Recently I have read the following book. My reading notes are:
Book title|: Gluck, Carol. Japan’s Modern Myths: Ideology in the Late Meiji Period. Princeton,
New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1985.
The goal of the book:
Japan was in a process of establishing its national ethos in a changed and changing social setting through trial-and-error in the later part of the 19th century. Without a text or a revelation to serve as a reference, views of the state and society evolved fitfully. This fitful and inconsistent process – the making of the late Meiji ideology – is the subject of the book (P.4).
According to the author, in both Japanese and Western writings, Meiji ideology was often a disagreeable subject. It quickly brought to mind the late 1930s and early 1940s: the years of militarism and war, with the whole nation as a single family under a divine Emperor. This picture was the backdrop against which the subject of tennmosei ideorogii, the ideology of the Emperor System was articulated. In 1945-46 the Japanese sought to understand the constellation of forces that had brought Japan to war because they felt the past were the obstacles to the future. Attention soon centered on the nature and origins of the prewar emperor system (p.4).
In the years since tennosei ideology first appeared on Japan’s post war intellectual agenda, difference in interpretation were seen. The outlines of the argument were: tennosei ideology was the product of the modern emperor system of the period from 1890 until 1945; and the Meiji government was said to have developed this ideology to legitimate itself and to support its modernizing programs. (P.5) Because Japan’s modern myths were made in and from the Meiji period, the book suggests that only this period could account for the nature of the ideologies that was generated (P.16). By 1915, nearly all the institutions that disseminated the civic credos and social injunctions were in place, Japan had produced its modern myths; the elements were all present, if not yet wholly accounted for (P.37).
The focus of the book:
The book is about both the evolution, and an anatomy of the ideology produced in the late Meiji period. The chronological account began and ended in two ceremonies: the 1889 the promulgation of the Constitution, and the funeral of Meiji emperor in September 1912. Within the general bounds of this chronology, main aspects of the ideological universe were taken up in turn. First it was about the “sense of nation”, then the “complicated society”, all based on tennosei ideology which consisted of conceptions of politics, the imperial symbol of nation and empire, and the civil morality of loyalty and patriotism.
The main text:
In chapter 3, it talks about the Body Politic starting with the ‘An unprecedented ceremony’, then ‘the denaturing of politics’, then ‘Kan and the Min’, and finally the ‘Gentlemen of the diet’,
In chapter 4, it talks about the Modern Monarch. The first topic was the ‘custodians of the imperial image’, then ‘the emperor’s regal roles’, followed by the ‘local renderings of the Emperor’.
In chapter 5, it talks about the Civil Morality. The first topic was ‘morality and nation’, and then followed by ‘patriotism and the uses of foreigners’, and the ‘glory of our kokutai’, and finally the ‘schools and civil tutelage’.
Chapter 6 talks about the ‘Social Foundations’. The first topic is ‘social fever’ focusing on the many newspapers that appeared during that period, and the many social problems seen in cities when people were looking for a new life, money and self advance. The next topic was the ‘Agrarian myth and Jichi’ which shows that the Japanese was looking back to the rural as the society base. The Jichi local government was the basic blocs of the society. The next topic was ‘ideologies of striving and success’ which showed the conflicts between the government and the individuals in pursuing their goals and expectations.
Chapter 7 talks about the End of the era. The first topic is ‘the unprecedented ceremony’ which mentioned about Meiji and General Nogi. The second focus was ‘the new politics of Taisho’ which talks about changes in the new era. The third focus was the ‘parliamentary ideology’ which showed the coming of age of parliamentary politics, and the resistance to partisan politics.
Chapter 8 talks about ‘The language of Ideology’ starting with the ‘Grammar of Ideology’ which discusses about the interactions among the stressed, unstressed, and unarticulated parts of ideological speeches, and the appearance of a common language of ideology. The next topic was ‘Context of Ideology’ which was about the social background in which the ideology was developed. The third topic was ‘Orthodoxy and diversity’ which suggested that the orthodoxy – emperor, loyalty, village, family-state – occupied but a portion of the wider ideological landscape as Meiji turns to Taisho.
Chapter 9: the epilogue.
1. The development of ideology was a collection activity. The government alone through its institutions could not achieve the ideology. Kokumin, the countrymen (society) were involved in this process (p.12). There were many players in this activity: the press, the military, the Shinto leaders etc.
2. The ideologists, official and un-official, were propelled by the possibilities opened to them and confined by the limits of their time: the wars, the urbanization and the threats from western powers. Japan’s modern myth was a product of the Meiji period.