【Report】 The 46th AJI Frontier Seminar was held! Dr. Kazutaka SOGO made a presentation about the problems of the prewar Japanese political system from the viewpoint of the international context of the time.

On Tuesday, July 12, the 46th AJI Frontier Seminar took place online. Dr. Kazutaka Sogo (Senior Researcher of the Asia-Japan Research Institute, Ritsumeikan University) made a very informative presentation titled “The Political Structure of Prewar Japan and the Limits of Parliamentary Politics: Linkage between Economic Expansion Abroad and Domestic Politics”. Dr. Sogo specializes in the history of Japanese politics. In particular, he is engaged in research to elucidate the process of the structural transformation of Japan’s political party cabinet and the underlying principle of parliamentarism during the interwar period from 1918, after the First World War, to the Second World War (the Asia-Pacific War).

At the outset of his presentation, a clear explanation was given of how, in the context of that time, the issue of settling the ability of the party cabinet to make autonomous decisions and the ability to take responsibility for governance was found in the system of the national regime centered on the Emperor established under the Meiji Constitution. Based on these issues, Dr. Sogo discussed, with detailed analysis, how the cabinet system with effective responsibilities for governance (the “responsible cabinet system” (Tatsukichi Minobe)) was actually realized as the so-called “Normal Constitutional Practice (Kensei no Jōdō)” between 1924 and 1932, and how it was dissolved in the process leading to World War II. Dr. Sogo’s argument was particularly interesting on the point that he sought to uncover the mechanisms underlying the transformation and dismantling of the political party system based on the links between various actors and the network they made such as ministers, bureaucrats, economic agents, and colonial administration. Noticeably, his attempt to understand the transformation of domestic politics in the international context of the time, such as the fact that the conflict of interests between ministries and ministers and the complicated administrative process in Japan, which led to the decline of the party cabinet's ability to take responsibility for governance, and the need to establish a government of all-national unity to overcome such confusion, in an attempt to expand the scale of external economic activities, including colonial activities, provided a very exciting perspective on history.

In the Q&A session, there were lively discussions on various issues, such as how portfolio of the Minister of State, which is key to this historical process, has changed its character with the times, how research on the transformation process of “Imperial Japan” can be related to historical research on other empires, and the position of Dr. Sogo’s research in the international academic context on Japanese political history.

46回 十河先生フロンティアセミナー1
Dr. Sogo delivering his presentation