Westerners wishing to study Japan enter a house of mirrors. Texts that speak with apparent clarity, directness and authority are instead part of the smokescreen that baffles the novice and bamboozles the experienced.
With this book, Duncan McCargo provides a guide to contemporary Japan that leads the reader through the labyrinthine entanglements of one of the world’s most important and least understood societies. He starts from the premise that studying Japan is disputed territory in which the reader inevitably gets caught in the crossfire of conflicting analyses.
Consequently, McCargo entreats his readers to adopt a "critical, sceptical and questioning attitude to everything" - including his book. To aid this process , McCargo sets out what he sees as the three main analytical categories of Japan scholarship: the "mainstream", "revisionist" and "cultural" perspectives. By using this intellectual triptych, the reader is aware of the internal scholarly debates and disagreements that often occlude a basic understanding of modern Japan.
This is a clear and concise book using familiar material but presented with an academic health warning to assist the reader in fathoming this most complex of countries. It should become a standard student text and is a "must" for the general reader.
Meryll Dean is senior lecturer in law, University of Sussex.
Contemporary Japan: First edition
Author - Duncan McCargo
ISBN - 0 333 71000 2 and 71001 0
Publisher - Palgrave (formerly Macmillan Press)
Price - £42.50 and £13.50
Pages - 223