Japan and the Shackles of the Past
R. Taggart Murphy (著)
Should we care about Japan anymore? It has a long history and a rich artistic heritage; kids today can’t seem to get enough of its popular culture; and it is supposed to be America’s number one ally in Asia-Pacific. But Washington treats the place with something between absent-mindedness and contempt, and while some fret that Tokyo could drag the US into an unwanted confrontation with China, it has otherwise essentially disappeared from the American radar screen. A quarter-century ago, Tokyo’s stock exchange was bigger than New York’s and the Japanese industrial juggernaut seemed destined to sweep all before it. Now, Japan is seen as a has-been with a sluggish economy, an aging population, dysfunctional politics, and a business landscape dominated by yesterday’s champions. Does it even matter today except as an object lesson in how not to run a country?
R. Taggart Murphy argues that yes, we should care about Japan and, yes, the country matters-it matters very much. Murphy concedes that with the exception of its pop culture, Japan has indeed been out of sight and out of mind in recent decades. But he argues that this is already changing. Political and economic developments in Japan today risk upheaval in the pivotal arena of Northeast Asia; parallels with Europe on the eve of the First World War are not misplaced. America’s half-completed effort to remake Japan in the late 1940s is unraveling in ways that will not be to Washington’s liking-ironic, since the American foreign policy and defense establishment is directly culpable for what has happened.
Murphy traces the roots of these events far back into Japanese history and argues that the seeming exception of the vitality of its pop culture to the country’s supposed malaise is no exception at all but rather provides critical clues to what is going on now. Along the way, he shares insights into everything from Japan’s politics and economics to the texture of daily life, gender relations, the changing business landscape, and both popular and high culture. He places particular emphasis on the story of the fraught, quasi-pathological US-Japan relationship, arguing that it is central to understanding Japan today – and to the prospects for continued American global hegemony.
Murphy is very persuasive in building a case for his solutions for bringing real change to Japanese politics and foreign relations … The most fundamental of his prescriptions, though, is undeniably necessary: the Japanese government and people must, for their own sake “confront what put their country in the hands of those who destroyed its independence and made it a byword abroad for brutal, inhuman fanaticism. Trying to bury accounts of what actually happened with fables of a pure and virtuous land, as Abe seeks to do, is simply a way of making it more likely that something similar will happen again soon”. (Morgan Giles, Times Literary Supplement)
Without doubt, this is the most important book on Japan by a non-Japanese writer to have appeared in the last two decades. It should be required reading for anyone professing to know Japan or wishing to teach others about it. (BCCJ Acumen, Ian de Stains OBE)
[An] insightful analysis of what ails Japan. (Economist)
Taggart Murphy knows his Japanese history. His theories about Japan’s political economy shed interesting light on the country. (Financial Times, David Pilling)
Japan and the Shackles of the Past is an excellent ― and engagingly written ― introduction to Japan, and a thought-provoking work of political and economic analysis (with quite a few lessons for America and other nations, too). (Complete Review)
Murphy sheds much light on Japans current dependence upon the U.S. for maintenance of its political system and its future prospects, closing with an in-depth analysis of the current administration. (Publishers Weekly)
Taggart Murphy has crafted a precise and highly critical analysis of Japan’s problems. (Satyajit Das, Naked Capitalism)