Gary D. Allinson’s article “antecedents, 1932-1945” provides a comprehensive view of Japan from 1932 to 1945 with a rich historical background and a significant future affected by events that occurred in this time frame. Social, economic and political inequalities are portrayed as harmful to any society when not adequately addressed. However, it is also evident that such ills can give rise to a better future as seen in the formation of powerful labour movements in Japan and involvement of women in the economy after the war.
In this text, Allison (2004) point out that 1930s was a period that blended an industrialising Japan with an initially agrarian nation. Serious inequalities existed in the society with social hierarchies being clearly cut in the rural and emerging urban Japan. It is evident that social hierarchies were formed with the imperials and aristocrats being at the crème of the society. With women being clearly discriminated against in terms of education, the Japanese society prior to 1930s emerges as male dominated. Politically, the society (rural and urban) experiences clear cut lines according to wealth, social status and power. Women and young men were generally left out of politics and economic development. Economically, government industries especially the military emerge as great beneficiaries of economic recovery while small industries were almost insignificant. All the inequalities demonstrated in the society however turned out to haunt Japan even at a time when Japan was clearly recovering economically.
The final downfall of Japan in the Second World War emanated from inequalities in the economy with the military getting excessive power and privilege indicating that unchecked power is destructive. It takes the efforts of few individuals to develop policies that can redeem a society economically or politically as exemplified by Japan’s Finance Minister Takahashi Koreiyo who helped Japan out of the great depression in 1933. Despite such visionary policies, past inequalities remain to haunt the society. This is because the public borrowing proposed by Koreiyo ended up benefiting government agencies such as the military and the zaibatsu since they dominated the economy. Economic rivalry has the potential to create social, economic and political blocs. This is exemplified by the development of the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere that emerged in 1939 due to Japan’s competition with the U.S., Germany and Britain on synthetic fibre export.
Industrialisation has the potential to change the structure and composition of a society as seen in the convergence of rural workers and families in Japan cities. Rural-urban migration had to heighten and new urban areas came up. Unfortunately, poor planning characterized the cities with overcrowding being seen up to today. Poor urban areas were characterized by all forms of social ills ranging from poverty to drug abuse. This is indicative of the social ills that are bound to arise when poor planning prevails in a dynamically changing populace. Social classes also formed in the upcoming urban areas with a middle class and high class society being extended thus social inequalities can be spread in all social settings.
Failing to involve some groups in the society in all the sectors can be disastrous in times of need. Japan at one time lacked manpower in the industries as more men joined the military and the women who came to replace the men meant instability in agricultural production. However this birthed powerful labour movements as government motivated workers by giving them power to select their own leaders.
Allison (2004) brings us from a time of economic recovery (dented) and continued social stratification and finally throws us deeper into ill and competitive politics with heavy military domination. Eventually, Japan ends up warring against China. This leads to devastation where the war ends by bombings at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Thus, any society has to address its ills wholesomely otherwise it will be plagued by unresolved inequalities.
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