Fascism Japan Essay Topics

Byron K. Marshall, ‘ Introduction’, ‘Private entrepreneurs and the Meiji government’, , ‘The Japanese business elite and the defense of capitalism’, ‘Conclusion’, in ‘Capitalism and nationalism in prewar Japan, the ideology of the business elite, 1868-1941.’ ( Stanford University Press, 1967)

Marshall opened the book with a comparative analysis on the difference between the British and Japanese approach to business during the nineteenth century. In Britain and America, entrepreneurs emphasized the importance of economic individualism, material progress, the virtues of labor and self-help ( Marshall, 2), whereas the Japanese rejected the British approach and favored the traditional and Confucian approach to businesses ( economics and social stratification, with respective classes playing different roles : samurai, peasant, artisan, and merchant, ( with the merchants at the bottom of the social hierarchy as they were regarded to be governed by self-interest and contributed little to the agrarian society; a tradition laid down during the Tokugawa period, (1600-1867), Marshall, 5,6) In terms of business approach,the Japanese businessmen denounced the Western pursuits of personal gains in terms of business approach and instead stressed the importance of patriotic devotion and a willingness to sacrifice for the common good. ( Marshall, 3) However, it is worthwhile to note that Japanese businessmen had high self-esteem as they equate themselves as prominent as the initial status of the abolished samurai, in terms of serving the country in a selfless and devoted manner. ( Marshall, 3) Towards the 1930s, the Japanese businessmen came to the attacks from the socialist left and the ultranationalist right in prewar Japan, as they faced the dilemma between the values of group-orientation ( in my opinion, common good of the country) and the profit-orientation ( in my opinion, personal and business gains). In other words, entrepreneurs found themselves facing the difficulties of justifying private ownership and profit incentives while denying any interest in material rewards. (Marshall, 3)

In retrospect, the Meiji Restoration brought about little mobility to the social status of the merchants, particularly in elevating the status of the Tokugawa merchant class. They were regarded as ‘outdated’ in terms of their business approach; especially when they were reluctant to adjust to the demands of foreign trade and modern industry. ( Marshall, 10)

Industrialization during the Meiji Restoration stemmed from the fear of the Japanese towards the potential threat of invasion (both in military and economic terms) from the West ( xenophobia). This ‘sense of national crisis’ pervaded the Japanese in terms of political, social, and economic thought. Ever since Japan signing the commercial treaties with America and European countries to enforce trade, the Japanese government had little control over the quantity or type of foreign goods ( which were superior to and less costly than domestic goods) being imported to Japan. This posed a serious threat to the rural handicraft industries and thus to the living standard of peasants (Marshall, 14) Furthermore, it caused the Japanese currency to depreciate at an unreasonable scale. As a result, the government needed to step in as Japanese businesses were still under ‘an embryonic stage’, in face of competition of foreign goods. The urge for the government to protect Japan’s commerce and industry had become increasingly frequent towards the end of nineteenth century.

Late nineteenth century, particularly the 1870s and the 1880s served as a watershed for the establishment of state enterprises in Japan. For it was a ‘vacuum period’ in the 1870s as government enterprises were focused on the fields in which private enterprises had not shown vested interest in. The old Tokugawa business leaders were too afraid to do anything new during the revolutionary period of the Meiji era. The more progressive entrepreneurs had insufficient experiences to create large-scale modern industries. The 1870s signified a perfect time for the government to create state enterprises necessary for the modernization of Japan when a few entrepreneurs had relevant experiences to venture into large-scale modern enterprises. ( Marshall, 20, 21) Towards the 1880s the government sold most of these modern enterprises to as the number of experienced entrepreneurs began to increase. However the government still held a major stake in armament and railroad industries. (Marshall, 21)

Regard to the pursuit of political system, by the end of nineteenth century there was a heated debate between socialism and capitalism. In which socialism was advocated by the intellectuals, whereas leaders of the nascent labour movement of the 1900s actively proposed capitalism.

Institution such as The Association for the Study of Social Policy had been organised as a forum in which to debate important social and economic issues. One of the active member of the association, Kanai Noboru, believed that Japan could escape radical socialism only by adopting a comprehensive system of social legislation on the model of that found in Bismarckian Germany ( Marshall, 94, 95) Thus Noboru and his supporters spearheaded the campaign for factory legislation in the Meiji period, arguing that legal controls on private enterprise were necessary to ensure harmony between the social classes. The Association strongly opposed to laissez-faire, fearing that this would result in ‘great disparity in wealth’. Noboru believed that the only way for Japan to progress in modern terms was to actively engaged in private capitalism. He also invited the Japanese socialists to debate over the relative merits of socialism and private enterprise.

Kuwada Kumazo, a noted political economist, rejected socialism on the claims that incentive to effort stemmed from the possibility of amassing private property. He argued further that private enterprise system was the most efficient means of determining the division of labor within society. ( Marshall, 95, 96) The association continued to have far-reaching on the defense of capitalism from 1900 to 1930.

