Yet yoshinos idea of the people as the foundation of

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Unformatted text preview: eem inevitably to accompany modernization. Yet, for better or worse in the long run, Japan as it entered this early phase of empire building was spared much actual divisiveness by the authority of the oligarchs, who continued to hold a uniquely superior position within the Meiji government. The Fruits of Modernity 273 The process by which the advocates of political parties gradually acquired power after the opening of the first Diet in 1890 can only be briefly sketched here. In the beginning, they could do little more than seek to harass the oligarchs by adopting obstructionist tactics. Not until after the turn of the century were the party people regularly taken into cabinets; and not until 1918 was a true party leader made prime minister. By then, most of the great Meiji leaders were dead and those few still alive, like Yamagata Aritomo (1838–1922) of Chòshû who, along with Itò Hirobumi, had been the most powerful of the oligarchs, enjoyed only a fraction of their former influence. Scholars continue to debate whether the kind of party government that had evolved in Japan by the 1920s, ostensibly resembling in its major features the British political system, was or was not democratic. Even if regarded as democratic, the pre–World War II form of party government was certainly extremely fragile, as was demonstrated by the relative ease with which it was crushed by the militarists in the early 1930s. Recent studies by Western scholars strongly suggest that, whatever else it may have been, “Taishò democracy”3 was not populistic. In order to secure a measure of power from the Meiji oligarchs, the party leaders adopted what has been called the politics of compromise. In other words, they worked much harder at establishing a modus operandi with the oligarchs and other leading bureaucrats than at gaining popular support among the masses. By 1925, when universal manhood suffrage was finally adopted in Japan, there were two major parties. Both naturally sought to secure as large majorit...
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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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