Abstract

One of the major problems facing modern Japanese historians is that of providing adequate explanations for the nature and timing of changes in the decision-making structure after 1868. The domination of the decision-making process and structure by the civil bureaucracy indicates that bureaucratic development was a major factor in determining such changes.

The civil bureaucracy underwent two dramatic changes in the period after 1868. The first occurred in the years 1868–78 and resulted in the integration, centralization and specialization of the bureaucratic structure. This was confirmed by an analysis of all increases and decreases in operations at the prefectural level—the level at which integration had been critical. The second major change occurred between 1884—1889 as the result of a series of reforms aimed at rationalizing the bureaucratic role. Analysis of the backgrounds and careers of a 25% random sample of all prefectural governors between 1868–1945 clearly indicates that by 1900 the norms of the bureaucratic role had changed drastically. From a role based on extra-bureaucratic norms—participation in the Restoration, possession of some Western knowledge and membership in the traditional elite—the “new” bureaucratic role was characterized by predominantly “legal-rational” norms. These changes had a number of consequences for the decisionmaking structure: 1) the centralization, integration and specialization of the bureaucracy placed decision-making in the hands of a small number of bureaucratic leaders thus laying the foundation for the oligarchic (genro) structure which now emerged. Decision-making roles were thus allocated on the same extra-bureaucratic criteria as upper civil service roles; 2) rationalization of the bureaucratic role undermined and finally eliminated the genro structure through elimination of the norms for selecting genro members. The resulting vacuum was filled by contention and conflict between the bureaucracy and the political parties both claiming legitimacy in the selection and allocation of decision-making roles. The result was a system of allocating decision-making roles which was informal, ambiguous and highly particularistic. The result was the instability of decision-making which characterized the post-1925 period. The hypothesis that bureaucratic development was a major factor in determining change in the decision-making structure thus appears to be confirmed.

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