Using the concept of fascism for analyzing political developments in early Shōwa Japan has become a controversial topic, and a lively debate about a general definition of fascism has raged among scholars of modern European history. This article presents a new interpretation of Japanese fascism and a modification of Ernst Nolte's definition of fascism as anti-modernism. The author argues that while Japan was not fascist during the 1930s, the original New Order Movement, which was planned by the Shōwa Research Association and promoted by Premier Konoe Fumimaro in 1940, did constitute a fascist movement. It was modeled on policies of European fascism and, fitting Nolte's definition, aimed at creating an anti-modern society. In addition, the New Order Movement revealed a polarity in its basic goals—the advocacy of anti-modernism and the simultaneous quest for a strong military and industrial state—that is central to fascist movements. The author also rejects the previously held image of Japanese intellectuals as passive resisters against the rise of authoritarianism in Japan by emphasizing the leading roles of three prominent writers—Miki Kiyoshi, Ryū Shintarō, and Rōyama Masamichi—in planning the New Order Movement.

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