Saturday, November 16, 2013

Culture and State Development: Japan and France


Instead of cultural explanations on how states develop, I would have to focus more emphasis on the spread of political ideologies through military intervention and capital trade, especially after the technological quickening of the 19th century concerning expanded sea navigation, trade, and military conquest. I support this theory with the fact that Japan’s first exposure and transitional assimilation to a parliamentary government, was after “the forcible entry in 1853 and 1854 of a small flotilla of American warships under the command of Commodore Matthew C. Perry into a bay some 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Edo” (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 196).

It would appear that Japanese culture has had a greater, and more consolidating, impact on its state policies today than French culture has implemented on modern French policies, which have long been incorporated into the various European cultures. Two differences of note would be geographic location and imperialist history. Japan is an island in the Pacific, isolated to some extent from mass immigration of foreign cultures, and France is located in Europe, sharing borders with Spain, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany. France has not only engaged in imperialism and participated in wars highlighting religion, but has been occupied by foreign powers several times through history (England occupied territories in the 1400s, Russians occupied territory in the 1800s, and Germany occupied territory during World War II). The only time that Japan was occupied by a foreign state was after World War II, and that was by the United States, but Japan, through importation and trade, has underwent cultural influence from Korea and China in “religion, literature, law, architecture, and fine arts” to include Buddhism and the teachings of Confucius  (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 195).

Japan does not have to deal with a multiplicity of ethnic groups and the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. As the text book states, Japan is 99.87% composed of Japanese (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 192 ). Prior to the 1800s, Japan maintained a “centuries-old official policy that banned unauthorized foreigners from entering Japanese territory” (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 196). France, on the hand, claims that 76.9% of their citizens are “French born”, but that does not paint an accurate diversity of ethnic groups, sometimes in political conflict, that have resulted from centuries of colonialism, occupation, and the international African holocaust (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 94). The religions in France, mainly the three Abrahamic religions, are also more diverse, and conflicting in ideological nature, than religion in Japan. Since France has been historically nationalistic within the European stage, an example of domestic cultural conflict can be seen in the fact that recently “the French government imposed a national dress code” revealing “insecurity about French national identity and the relation of Islam”  (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 92). France is “deeply divided by social, economic, and cultural cleavages” and this influence and turbulence more than likely has been a cause for the various transitions and multiple political parties in French government over modern history (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 102).

The following link is a news video concerning the domestic French ban on the Islamic burqa or hijab from 2009 which showed the nationalistic side of French domestic policies over domestic cultural values:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OerhhsbvZ4

References:

Mark Kesselman, Joel Krieger, and William Joseph, Introduction to Comparative Politics, 6th edition.  Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2013.
 
 

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