Unconditional Democracy documents the difficulty of rebuilding a country devastated by war and unrest

Friday, January 23, 2004

In his book Unconditional Democracy: Education and Politics in Occupied Japan, 1945–1952 (Hoover Institution Press, originally published 1982) Toshio Nishi, a Hoover research fellow, documents the efforts of American occupation forces' to transform the basic values and behavior of the Japanese after Japan's defeat in World War II.

General MacArthur knew the value of compulsory education in political indoctrination. Aided by the Japanese passion for learning and veneration for the conquerors, MacArthur directed the "political reorientation of Japan."

Unconditional Democracy was originally published as part of a series titled Education and Society, a research project of the Hoover Institution, which addressed issues of education's role in social, economic, and political affairs. The intent was to provide insight into the relationship between inculcated values and behavior and a society's approach to revolution and development that will contribute to more effective education for the establishment and preservation of justice and peace.

In this reissue Nishi reiterates this view in the preface where he states that it is his hope the book

will illustrate the difficult mission of a regime change, of a successful metamorphosis that amalgamates incompatible cultures and religions, conflicting memories of hopes and disappointments, and then gives birth to something greater than the past.

Four years old when the war ended, Nishi began school as new policies were being implemented. In Unconditional Democracy, Nishi captures not only the practices, but also the feel of Japanese culture as he relates how changes brought about by educational and political reform of the new government affected the Japanese.

After graduating from Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan, Nishi earned his Ph.D. in political studies of education at the University of Washington in Seattle. He was the first recipient of the Jean and Paul Hanna Endowment Fellowship at the Hoover Institution, with which the present book was written. For this book, Nishi undertook extensive archival research at the U.S. National Archives, the Harry S. Truman Library, the Douglas MacArthur Memorial Library, the National Institute for Educational Research in Tokyo, and the Hoover Institution. He also teaches at Reitaku University in Japan and is the chairman of the editorial board, and columnist, for Kokkai News, Japan's oldest monthly magazine on politics.