The Politics of Oligarchy

The Politics of Oligarchy : Institutional Choice in Imperial Japan

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In the latter-half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, Japan underwent two major shifts in political control. In the 1910s, the power of the oligarchy was eclipsed by that of a larger group of professional politicians; in the 1930s, the focus of power shifted again, this time to a set of independent military leaders. In this book, Ramseyer and Rosenbluth examine a key question of modern Japanese politics: why the Meiji oligarchs were unable to design institutions capable of protecting their power. The authors question why the oligarchs chose the political institutions they did, and what the consequences of those choices were for Japan's political competition, economic development, and diplomatic relations. Indeed, they argue, it was the oligarchs' very inability to agree among themselves on how to rule that prompted them to cut the military loose from civilian control - a decision that was to have disastrous consequences not only for Japan but for the rest of the world.show more

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Review quote

"What do Ramseyer and Rosenbluth contribute to our knowledge with this work? Two things merit attention in our opinion. First, they offer striking data to support their contention that politcal parties demonstrably affected the path of bureaucratic careers during the 1920's and 1930s...Second, we believe that Ramseyer and Rosenbluth are asking some of the right systematic-level questions. How did the system function, and what mechanisms supported its function? How was change achieved in the system? " Joseph Gownder and Robert Pekkanen, Journal of Japanese Studies "This book will be of interest to anyone wishing to understand modern Japan. It should be in all college and university libraries. The book is accessible to undergraduates, but will be of most use when read in conrast to more conventional treatments of modern Japan." Bernadette Lanciaux, Review of Radical Political Economics "The combination of a simple and clear economic model of politics with a carefully researched, detailed and nuanced array of empirical evidence makes this book both a compelling volume and a good read. ...a compelling account of why Japanese politics was not so very different after all..." Ellen Comisso, Jrnl of Comparative Economicsshow more

Table of contents

List of tables and figure; Series editors' preface; Acknowledgements; 1. Introduction; 2. The collapse of oligarchy: failed attempts at cartel-maintenance; 3. Concession or facade: the Meiji constitution; 4. Electoral rules and party competition: the struggle for political survival; 5. The bureaucracy: who ruled whom?; 6. The courts: who monitored whom?; 7. The military: master of its own fate; 8. Financial politics; 9. Railroad politics; 10. Cotton politics; 11. Conclusion: institutions and political control; Notes; References; Index.show more

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