Laura Hein - Professor of History, Northwestern University
The Asia-Pacific War, like all wars and especially all defeats, polarized domestic society in Japan. Yet in postwar Japan, people who had been imprisoned for their political beliefs worked surprisingly well with the people who had put them there – or at least with people who had stood by and done nothing. That engagement permitted important new economic, political, cultural and social initiatives. In earlier work I argued that appeals to “scientific” (including social-scientific) reasoning and assiduous cultivation of personal networks were two key strategies for finding common ground among postwar elites. The same people also employed a third strategy, developing cultural institutions to provide safe spaces for civic discourse with the people who had opposed, or even imprisoned, them before 1945, creating a new “social imaginary” that framed Japan as a fundamentally peaceful, homogenous and middle-class society.