Economic Thought in Early Modern Japan


This volume explores early-modern formations of economic thought and policy in a country widely regarded as having followed a unique, non-Western path to capitalism. In discussing such topics as money and the state, freedom and control, national interest ideology, shogunal politics and networks, case studies of the Saga Domain and Ryukyu Kingdom, Confucian banking, early Meiji entrepreneurship, and relationships between macroeconomic fluctuations and policy, the essays here deepen and revise our understanding of early-modern Japan. They also enlarge and refine the analytical vocabulary for describing early-modern economic thought and policy, thereby raising issues of interest to scholars of world history and economic thought outside of Japan or East Asia.

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Bettina Gramlich-Oka, Ph.D. (2006) in Japanese Studies, Tübingen University, is Assistant Professor of Japanese History at Sophia University, Tokyo. She has published on shogunal trade regulations and women of the Tokugawa period, including Thinking Like a Man: Tadano Makuzu (1763-1825) (Brill, 2006).

Gregory Smits, Ph.D. (1992) in History, University of Southern California, is Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He has published on the 1855 Ansei Edo Earthquake and the early-modern Ryukyu Kingdom, including Visions of Ryukyu: Identity and Ideology in Early-Modern Thought and Politics (Hawai'i, 1999).

'The essays collected here demonstrate that economic thinking in the Tokugawa era was far from the paint-by-numbers conservatism of a caricatured Confucianism, but rather a lively field with plenty of room for creativity and innovation.
DAVID L. HOWELL, Harvard University, Journal of Japanese Studies

'This book has much to offer. It brings to light issues that are not necessarily treated in more “materialistic” accounts of Japanese economic history.'
CARL MOSK, University of Victoria, The Journal of Japanese Studies, 38,1 (2012).

'While further investigation will be necessary to fully understand what happened in the 18th century, this book will serve as a helpful guide.'
Yasuo TAKATSUKI, Kobe University, Social Science Japan Journal, 2012

Economic Thought in Early Modern Japan is an important addition to the discipline. Avoiding the all-too-common trap of relying on Western theory to define Japanese society, each contributor has followed an innovative approach in communicating to his or her reader the nuances of economic thought found within the geographic, political, social and temporal layers of the Tokugawa period.
JEFFREY NEWMARK, University of Winnipeg, Monumenta Nipponica 66.2 (2011)

'At the broadest level, Gramlich-Oka and Smits seek to “deepen and revise our understanding of early modern Japan,”
and also “enlarge and refine the analytical vocabulary for describing early modern economic thought and policy” -- goals they have certainly achieved.'
ROBERT HELLYER, EH.NET (November 2011)

'...this is a rewarding book that pushes existing scholarship on Tokugawa economic thought and policy down
interesting roads and alleyways. (...), the volume’s major contribution may lie in enhancing our understanding of the range of individuals who, through their writings, activities, and ability to participate in social networks, helped shape the economic culture of the Tokugawa era. An unusually full glossary will provide invaluable support to the non-specialist reader.'
Helen Dunstan, University of Sydney History of Economic Thought and Policy 2-2012

'Economic Thought in Early Modern Japan provides a welcome look at Japanese economic thought during the Tokugawa era for historians and economists interested in Japan or world history. The volume explicitly aims to challenge misperceptions about early modern Japan and suggest new ways of approaching the age’s economic thought and history.(..) Refreshingly, the volume treats its interpretive frames and themes as inclusive rather than exclusive. The book invites non-Japan specialists to the discussion, rather than barricading itself in intra-academic parochialism. Each of the chapters combines extensive primary source work with 108 book reviews an eagerness to think seriously about the material and consider its place in broader economic, Japanese, and world histories.
Of particular interest is an emphasis in several of the chapters on kokueki, which, though translated in terms of mercantilism, is given a more nuanced reading than the English term typically receives in historical terms and in its relation to contemporary events. World and economic historians will find much here to complement work by historians such as Francois Crouzet, David Todd, Philippe Minard, Jean-Yves Grenier, and Sophus Reinert in rethinking mercantilism and the development of the seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century world economies.(...) Specialists working in Japanese history and economic history will find the volume helpful in terms of ideas, presentation, and, somewhat surprisingly for a conference volume, as a reference tool.'
Steven Bryan, Tokyo,

Students of early modern and modern Japan; scholars of economic thought across regions; scholars interested in early modernity across regions; scholars of the intellectual and economic history of Japan.
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