Harry Harootunian is Max Palevsky Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Chicago and Associate Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University. He is the author of numerous books, most recently,
Chapter 2 analyzes the Gramscian political conception of passive revolution or restoration/revolution as a way to understand the Meiji Restoration. It then shows how from the late eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries Tokugawa Japan underwent events that led to conditions of irretrievable decline and crisis. The political leaders were incapable of dealing with domestic economic, social, and economic failure, as shown by recurring peasant rebellions and city trashings and the threat posed by the increasing appearance of foreign ships in Japanese waters, with the West pressuring the shogunate to end its policy of seclusion and open Japan to foreign trade. Under the slogan of revering the emperor and expelling the foreigner, imperial activists overthrew the shogunate and restored the emperor in 1868. The use of the archaic imaginary as a political ideology to reinforce the idea of imperial restoration became, in time, a political unconscious in modern Japan.