Purpose and Prosperity in Postwar Japan

The Growth IdeaWinner of the 2007–2008 First Book Award of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute

Our narratives of postwar Japan have long been cast in terms almost synonymous with the story of rapid economic growth. In The Growth Idea: Purpose and Prosperity in Postwar Japan, by Scott O’Bryan, this seemingly familiar history is reinterpreted through an innovative exploration, not of the anatomy of growth itself, but of the history of growth as a set of discourses by which Japanese “growth performance” as “economic miracle” came to be articulated. The premise of O’Bryan‘s work is simple: To our understandings of the material changes that took place in Japan during the second half of the twentieth century we must also add perspectives that account for growth as a new idea around the world, one that emerged alongside rapid economic expansion in postwar Japan and underwrote the modes by which it was imagined, forecast, pursued, and regulated. In an accessible, lively style, O’Bryan traces the history of growth as an object of social scientific knowledge and as a new analytical paradigm that came to govern the terms by which Japanese understood their national purposes and imagined a newly materialist vision of social and individual prosperity.

The Growth Idea represents a significant contribution to the emerging field of postwar Japanese history and an important step forward in the historicization of Japan’s high-speed growth of the 1950s and 1960s. It is the first and fullest treatment of the ideology of postwar growthism, of Keynesian thought in Japan, and of the development of postwar statistical practice. Well written, original, and based on first-rate scholarship, The Growth Idea approaches its subject in a fresh way that will interest specialists in Japanese history as well as others interested in Japan from a comparative perspective.” —Mark Metzler, University of Texas

August 2009 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3282-7 / $40.00 (CLOTH)