Arbiters of Patriotism: Right-Wing Scholars in Imperial Japan

Hardback: $80.00
ISBN-13: 9780824881788
Published: June 2020
Paperback: $30.00
ISBN-13: 9780824889821
Published: March 2021

Additional Information

226 pages
  • About the Book
  • In the 1930s and 1940s Marxist academics and others interested in liberal political reform often faced virulent accusations of treason from nationalist critics. In Arbiters of Patriotism, John Person explores the lives of two of the most notorious right-wing intellectuals responsible for leading such attacks in prewar and wartime Japan: Minoda Muneki (1894–1946) and Mitsui Kōshi (1883–1953) of the Genri Nippon (Japan Principle) Society.

    As fervent proponents of Japanism, the ethno-nationalist ideology of Imperial Japan, Minoda and Mitsui appointed themselves judges of correct nationalist expression. They built careers out of publishing polemics condemning Marxist and progressive academics and writers, thereby ruining dozens of livelihoods. Person traces Japanism’s rise to literary and philosophical developments in the late-Meiji (1868–1912) and Taisho (1912–1926) eras, when vitalist theories championed emotion and volition over reason. Founding their ideas of nationalism on the amorphous regions of the human psyche, Japanists labeled liberalism and Marxism as misunderstandings of the national particularities of human experience.

    For more than a decade, government agents and politicians used Minoda’s and Mitsui’s publications to remove their political enemies and advance their own agendas. But in time they came to regard both men and other nationalist intellectuals as potential thought criminals. Whether collaborating with the government to crush the voices of class struggle or becoming the targets of police surveillance themselves, Minoda and Mitsui came to embody the paradoxically hegemonic yet arbitrary nature of nationalist ideology in Imperial Japan. In this thorough examination of the Genri Nippon Society and its members, Arbiters of Patriotism provides a tightly argued and compelling account of the cosmopolitan roots and unstable networks of Japanese ethno-nationalism, as well as its self-destructive trajectory.

  • About the Author(s)
    • John Person, Author

      John Person is assistant professor of Japanese studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • Arbiters of Patriotism is a fresh and deeply informed synthesis of Japanese- and English-language scholarship on the intellectual and institutional history of Japanese fascism from the 1890s through the 1940s. It takes seriously, and documents closely, the careers of two important ultranationalist ideologues who have remained obscure as scapegoats for Japan’s rightward turn. Mitsui and Minoda warrant this attention because they provide access into the world of so-called “fanatics,” who, as it turns out, received a wide hearing at the time because their views were resonant, not exceptional.
      —Paul D. Barclay, Lafayette College
    • John Person’s book is an important and timely intervention into the literature on the Japanese imperial state, fascism and populism, and the role of the “fanatic” and “right-wing/left-wing” in historiography and political ideology. This is a meticulously researched and careful study of a crucial aspect of not only Japanese intellectual and political history, but also social theory and ideology.
      —Robert Stolz, University of Virginia
    • Person’s Arbiters of Patriotism is a welcome contribution to the historiography of the Japanese Right. Person’s historical analysis of the idea of the “Right Wing” reveals a much more complex and multifaceted history that would have been lost by just assuming the transhistorical value of the term. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book, however, is how it shows the power of the state as the actual centre of all political conversations. While one might be tempted to assume that the people like Minoda and Mitsui were the judges of who was patriotic and who was not, Person’s convincingly demonstrates that the government and its organs were the actual arbiters of patriotism.
      —Francesco Cioffo, The Japan Society Review, 16:2 (April 2021)
    • This is a fascinating intellectual and political history of ‘fanaticism’ in Japan. . . . Arbiters of Patriotism is a valuable and carefully researched book about a strikingly understudied topic in English-language literature, given its importance in history. It is at its core an intellectual history of fanaticism in prewar Japan through the lens of two influential ideologues. But the book is most interesting and important when it explores the very real political stakes of radical nationalist ideas. In this sense, Arbiters of Patriotism feels alarmingly relevant in today’s world, and deserves a wide audience of scholars and others interested in the intersections of ideology and political life.
      —Jeremy A. Yellen, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Global Intellectual History (2022)
  • Supporting Resources