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Japan’s ‘German Path’ and Pacific Asia’s ‘Flying Geese’

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Barrington Moore has argued that Imperial German@y and Meiji Japan both followed a capitalist, authoritarian ‘route to the modern world.’ But these parallels were not coincidental. German developmentalism was consciously imitated by Meiji reformers and this model was later diffused throughout Pacific Asia (East and Southeast Asia). This article explores German influence on pre-World War II Japan and its later impact on post-war Pacific Asia. There were similarities among elite behaviour, developmentalist dictatorships and culturalist ideologies. ‘Progressive’ elites pushed through a program of modernisation against ‘backward’ conservatives. They demobilised the working class, made the newly-created business sector dependent on the state, and co-opted the rising middle class. The ‘flying geese formation’ in Pacific Asia has been a group of developmentalist dictatorships that did not, however, all share the same ‘developmental state’ form as Japan. But they did invoke a new version of Imperial German Zivilisationskritik — the critique of ‘Western’ democracy in the name of (in this case) ‘Asian values.’ Authoritarian rule was justified by a culturalist ideology derived from a dichotomy posited between Western civilisation and German Kultur by reactionary Prussian modernisers.

Affiliations: 1: University of Erlangen-Nuremberg


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