On the other hand, Tazawa Yoshiharu, Managing Director of the Kyochokai, stressed the spiritual reward attained from work. Instead of material incentives to motivate people to work, he stressed the importance of treating work as an end in itself. He ‘magnified’ the impact of spiritual reward from hard work and claimed that ‘the will to work’ ( kinro shugi) could bring about social progress and the advancement of mankind. ( Marshall, 97) This had stirred up the dilemma of achieving ‘ cociliation harmony between individualism and collectivism’ which was a dominant topic among the Japanese enterprises in the 1920’s and 1930’s. (Marshall, 97)

The Japanese work ethics in the 1920’s and 1930’s was a huge departure from the ‘ability-orientated’ approach of the West. ( In other words, through sheer hard work to achieve upward social mobility). The Japanese work ethics put its emphasis on selflessness and the will to work as a member of the whole society. ‘Devotion of duty, and the eschewal of private interests were promoted.’ ( Marshall, 99) Above all, the willingness to work was regarded as the most important during the 1920’s and 30’s business world of Japan. This completely divorced from the ‘utilitarian’ ( korishugi), ‘individualistic’ ( kojin shugi), and ‘selfish’ ( riko shugi) views attributed to businessmen in Western societies (Marshall, 102).

The daunting atmosphere during the Great Depression of the 1930’s was worsened by ‘ the upsured of chauvinist feeling accompanying the Manchurian incident in September, 1931, compounded by increasing animosity towards the Japanese businessmen from the ultranationalists and the military. The outbreak of war with China in 1937 pushed Japan’s nationalist sentiment to a new level by increasing control over the economy through the nationalization of key industries to supply for wartime efforts. The right wing had completely dominated the society and could control traditional virtues on their own will. As a result, Japanese businessmen were forced to practise economic individualism in their business approach.

In my opinion, the business atmosphere and work ethics among the private enterprises struggled between the desire for profit motive and the divorce from selfishness. This had stemmed from the heated debate between state control of enterprises and the pursuit of a free market, free competition system.

By Catherine Shen

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Fascist Italy


World War II was, no doubt, a ruthless war that lasted from 1939 to 1945 and extended across Europe, Eastern Asia, and the South Pacific Ocean. The causes of WWII are rooted in the aftermath of WWI and the effects of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the First World War. One of the many provisions of the Treaty of Versailles was for Germany to accept responsibility for causing the Great War. This is now known as the War Guilt Clause, or Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles.

The harsh restrictions on Germany fueled a state of frustration, which was lead by Adolf Hitler when he rose to power as Führer and chancellor by the stepping down of the president of Germany, Paul von Hindenburg. Although Hitler is often seen as the face of fascism, he was actually the leader of the German Socialist Party, better known as the Nazi Party. It is Italy’s Benito Mussolini who founded the fascism ideology. Mussolini sought to re-create the Great Roman Empire by use of a totalitarian rule and feeding of the fear of communism. In 1939, Hitler and Mussolini signed the Pact of Steel forming an alliance which is known as the Axis powers during WWII. After the Axis powers lost the Second World War, many fascist groups disassembled and in some places it was banned; although there have been groups of neo-fascists.


The Cause

Treaty of Versailles (primary)

This is an online copy of the peace Treaty of Versailles in its entirety.

Treaty of Versailles: Article 231-247 “War Guilt Clause” (primary)

This is the section of the Treaty of Versailles in which the reparations are established. Article 231 is now known as the War Guilty Clause, as stated earlier in the introduction.

World War II Europe: The Road to War (secondary)

This site described the many causes and events that lead up to World War II. It provided basic background information on the Treaty of Versailles, the rise of Fascism and the Nazi party, the Munich conference, the invasion of Poland, etc.

“Causes of World War II – Causes of World War II in Europe.” Military History – Warfare through the Ages – Battles and Conflicts – Weapons of War – Military Leaders in History.http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/worldwarii/a/wwiieurcauses.htm

Holocaust History: Treaty of Versailles, 1919 (secondary)

This site from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website provided more information about the demands of the Treaty of Versailles; the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Trianon, and Sevres; and the impact of WWI.

“Treaty of Versailles, 1919.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005425


The Rise

Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy silk scarf as fascist propaganda.

Adolf Hitler (secondary)

The Encyclopedia Britannica provided information on Hitler’s dictatorship of Nazi Germany and his effects on WWII.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Adolf Hitler,” accessed April 29, 2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/267992/Adolf-Hitler.

Benito Mussolini (secondary)

BBC History provides how Mussolini rose to power and how he controlled fascist Italy. It also says how he contributed to the causes of WWII by supporting Francisco Franco, a military dictator, in the Spanish Civil War.

“Benito Mussolini (1883-1945).” BBC – History. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/mussolini_benito.shtml (accessed April 29, 2013).

Fascism (secondary)

Fascism is a political ideology that started with Mussolini and his hunger for Italy to be a great and powerful state like the ancient Roman Empire. Fascism is based on extreme nationalism focused on mainly military power to control the people. It is also based on militaristic ideals of “courage, unquestioning obedience to authority, discipline, and physical strength.” In countries like Germany, Hitler thrived for a Volksgemeinschaft, or a people’s community; and he achieved his goals by military control and dictatorship over the government. Many fascist movements also had imperialistic goals as seen with Mussolini when he sought to expand is empire into Northern Africa.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “fascism,” accessed April 29, 2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/202210/fascism.

Pact of Steel (secondary)

Hitler and Mussolini Signing the Pact of Steel

On May 22, 1939, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini signed the Pact of Steel, which allied the two countries politically and militarily, to form the Axis powers.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Pact of Steel,” accessed April 29, 2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/564710/Pact-of-Steel.

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