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Nation, State and Security in Post-war Japanese Political Thought


Admission requirements

Bachelor’s level courses on Japanese politics and/or foreign policy. A grounding in international relations theory and Japanese language skills would be useful.


How do the citizens of a formally pacifist country that is allied with the strongest military power of all time, and separated from its neighbours by unpleasant memories of war and colonisation, conceive of the nature of their state, its national interests and its security policies? This course explores the relationship between nation, state and security in post-war Japanese political thought. It demonstrates in particular the contested nature of these concepts, and while it introduces works which treat debate on Japanese security policy as a series of consensuses, it tends to emphasise constant contestation between ideological groupings as a more satisfactory explanation for security policy developments in post-war Japan. It is designed for graduate students who preferably already have a sound grounding in Japanese politics and foreign policy.

The course is divided into four parts: Part One briefly introduces students to theoretical issues surrounding the notion of statehood before exploring the specific tensions, grounded in Japan’s experience of war, defeat and occupation, that continue to divide Japanese thinkers on the nature of their state, its interests and appropriate security policies; Part Two provides an overview of types of nationalism in Japan before outlining in turn each of the major strands of thought on the nature of the Japanese state and its interests; Part Three explains how contestation between the different strands of thought has come to influence the formation of such policy since 1960; and Part Four explores different issue areas, showing how domestic thought and discussion on the state and security affect Japan’s contemporary relations with its American ally and Asian neighbours.

Course objectives

Introduce students to the key actors, works and debates on security in postwar Japan.
Foster an understanding of the relationship between domestic discourse and security policy, both in Japan and beyond.
Develop critical thinking and writing skills.



Mode of instruction

Choose from:

  • Seminar

Assessment method

One 4,000 word essay
In-class presentation



Reading list

There are no core texts for this course. Most readings are available from academic databases, although book chapters have been assigned for certain classes. Where possible, and particularly when discussing major strands of thought on the state and security in Part Two, translated primary works of representative Japanese thinkers and politicians will be assigned alongside secondary literature.




Dr. Bryce Wakefield