ASIA212Varley

In 1873 they had avoided armed intervention in korea

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Unformatted text preview: were, by any criterion, extraordinarily capable and farsighted men who took a strongly pragmatic approach to problems. Once secure in power they did indeed tend toward the authoritarian in consonance with their samurai backgrounds. But one advantage of their functioning as oligarchs was that, immune from the everyday strife of elected politicians, they could concentrate on the pursuit of loftier goals for the betterment of Japan. They were committed to making Japan into a truly modern state, and national constitutions were an integral part of modernist thinking everywhere in this age. The man who assumed chief Encounter with the West 247 responsibility for writing the Meiji Constitution was Itò Hirobumi (1841– 1909) of Chòshû. In 1882 he went to Europe to study Western constitutionalism, particularly as propounded by German theorists; and, in 1885, he became Japan’s first prime minister upon the institution of a cabinet system of government. Meanwhile, the people’s rights advocates were also active, and both Itagaki and Òkuma formed new political associations—the Liberal Party ( Jiyûtò) and the Progressive Party (Shimpotò)—in preparation for the opening of a parliament (or Diet) within the decade. It is difficult to assess precisely the differences between the two major party lines established at this time. The works of Rousseau, Mill, and other Western political theorists had been translated into Japanese and were widely read and admired by the party people. French natural rights democracy seems to have appealed particularly to the Itagaki group, while Òkuma and his followers espoused British utilitarianism. Moreover, whereas the Liberal Party came in general to represent agrarian interests, the Progressive Party tended to align itself with the emerging class of urban industrialists. Yet, far more than any political creeds, specific issues, or class alliances, it was personal allegiance to the leaders themselves that provided the basis for party unity during this preconstitutional phase of the people’s rights movement. In addition to the political parties, an important source of burgeoning opposition to the Meiji oliga...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.

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