This essay explores the connection between the economy and cultural identity in Japanese nationalism and the intellectual discourses that have historically defined it. Nationalism in the pre-war period was closely associated with the anxiety that Japanese modernity was deformed. After World War II Japan was part of the global trend towards developmental nationalism, including a transformation of its economy into both a wealthy and a highly egalitarian one. In the 1970s and 1980s ethnic nationalism re-emerged, this time arguing that economic success was the product of Japanese cultural uniqueness rather than of the developmental nationalist policies of the previous quarter-century. The economic downturn of the 1990s thus challenged Japan both economically and culturally, and reawakened anxieties about Japanese deformity. At first, this crisis led to a critical re-evaluation of national culture, manifested as serious attempts to both resolve tensions with Asia dating from World War II and to dismantle domestic social hierarchies. By the mid-1990s, however, this moment had passed and government and business leaders adopted fully fledged neoliberal policies, reversing the long postwar trend towards income equality, also expressing a more strident and militarist cultural nationalism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas