chapter  1
23 Pages

Conservatism: Theory and reality in postwar Japan

Naturally the first question that emerges when pondering the topic at hand is what exactly is conservatism? Unfortunately there is no definitive answer to this question, as scholars have failed to agree upon any one definition. Many conservatives, regardless of their origin, tend to emphasize what it is not: namely an ideology (Etō 1996: 19; Honderich 1990: 17-18). Dunn and Woodard argue that ‘conservatism is about cultural traditions and values which defy simple definition’ (Dunn, Woodard 1991: 24). R.J. White, meanwhile, has offered the following assessment: ‘To put up [conservatism] in a bottle with a label is like trying to [liquefy] the atmosphere […]. The difficulty arises from the nature of the thing. For [conservatism] is less a political doctrine, than a habit of mind, a mode of feeling, a way of living’ (White 1950: 1). Agreeing with the last part of White’s statement, the late Etō Jun calls conservatism a feeling, as opposed to an ideology like socialism or capitalism (Etō 1996: 17-18).