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In Session: Japan's "Peace Constitution": Utilization, Appropriation, and Reinterpretation
2: The Peace Constitution as Conservative Ideology in the 1960s
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Brigham Young University, United States
This paper examines how the Peace Constitution became a source for conservative ideology in postwar Japan. After Japan’s defeat in WWII, the U.S. Occupation government created the Peace Constitution, which permanently “renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” To many hardline Japanese conservatives, this foreign-imposed constitution embodied the nation’s shameful defeat and the loss of its sovereignty. Accordingly, revising the constitution and becoming an independent, autonomous country with its own armed forces presented a path for Japan to recover its national pride and honor. Although conservative politics in Japan seemingly existed in a consensual agreement on national sovereignty with an independent constitution, this paper instead demonstrates how the American-imposed Peace Constitution came to be the center of a conservative ideology that promoted liberal economic modernization and national security in postwar Japanese-American relations during the 1960s. In contrast to the hardline conservatives, a group of moderate conservative social scientists and policy specialists defended the Peace Constitution in an attempt to re-conceptualize Japan’s experience of WWII, its liberal economic modernity, and its national sovereignty and security. In the face of overwhelming Cold War American material superiority, these moderate conservative academics supported the Peace Constitution as a tool for Japan to appropriate American power and ideology, while simultaneously justifying the role of the American military in an anti-colonial context.