Ruffians, yakuza, nationalists [electronic resource] : the violent politics of modern Japan, 1860-1960 /
Eiko Maruko Siniawer.
Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2008.
xi, 270 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
0801447208 (cloth : alk. paper), 9780801447204 (cloth : alk. paper)
More Details
Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2008.
0801447208 (cloth : alk. paper)
9780801447204 (cloth : alk. paper)
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
contents note
Introduction -- Patriots and gamblers: violence and the formation of the Meiji state -- Violent democracy: ruffians and the birth of parliamentary politics -- Institutionalized ruffianism and a culture of political violence -- Fascist violence: ideology and power in prewar Japan -- Democracy reconstructed: violence specialists in the postwar period -- Afterword.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 231-249) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2009-11-01:
This new book challenges the common assertion that the revolution and nation-building process that forged modern Japan were essentially bloodless processes. Instead, Siniawer (Williams College) says that in the revolutionary period and the constitutional state that followed, all political factions mobilized "violence specialists" to intimidate and terrorize political opponents. These specialists espoused a malleable ideology linking their actions to patriotic activism and thereby imbuing political violence with romantic legitimacy. Siniawer shows how the roles of various gangsters, gamblers, and general ruffians in the political process evolved over the decades of parliamentary democracy, war, defeat, and reconstruction. By 1960, yakuza criminal organizations replaced the old-style ruffians, but the ubiquity and importance of political violence persisted. The author makes some limited comparative observations about political violence elsewhere, but these are too limited to be genuinely helpful or convincing. Graduate students and scholars will find the arguments here suggestive, and all students will be interested in the stories of and details about Japan's political mayhem recounted throughout. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. W. D. Kinzley University of South Carolina
Review Quotes
"Eiko Maruko Siniawer offers an alternative history of modern Japan written from the perspective of the micropolitics of violence. In this revealing book those who usually stay in the background come to the forefront. Political ruffians and other specialists in violence were indispensable for every political project, whether fascist or democratic. The degree of their historical involvement is striking."-Vadim Volkov, The European University at St. Petersburg, author of Violent Entrepreneurs: The Use of Force in the Making of Russian Capitalism
"Eiko Maruko Siniawer's Ruffians, Yakuza, Nationalists abundantly demonstrates the political violence basic to the birth and development of modern Japanese democracy. In a carefully crafted study that manages at once to be sweeping, nuanced, and richly comparative, she surveys how political 'violence specialists' became as Japanese as cherry blossoms. In tracing the history of violent groups she not only demonstrates how they contributed to 'fascist violence' in prewar Japan, but also reveals how democratic ends emerged directly and indirectly from undemocratic actions before and after World War II. The insight is just one of many in this fascinating study of hooligans and fixers in modern Japanese politics."-Michael Lewis, Michigan State University
"Ruffians, Yakuza, Nationalists addresses a theme of great cross-regional and contemporary relevance: that democracy and violence, far from being incompatible, are intimately entangled. Eiko Maruko Siniawer advances the provocative thesis that the embrace of democracy does not displace violence from politics but merely transforms it. This is a book that deserves an audience well beyond Japanese history."-Michael A. Reynolds, Princeton University
"This lively history of modern institutionalized practices of political violence in Japan, demonstrates how in one guise or another 'violence specialists' have been integral to the conduct of politics. Historians and political scientists inclined to view Japan as a consensus driven society, will do well to consider Siniawer's contrarian view."-Stephen Vlastos, University of Iowa, author of Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, November 2009
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Main Description
Violence and democracy may seem fundamentally incompatible, but the two have often been intimately and inextricably linked. In Ruffians, Yakuza, Nationalists, Eiko Maruko Siniawer argues that violence has been embedded in the practice of modern Japanese politics from the very inception of the country's experiment with democracy. As soon as the parliament opened its doors in 1890, brawls, fistfights, vandalism, threats, and intimidation quickly became a fixture in Japanese politics, from campaigns and elections to legislative debates. Most of this physical force was wielded by what Siniawer calls "violence specialists": ruffians and yakuza. Their systemic and enduring political violence-in the streets, in the halls of parliament, during popular protests, and amid labor strife-ultimately compromised party politics in Japan and contributed to the rise of militarism in the 1930s. For the post-World War II years, Siniawer illustrates how the Japanese developed a preference for money over violence as a political tool of choice. This change in tactics signaled a political shift, but not necessarily an evolution, as corruption and bribery were in some ways more insidious, exclusionary, and undemocratic than violence. Siniawer demonstrates that the practice of politics in Japan has been dangerous, chaotic, and far more violent than previously thought. Additionally, crime has been more political. Throughout the book, Siniawer makes clear that certain yakuza groups were ideological in nature, contrary to the common understanding of organized crime as nonideological. Ruffians, Yakuza, Nationalists is essential reading for anyone wanting to comprehend the role of violence in the formation of modern nation-states and its place in both democratic and fascist movements.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Political Violence in Historiographical Perspective
Violence, Violence Specialists, and Politics
Violence and Democracy
Approaches to Comparative History
Patriots and Gamblers: Violence and the Formation of the Meiji Statep. 11
Shishi: Assassins, Rebels, Patriots
Shishi Legacies in the Early Meiji Period
Bakuto: Outlaws, Robin Hoods, Local Leaders
Bakuto and the Meiji Restoration
Bakuto as Political Violence Specialists: The Freedom and People's Rights Movement
Violent Democracy: Ruffians and the Birth of Parliamentary Politicsp. 42
From Activist to Ruffian: Soshi in the 1880s
Exporting Violence: Nationalist Tairiku Ronin across Borders
Parliamentary Politics and the Professionalization of Soshi
State Violence and the Second General Election
Institutionalized Ruffianism and a Culture of Political Violencep. 74
The Jiyuto Ingaidan and Its Bosses
The Seiyukai Ingaidan in Party Politics
Cultures of Violence: Yakuza Bosses in Diet Politics
Fascist Violence: Ideology and Power in Prewar Japanp. 108
Fascist Ideologies
Fascist Violence
The Nationalist Nexus in the Metropole and Beyond
Violence in the Decline of the Political Parties
Democracy Reconstructed: Violence Specialists in the Postwar Periodp. 139
The Decline of Soshi and the Remaking of Ingaidan Violence
Violence as a Political and Discursive Weapon in Diet Politics
"Boryokudan" Redux: Yakuza and the Conservative Nexus
1960: The Apogee of Postwar Violence Specialists
Coda: Political Violence after 1960
Afterwordp. 175
Violence and Democracy
Violence, Fascism, Militarism
Violence Specialists and History
A Contemporary Perspective on Violent Democracy
Glossaryp. 183
Notesp. 185
Bibliographyp. 231
Indexp. 251
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem