The bureaucracy and politics

Authored by: Roger H. Brown

Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese History

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138815186
eBook ISBN: 9781315746678
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter considers the central role of the bureaucracy in Japan’s modern political history. Predicated on the ideal of non-partisan service to the emperor-centred state, the prewar bureaucracy developed a relationship at once symbiotic with and antipathetic to the mainstream political parties as these organizations expanded their power during the first three decades of the twentieth century. The character of these ties changed in the 1930s as party power declined in the face of challenges from reformists within the civil bureaucracy and the military. Mobilization for total war enabled bureaucrats to further enhance their authority, even as intra-bureaucratic rivalry intensified. Following Japan’s surrender in 1945, minimal occupation-era reform helped perpetuate the authority of the bureaucracy, and former bureaucrats within the leadership of the parties facilitated a close relationship among politicians, bureaucrats, and business leaders that proved integral to democratic governance and the nation’s reemergence as a major economic power.

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