Empire in Asia

A New Global History

The State and Economic Enterprise in Japan

Book Cover

Book Title

The State and Economic Enterprise in Japan: Essays in the Political Economy of Growth. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1965


Lockwood, William W. (ed.)


Following a growth in academic study on Japan subsequent to the Second World War, the study is a volume in a series on the study of modern Japan. Including contributions from seminars on the subject, the book is a study on Japanese industrialization and economic developments as a phenomenon of “industrial society”.

By examining a century of modern Japanese history from 1868, the book analyzes the past in relation to the utility of such a study for understanding the future. Looking at themes such as social inheritance coupled with the advent of change, the book is able to structure a cohesive account of the development of the Japanese economy and its relationship to, and effect upon, modernity.

Understanding the modern development of the nation, sources such as agriculture, entrepreneurship, new capitalism and the benefits of economic progress are looked at as constituting the broader impetus to study the nation. With a wide range of specialists working on the topics, the book provides an explanation for the phenomena that occur over the century it is studying.

Scope (Topics Covered, Time Period)

The book roughly covers a century, commencing from 1868. This is taken to be the beginning of a period of economic modernization. Looking at topics such as phases in economic growth, the society before the Meiji Restoration, and the parallels with European development, the book is able to give a wide account of the economic development of Japan. It is also able to focus on how entrepreneurship grew and the creation of a new generation of leaders- this being related to political stability and national unity, as well as shifting notions of identity.

Divided into 16 chapters dealing with firstly, the eve of modernization, then the transition to industrial society, and finally relating it to growth, stability and welfare in 1960’s Japan. Admitting that, a century on from 1868, the Japanese leadership looks towards an unpredictable external world, the volume identifies both patterns and problems to the industrialization process, and weaves it into a narrative about an economic power in Asia.

Argument (Methodology, Significance)

Above all, the volume wants to investigate the secrets behind Japan’s growth over time as a phenomenon of modernity. By dividing the book into two parts, between 1868 and 1911 and subsequently Japan after world war two, it emphasizes continuity over aberration and thus shows an understanding that the century is constituted of a general pattern of economic industrialization.

The narrative is one of progress. By focusing on rising consumption and entrepreneurship, alongside public expenditure by the state, the book asks pertinent questions such as: what was the source for the stimuli to the agricultural progress in the early phase of the economic development?

Taking the approach of giving a framework for understanding the development of the economy, and utilizing a method of listing out potential factors and their impact on the broader processes, the book gives the reader a clear understanding.

The book is useful for understanding the role of the economy in modernizing the Asian nation, and also relating this development to the rest of the world. Taking the approach of looking at, primarily, the Japanese record, it provides an insight to the processes that contributed to the development of this nation as an “economic miracle”.

Annotated by Sandeep Singh