Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

7/1/2005 - 6/30/2006

Funding Totals

$40,000.00 (approved)
$40,000.00 (awarded)

Defense, Democracy, and Empire: The Politics of Armament in Japan, 1882-1937

FAIN: FB-50339-04

Yoshihisa T. Matsusaka
Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA 02481-8203)

This study explores the course of political conflict over armament and military spending in Japan from the army reforms of 1882 to the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. Armament was one of the most divisive issues in modern Japanese politics before World War II and conflict over arms spending, a fundamental cause of instability in government through the 1930s. The intensity of the debate was a reflection of diversity of opinion among the elites and the political middle classes about the nation's priorities, security needs, and prospective place in the world. It was further fueled by the high opportunity costs of military spending faced by a developing country and by the questionable utility, in an arms race with richer powers, of any military buildup within Japan's limited means. The growing influence of interest groups in contention over military appropriations, including the armed forces themselves, added heat to the disputes. More importantly, however, sectional interest contributed significantly to the distortion of Japan's foreign and defense policies, pushing them in an increasingly aggressive direction. Conscription and economic mobilization, as integral components of any armament program, broadened the debate by linking it to the dialectic of citizen and state. Armament in prewar Japan thus emerged not only as a pivotal factor in the politics of empire, defense, development, and sectional interest, but through the contest between democratic and militarist versions of the citizen soldier, as a powerful force in the evolution of Japanese democracy. The book resulting from this research project is aimed at reaching readers with a general interest in modern political history as well as specialists in Japan. The historical subject also has contemporary relevance. The often problematic relationships linking democracy, nationalism, and military power in noon-Western countries urgently demand our understanding in the post-Cold-War world.