-advised, undermining reforms which were instituted but never fully implemented. At any rate, Cohen concludes, the occupation's eventually expedient policies alienated working-class Japanese; the bottom-line results were ""an emotionally divided public and an incomplete alliance."" Cohen makes clear that, on balance, America played a catalytic and indispensable role in Japan's dramatic revival. Whether the US may have lost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn the comeback to better advantage is the central issue in his nuanced big-picture overview, informed by a wealth of sharply focused close-ups of great events.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan