Book Launch: Reasonable Men, Powerful Words: Political Culture and Expertise in Twentieth-Century Japan
Former fellow Laura Hein presented her new book, which traces the lives and work of six of economists in 20th century Japan. As Japan's first "social scientists," these men dedicated themselves to an extraordinary range of public policies, including eliminating poverty and reshaping the relationship between government and citizen. Hein showed how the group's ideas have influenced everything from the welfare system to consumer behavior.
Most importantly, according to Hein, these "doctors of democracy" helped create a Japanese citizenry that could understand basic economic concepts and participate knowledgably in a pluralistic system. Known as the Ouchi Group, they were led by Ouchi Hyoe, a remarkable professor born in 1888. Jailed for "thought crimes" in 1938, they were highly valued by the U.S. occupation. They collaborated on essays, served on government advisory commissions, and wrote textbooks. One, Minobe Ryokichi, became governor of Tokyo from 1967 to 1979.
In his comments, Naotaka Matsukata praised the book for showing continuity between pre- and post-war Japan. He pointed out the Ouchi Group was part of a culture of dissent going back to the 19th century. Matsukata also commended the book for pointing out the strong current of practicality in Japanese intelligentsia, which balanced their Marxist ideology and created lasting institutions.