The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence

In This Review

The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence

By Gavan McCormack
M. E. Sharpe, 1996
311 pp. $35.00
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The picture McCormack paints of contemporary Japan is not a pretty one. The leading industry -- construction -- is rife with corruption, which has suffused Japanese politics. Centrally driven national development plans have suppressed local initiative and preferences. Traditional sensitivity to nature has been sacrificed for economic growth. Rice farming is defended on environmental and social grounds but acknowledged to be doomed because young Japanese do not want to become farmers. Despite recent apologies since the death of Hirohito, official Japan is still largely in denial about World War II, and because of the atom bomb many Japanese consider themselves the primary victims. Japan therefore remains suspect among its Asian neighbors. An Australian historian, McCormack offers a refreshing perspective different from that typically found in American popular books, drawing extensively on the writings of Japanese authors outside the establishment, and he performs a signal service in making their reflections, anxieties, and criticisms available in English. But he occasionally reports "facts" that are incorrect, such as that the U.S. market for agricultural goods has been more protected than the Japanese market, though even these reflect current perceptions in Japan.