Japan Rising is a text concerned with the eastern rise of power in the contemporary global domain. It was written by the political and cultural historian Kenneth Pyle with regards to the significance of Japan’s turbulent time since the end of the second world war. We will be conducting an analysis of this text in relation to both the external global environment and the internal national environment. The text begins by putting forward the philosophical underpinnings of historical text making.
This is done in relation to the national narratives that force the actions and events of a nation into being. This constitutes the socio-economic conditions as well as ideological and cultural enforces that influence the events and changes belonging to one nation. This acts as the essential background to the history of progression towards the contemporary vantage point that the author places his text. By doing this, Pyle frames his narrative as one belonging to a distinctly Japanese perspective and looks at the socio-historical environments outside of Japan as the others to its own self.
Through encapsulating what is meant by the nation and what is indicative of a reading of its history Pyle then sets out upon a series of themes. Throughout the narrative, Pyle uses thematic elements relating to cultural histories and traditions, all the while denoting the changes in Japan’s structuring by the tools of measurement provides. Although he pays attention to pre-WWII Japan, his main narrative focuses upon the period ranging from the WWII to the contemporary global age.
This is quite a popular route to take in contemporary cultural and historical literature concerning international affairs, due to the significance and various political pressures made real through globalisation. Since this time the post colonial regions have pursued and in some aspects, such as sovereignty, have been successful in finding independence and mutual alliances with other similar post colonial nations. Further, the European empires have allied forming the EU as a supra-national state.
Since this time, America has grown strong in terms of cultural hegemony, while Russia and the eastern block have given over to democracy, capitalism and liberation. China has maintained itself in a more insular way, but has opened itself up to vast industrial development. It is within this rather mainstream global overview of the post WWII international structure that Pyle writes his analysis of themes and relations associated with Japan and offers a re-evaluation of Japan’s significance in both the present and more significantly future of the global world.
Therefore, this text can rightly be canonised as part of the growing discourse related to the global condition. On placing his subject matter within this realm of modern international history in the period of post WWII to present day, Pyle then analyses the culture of Japan from what he deems the move from traditional cultural values and motivations to a new more modernist take on its own identity that is relative rather than coerced by the international order. In this notion, he utilises and elaborates on the philosophical transition that was caused by the treaties and political changes at the end of WWII.
He suggests that this series of events formed as a the driving force in the disbanding of notions of a traditional and national culture belonging to either sovereignty or Asia. The main reason that Pyle gives for abandoning traditional culture and indulging a new process is due to the style of the nation. Further, he extends this to incorporate the real socio-political pressures placed upon Japan by the international community creating a need to allow a superficial national culture to be distributed from the top down rather than be informed by tradition.
Essentially, as national culture is something of a superficial mask that hides the real face of culture it is often rejected or opposed as many other cultural and global theorists have indicated particularly in relation to the post colonies. However, at this time of significant pressure and fragile infra-structure placed upon Japan, many of the separated cultural groups formerly aligned in the notion of traditional Japan became dispersed once more. Pyle outlines the key period in which the genuine traditional culture of the nation changed. He immerses this aside the historical discourse of empire building and invasion.
However, he states that unlike the former colonies who had sanctions imposed and socio-economic structures set up in the image of the coloniser, Japan is situated as a more sentient source of power that utilised its dispersed sources of labour, education and politics. Although he indicates that the nation of Japan gave way to the culture of the invading force and began to adopt its modernist view to international structuring and both technological and cultural progression towards development, he indicates that the elites were empowered by this force and it was not in their interest to challenge it.
Rather, he implies that they saw a potential in this for creating a new direction and scope for Japan in the face of a new international order. This gave emphasis to its own industrial development that could be broken from the Euro-centric powers and its own traditional conservative culture. Essentially, due to its alliance with America through force and the liberal and capitalist principles the US instilled within Japan, the conservative elites were enabled to adopt and perpetuate an emphasis upon progression in its own image. However, the rise of the cold war situation had left many powerful parts of Asia in a state of communist rule.
This led to the cold war period being of major significance in terms of Japanese alliance and rule. Although sanctions had been placed on Japan by western and allied forces during the end of WWII, the cold war situation represented something of a change in the scope of international Asian relations. Pyle marks this in his text by a series of treaties that occurred during this period that were extended by America and that saw the Versailles treaty give way to an alliance on the basis of two separate and distinct sources of cultural and industrial reproduction.
Forms of Euro-centric capitalism were recognised in this period all the while empowering the conservative elite who were able to incorporate liberal attitudes into a national identity. However, this notion of a Japan that was something of a western representative in Asia is scrutinised by Pyle in the period of the 1990s, which he deems as greatly significant in relation to the contemporary notion of the global order. Many of the failings of the Euro-centric model of capitalism were instilled into Japanese national culture.
Pyle uses this notion to situate Japan as beginning to emerge as a nation interspersed with its Asian allies. Two of the two key themes that Pyle refers to at this point is the advancing technological aspect to global consumerism and the growing interconnectivity and exchange of information that this was beginning to represent. He combines this with the dismissal of the Euro-centric duality of socio-political global systems prevalent in the reconstruction of Asia during the cold war. The Asian identity was therefore one of communist and capitalist that ran through all of the post WWII nation states of the world.
Through the liberation and handing back of nations states to their own culture, something that Pyle strongly indicates at the beginning and throughout his text that Japan abstained from, the notion of Euro centric authority became lost in a post colonial embrace of new or emerging cultural identities. However, whereas the post colonies were reconciling a shift in traditional and European nation state in the existential sense, Pyle writes of Japan embracing its own national brand and form of capitalism in the progressive sense.
It is with this shift in global apparatus that Pyle places the significance of Japan’s development of a modernist, unique and highly charged identity and portrays it as powering forth quietly into the global realm; equipped and strong. Ultimately, by having its own form of modernist development that was not inherited by a European model nor infused with a traditional form of industrial development that had been the case prior to WWII and in many respects the twentieth century, Pyle positions Japan as being ready to take on the reform in its own modern terms.
Unbound by tradition and structure, Pyle then refers to a series of comments made by eminent economic and cultural theorists and tacticians related to the future of Japan as a civilising force from the end of the 90s onwards. In doing so, he symbolises the 90s as a catalyst for the new commodities associated with the global conditions, such as human resources and information and production of technology. In this, human relations and progress are twinned with a technologically driven culture based upon direct development severed from troublesome conservative cultural traditions.
This would therefore be threatened by a nation deeply immersed in its own history of cultural tradition. However, as Pyle has indicated that Japan had utilised its cultural position as an outsider in terms of the cold war Asia and a positivist aim towards developing its own industry as a nationalist pursuit, his suggestion is that Japan is consequently highly adapted to incorporating this new domain. Essentially, the identity of the people in relation to a modernist notion of a singular, sovereign and distinct Japanese culture is made crucial to both the insular and exterior socio-economic environment.
Furthermore, this form of fluid Japanese identity is subsequently fit for incorporating global capitalism into what had become an industrial Japanese form of capitalism. It would appear that this is the main overarching theme of Pyle’s text in relation to the current international order incorporating the fields of international politics, modern history, globalisation and cultural theory. The strength of this text is its cultural and historical significance in the contemporary sense.
That is to say, that it is significant in relation to globalisation due to the relatively unknown quality represented by the lack of east Asian theory in the body of associated international texts. From this perspective, the nations of Japan and China have been something of an unknown quality, often perceived as an unknown other, since the old international structure of super powers and the third world. It highlights Japan’s role in the changes pertaining to the cold war and the subsequent fracturing of international models.
In the contemporary notion of world order in which the notion of the nation itself is becoming fractured and a pursuit for the genuine location is emerging, Pyle offers a text based upon the significance of a nation in the construction of cultural identity. In the places where culture emerges, meaning is assigned and power is negotiated it would seem that writing a text in relation to a wholly national entity would be problematic. However, Pyle writes this Japanese notion of nation against the western Euro-centric notion that pertains to the construction of the orient, Africa and the third world.
Rather, Pyle shows how firstly national sanction, then national philosophy and industry and finally national identity became the driving forces that have to his mind made Japan something of a sleeping giant within the global economic and cultural realm. Essentially, as the notion of cultural identity becomes a central concern in the global domain, then Pyle’s positioning of Japan as a nation emerging having already gone through a recent historical process of re-identification seems well suited to the canon of global and international theory. Bibliography Pyle, K, P. , (2007) Japan Rising New York: Century Foundation
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