Review Section In chapter 5, Wittner rounds out his account of the Meiji experiments with state-owned enterprises by advancing a model of Meiji political economy cast in terms of historical stages. He denotes the period 1868 to 1877 as one of Meiji techno-diplomacy characterized by relatively uncritical adoption of Western fashions, techniques, and organizational forms; the period 1878 to the early to mid-1890s as one of selective restructuring in which reaction against wholesale Westernization set in and most state-owned enterprises were liquidated; and a third era, during the 1890s, when the bunmei kaika movement definitively perished and empire building became the new priority of the Japanese government. In this analysis, the fates of the bunmei kaika ideology and the creation and then liquidation of the state-owned enterprises are inextricably linked, with politics trumping economics. Alternative explanations of the selling of state-owned enterprises abound. Some emphasize the fact that Matsukata was a fiscal conservative, an advocate of laissez-faire; some point to the growing confidence and success of the private sector, especially efforts spearheaded by rural merchants who became entrepreneurs using Western technology; and some note the aggressive rise of the zaibatsu. To these longstanding theories, we can now add
The Journal of Japanese Studies – Society for Japanese Studies
Published: Jan 15, 2009
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