S-Space Graduate School of International Studies (국제대학원) Institute for Japanese Studies(일본연구소) Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies vol.6 no.1(2020)
“Meiji versus Postwar” in Cold War Japan: The Emergence of Economic Nationalism in the 1960s
- Lee, Kyunghee
- Issue Date
- Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol.6 No.1, pp. 67-93
- Meiji Restoration centennial; Takeuchi Yoshimi; modernism; the national issue; modernization; modernization theory; Meiji versus postwar; economic nationalism
- This is a revised and translated version of the author’s Korean article “Naengjŏn’gi Ilbon ŭi ‘Meiji vs chŏnhu’: 1960-nyŏndae kyŏngje naesyŏnŏllijŭm ŭi taedu,” published in Ilbon sasang [Journal of Japanese thought] 36 (2019), with the permission of Ilbon Sasangsa Hakhoe [Korean Association for Japanese Thought].
- In the 1960s, Takeuchi Yoshimi urged a public debate over the “Meiji Restoration centennial.” Concerned about the potential for the marginalized and suppressed “national perspective” to emerge as “ultranationalism,” Takeuchi called on the “pro-West” and “pro-Japan” factions to jointly seize the initiative with respect to the “national issue.”
The discourse surrounding the “Meiji Restoration centennial” in the 1960s initially developed relative to its encounter with American modernization theory, provoking a “Meiji boom,” or the idea that the Meiji era was a “successful case of modernization” (Meiji = modernity). Meanwhile, debates over the Meiji centennial were preceded by those over the “postwar vicennial.” Following declarations of “the end of the postwar” and a progressive “transformation” in the social and economic structure of the nation, the notion of “postwar” became synonymous with “democracy.” Engaging with these developments, the discourse on the Meiji centennial passed into a new phase defined by the question: “Is it [more important to celebrate the] Meiji [centennial] or the postwar [vicennial]?” The debate thus evolved into a conflict between establishment and antiestablishment factions. It was at this time that Takeuchi retracted his comments on the Meiji centennial.
Ultimately, it was economic nationalism, rather than the “ultranationalism” (kageki na nashonarizumu) that had concerned Takeuchi, that emerged as the dominant discourse to accompany the Meiji centennial. This new form of ultranationalism was based upon the intellectual and material developments that accompanied the ascendant contexts of modernization theory, “transformation,” and high economic growth during the 1960s. Takeuchi’s attempt to seize the initiative regarding the national issue through debate over the Meiji centennial was thus interrupted before the effectiveness of his idea to create a more progressive nationalist discourse could be realized. With the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration in 2018, concerns over “ultranationalism” have once again emerged alongside the “intellectually sterile” idea of “Meiji versus postwar.” A return to the unfinished debate of the 1960s thus also holds significance for contemporary Japan.