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When the Medium Is the Message: The Ideological Role of Yoshino Sakuzô's Minponshugi in Mobilising the Japanese Public

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image of European Journal of East Asian Studies

Democratic ideology functioned in Japanese society as part of the national political ethos from 1889 onward. Within the broader ideological discourse, it played a role in conditioning the state-subject relationships that in early Shôwa proved conducive to mass social mobilisation for war. Foremost among the proponents of this democratic ideology was Yoshino Sakuzô, whose democratic theories functioned in practice to promote a sociopolitical hegemony that allowed the imperial state to govern both by coercion and suasion.

Yoshino's minponshugi theories constructed a liberalism strictly within a nationalist state-centered theoretical paradigm. Despite negligible functionality, individual participation in social structures like political parties, public political campaigns, and voting, had enduring ideological effect. If ideology within a state interpellates subjects as citizens, like a policeman's hail, 'Hey, you there!' might minponshugi have functioned like the hail from the loudspeaker of a campaign truck in early Shôwa Tokyo as, 'Hey, you there, constituent and voter'?


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