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Unformatted text preview: itation and worsening labor conditions, for example, had
brought on large-scale and militant industrial strikes in the cities, while in
the countryside, where social conditions were little better than they had
been before the Meiji Restoration, absentee landlordism had reached
nearly the 50 percent level. Moreover, the return of the European powers
to competition for the Far Eastern markets, combined with poor governmental planning, precipitated a sharp recession in the postwar period.
The fall of silk prices was particularly distressing to farming families,
many of which were greatly dependent on supplementary income from
sericulture to make ends meet.
The reasons why, despite seemingly propitious conditions, the sots and others on the left were able to achieve so little in practical terms
following World War I deserve more attention than can be given here.
But, for one thing, the structure of Japanese society was not conducive
to their activities. The majority of Japanese were still farmers engaged in
family-oriented, intensive agriculture and were highly conservative in outlook. Reverence for the emperor, and thus for the established order, was
particularly strong among them. Even in the urban, industrial sector of 276 The Fruits of Modernity the economy, many workers were held in paternalistic thrall by their employers and were simply not as socially and politically incitable as the
members of a truly alienated proletariat. Despite occasional outbursts of
anguish in such forms as strikes and riots over rises in the price of rice,
the great staple of food consumption, both peasants and industrial
workers by and large accepted their subordinate positions in life and
obeyed the ostensibly unassailable authority of those above them.
This is not to suggest that the masses of prewar Japan were merely
ignorant and docile. They were, in fact, almost universally literate,
although their moral education, as we have seen, was heavily weighted in
favor of the traditionalistic kokutai values. And any apparent docility was,
I believe, actually a manifestation of how little revolutionary po...
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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 The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13