Cooperatives and grassroots developments

Authored by: Tessa Morris-Suzuki

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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Early Japanese cooperatives were spontaneous initiatives inspired partly by village traditions and partly by foreign models. But the nationwide spread of cooperativism was a top-down process driven by Meiji modernizers who studied German models and saw this as the best means to strengthen the nation’s rural foundations. By 1923, Japanese cooperatives had 2.6 million members, placing the country among the world’s leading centres of cooperativism. Both prewar and postwar, Japanese cooperativism was characterized by the interplay of top-down and bottom-up forces. In the 1920s, state-sanctioned cooperatives were challenged by peasants’ unions and worker-run co-op stores; postwar, the power of the giant agricultural cooperative association N?ky? was challenged by grassroots groups with alternative visions of a rural future. This chapter explores the contending roles of cooperatives in Japan from their beginnings in the early Meiji era to contemporary consumer and alternative lifestyle co-ops.

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