Through the Garbage Can, Darkly, Review of David Williams's Japan and the Enemies of Open Political Science

This is a work of criticism ranging over the more fashionable social sciences and humanities, assessing and mostly rejecting them as unsuitable for elucidating the Japanese political system and berating their exponents for ignoring that system in

Issue: Fall 1996

There is a hole the size of Japan in this book. Japan ghosts in only as the home of uniquely brilliant economic management that gives it "an almost golden patina", exposing by its glow the ineffectiveness of Western, especially American, policy. Yet social scientists are condemned as "keen to ignore or denigrate Japan's achievements" and their intellectual blindness is David Williams' target. His black list stretches to include philosophers, literary critics, and even a scientist (the continued "baleful influence" of Sir Isaac Newton). This, then, is a work of criticism ranging over the more fashionable social sciences and humanities, assessing and mostly rejecting them as unsuitable for elucidating the Japanese political system and berating their exponents for ignoring that system in any case.

Williams, who is senior research fellow in the School of East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield, bases his book on lectures he gave at Oxford during the 1990-91 academic year. His dazzling text suggests there is no one Williams has not read, except mainstream economists, and almost no one, read or unread, whose work he does not dislike. Very few escape the sword. Prominent among those who do are Edward Said, George Steiner, Richard Rorty, and Chalmers Johnson. Even the last two, they will perhaps be glad to hear, may have some clay where their feet should be.

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