The Rise of Western Culture and Economy in Japan after World War II
According to some scholars, a society's culture determines its economic destiny. Before 1860, Japan had been isolated for over two centuries, and it was not until the aftermath of World War II when Japan was forced to ration food to extreme measures (Hiesinger 39), the Japanese people's fear of become a Western sub-colony coupled with “their flexible attitude towards cultural variance (Sparke 10),” ushered them into economic and cultural Westernization. The economic downfall of Japan after World War II caused Japan to put culture second and focus on economic growth, thereby copying Western civilization (Jones 3); the Westernization of Japanese culture and economy soon became apparent in the integration of modern means of production coupled with a traditional aesthetic.
Through isolation, a country denies itself the opportunity for monetary growth, thereby stunting its culture by denying influences from other countries. Meiji leaders studied and adopted a Prussian-style government-directed capitalistic system that gave the government a significant role in determining what is produced, as well as power over the allocation of capital through control of the financial system. The Meiji Restoration was a major force in brining the West to the East and the major influences for design today, even more so than World War II, suggesting that post-war design and Western ideals in Japan grew out of economic reasons.
Cultures fall when they insist on separateness and a segregated market (Jones 6); however, due to the isolationist policy, free trade was considered harmful at the time. After World War II, the Japanese government continued its practice of promoting and protecting particular industries and discouraging foreign and even domestic competition. These policies were achieved first through tariffs and later through informal trade barriers such as environmental or consumer production regulations written in a way that excluded foreign and even domestic firms from entering new or overseas markets. In this way, by placing its economy in second place, Japan fell prey to substantivism, process in which the economic power is not utilized effectively, nor maximized.
Following World War II, the Allied occupation administration hoped to move Japanese politics into something more closely related to Western nations. The concepts of universal suffrage, governmental accountability, and a balance of power among the branches of the government were put into effect in the constitution of 1947, creating a more stable Japanese economy, as well as a mature democratic society. Universal suffrage was introduced and human rights were guaranteed, and Japan was forbidden from harboring weaponry, keeping an army, or waging war against another country; a distinct line between religion and state was made, and concentrations in land ownership were removed.
The Meiji restoration was the beginning of Japan’s transformation from an agrarian country to one of the leading economies in the world, which then led to the so-called lost decade after the Japanese economic bubble burst in the late 1980s and economic recovery in the 1990s. The Japanese economic pie grew at an annual rate of ten percent from the mid-1950s until the Arab oil shocks of the early ‘70s. From then, the Japanese only managed to maintain a much more modest, but steady, growth until the early 1990s. During the observed period, the size of Japan’s metabolism grew by a factor of 40, and the share of mineral and fossil materials in domestic material consumption (DMC) grew to more than 90%.
The notion of socio-metabolic is a general term used to describe fundamental changes in socioeconomic energy and material use during industrialization. After WWII, Japan’s economic metabolism experienced explosive growth, and a considerable part of per-capita growth in material and energy use occurred during the short span of 20 years,...
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