EAST ASIA WORKSHOP: POLITICS, ECONOMY & SOCIETY
“Japan’s Peace Constitution:
the Prospect for Revision from a Historical Perspective”
UChicago Department of History
Jan 16, Wed 12:00-1:30 pm
Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.
Pizza will be provided
Along with heightening international uncertainty due to the rise of China, intensifying economic competition, and surging nationalism in Northeast Asia, Japanese policymakers and the ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have endeavored to revise the Peace Constitution. The constitution established by the U.S. Occupation government after WWII permanently “renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” To many Japanese conservatives, this foreign-imposed constitution embodied their nation’s shameful defeat and lost sovereignty. Accordingly, revising the constitution represented a way to recover national pride and honor and become an independent, autonomous country with its own armed forces. These conservatives believed that such an action would allow Japan to strengthen its relationship with the U.S., balance out China, and address other security threats in the region. Although conservative politics in Japan seemingly existed in a consensual agreement, my research instead demonstrates how the Peace Constitution came to the center of a conservative ideology that promoted liberal economic modernization and national security in postwar Japanese-American relations during the 1960s. In contrast to hardline conservatives, a group of moderate conservative social scientists and policy specialists defended the Peace Constitution in an attempt to re-conceptualize Japan’s experience of WWII, liberal economic modernity, and its national sovereignty and security. In the face of overwhelming American material superiority in the Cold War, these moderate conservative academics supported the Peace Constitution as a way of enabling Japan to appropriate American power and ideology, while simultaneously justifying the role of the American military in an anti-colonial context. This dependent autonomy came to be at the heart of the Japanese idea of realism. In an effort to reintegrate fragmented Japanese society, the moderates used the Peace Constitution to coopt the leftist logic of anti-colonialism, while collaborating with the state as members of the Advisory Board to the Prime Minister of Japan to promote a project of national modernization based on their scientific knowledge of management.
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The East Asia Workshop is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences.