Japan: Capitalism and the Economic Miracle

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Japan: Capitalism and the Economic Miracle

The global triumph of capitalism was the most important historical issue of the nineteenth century. It was the triumph of a kind of society that believed in the fact that economic development was based on competitive private enterprise and the success of buying as much as possible from the market. It was considered that an economy resting on the solid foundations of the middle class, would not only create a world of properly distributed wealth, but also it would educate people, develop reasoning and increase human opportunity. Summarizing, a world of continuous and rapid material and moral development. The few obstacles that remained in the path of this development would rapidly be solved or overcome.  The history of this period is characterized by a massive breakthrough in the global economy of industrial capitalism. Certain regions of the world beyond capitalism were put under pressure by the capitalist countries who tried to gain insight in their economies by opening new markets, these regions were forced to choose between a determined resistance towards capitalism in accordance to their traditions and ways of life or a modernization process which would bring different cultural changes.  Given this logic, Japan was during the mid-nineteenth century under pressure from the foreign powers and the crisis of their system based on the Shoguns. This situation led to Japan, to carry out a complete transformation process (economic, political and social) known as the Meiji Restoration, which marked the starting point of modern Japanese society. The introduction of the United States in the Pacific finally brought Japan to the center of Western attempts to "open" their markets.  Direct resistance was impossible, the weak attempts to organize had already be shown. The simple diplomatic concessions were no more than a temporary expedient. Already in 1853-1854, Commodore Perry, from the United States Navy had forced them to open certain ports through the regular method of naval threatening. In 1862 the British, bombed the city of Kagoshima with complete impunity in retaliation for the murder of an Englishman by the Japanese. The presence of Western forces was, at this point, a legitimate fact of the everyday Japanese life. Finally in 1868 the Meiji Restoration was proclaimed, the Restoration based itself on the transfer of state power from the Shogun to the Emperor. This started a political, economic and social process that, after ten years of turmoil and provincial agrarian revolts led to the modernization of the state and national unity. Due to these facts the Meiji Restoration is considered the starting point of modern Japanese society.  To carry out the task of "modernization" economic resources were anxiously needed in order to master the noble’s resistance, to suppress revolts and upheavals of provincial farmers, to compensate land owners, to protect, to promote the industry and to install state manufacturing complexes. It was also important to modernize and equalize the state, the military and the bureaucratic system. Due to the limited development of industrial capital, the new government was forced to seek financial resources within the land, based on property taxes. But, in order to adapt to the changing needs of the state, these charges became tax money. These financial arrangements, established by the government of the restoration were the starting point of the land reforms. As for the early development of capitalism, the Japanese case marked clear differences with respect to what Western Europe had already experienced. In the West the state centralized manufacturing were disappearing during the bourgeois revolution, while in Japan state factories developed across the country, based on the steel market. Cloth factories and their machinery were quickly upgraded through a process known as industrial revolution "from above", which is based on the help of the state to upgrade...
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