Meiji Japan and the Law and Development Movement Essay

Meiji Japan and the Law and Development Movement Essay

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This paper will be a discussion of Meiji Japan and the Law and Development Movement, and each group’s vision of development and its relation to law. Though the goal of both groups was to further “develop” their targeted societies, both the motivation for and the realization of this goal differed between the groups, thus demonstrating the need of a nuanced view of the umbrella term, “development.” This paper will first discuss Meiji Japan’s vision of law and development and how it instituting particular reforms to achieve its goals. The second half of this essay will focus on the Law and Development Movement’s ideas for its own vision of the role of law in development, and will conclude with an analysis of the validity of each group’s thinking and actions.
Meiji Japan
The impetus of the Meiji revolution was very much the perceived lack of Japanese sovereignty under the Tokugawa government, especially in regards to the Unequal Treaties, which forced Japan into disadvantageous trade arrangements with the western powers. The Meiji vision of development required an establishing of a sophisticated legal system—the legal system under the Tokugawa government lacked the sophistication to counteract the argument for consular jurisdiction. (67) The specific goals of the Meiji revolution centered on promoting Japan as a world power by way of economic and social changes; the law served as a means to achieve these ends. Additionally, in accordance with their desire to make Japan into a societal power to rival the western powers, the Meiji sought legal reforms as an aspect of development itself.
The development of Japan at this time was a program of the state; though the influence of western countries on the Meiji brand of development is app...

... middle of paper ...

... to any country. It was this application that was believed to assist in economic and social development—they perceived the imperfections in developing countries’ legal systems as an obstacle to these developments, and perhaps even a force working directly against development.
As a result of the development efforts undertaken in Meiji Japan, the country saw a dramatic increase in economic productivity of an abolishment of the feudal system. These facts suggest the merit of the Meiji’s thinking and understanding of law as it relates to development. However, the reliance of western powers on legal reform took away from Japanese cultural autonomy at the same time the Meiji fought for economic and political autonomy. My fundamental critique of their tactics would be their assumption that Japanese cultural identity should take a back seat to modernization.

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