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Reviewed by:
  • Comparative Imperiology edited by Kimitaka Matsuzato
  • Krzysztof Brzechczyn (bio)
Kimitaka Matsuzato (Ed.), Comparative Imperiology (Sapporo: Slavic Research Center, Hokaido University, 2010). 132 pp. ISBN: 978-4-938637-53-8.

Imperiology is an interdisciplinary field being developed in a number of countries. One of its classics is a book by Samuel Eisenstadt titled The Political Systems of Empires. The Rise and Fall of the Historical Bureaucratic Societies. Analyzing political systems that emerged in the bureaucratic empires of Egypt, China, Rome, Byzantium, and early modern European countries, Eisenstadt demonstrates that the social and political structure that developed in bureaucratic empires was something intermediate between the traditional society and modern political systems. Bureaucracy in imperial political systems autonomizes itself and pursues its own goals, which leads to social conflicts and thus to the collapse of empires. The study assumes that the empire always generates a new social entity that cannot be divided into its elements, that differs from nonimperial societies, and that constitutes the object of study of modern imperiology.

Japanese imperiology is a part of this international field. The collection of articles under review in Comparative Imperiology, edited by Kimitaka Matsuzato, includes “Introduction: Empire Studies in Japan” (Pp. 5–20) and five chapters written by different authors: “Recognized Legal Disorder: French Colonial Rule in Algeria c. 1840–1900” (Pp. 21–36, by Akihito Kudo); “The Biological Blowback of Empire? The Collapse of the Japanese Empire and the Influx of the ‘Deadly Environment’ 1945–1952” (Pp. 37–60, by Toshihiro Higuchi); “The Anatomy and Pathology of Empire: Three Balance Sheets of Russian and Soviet Banks” (Pp. 61–86, by Kazuhiko Yago); “The Qing Empire in the Central Eurasian Context: Its Structure of Rule as Seen from the Eight Banner System” (Pp. 87–108, by Kiyohiko Sugiyama); and “The Collapse of the Japanese Empire and the Normalization of Its Relations with South Korea (1945–1965): Repatriation, Reparations, and External Assets Reconsidered” (Pp. 109–29, by Toyomi Asano).

In his “Introduction: Empire Studies in Japan,” Kimitaka Matsuzato offers a brief overview of the history of imperiology in Japan, characterizing its most significant schools of thought and research problems. The author defines imperiology as a “genre of historical science, in which historians appreciate empires for their own values, neither as some attribute to a certain stage of capitalist development nor as a background to national or [End Page 314] gender consciousness” (P. 6). Matsuzato claims that the renaissance of Japanese imperiology commenced in the 1980s. It was affected by the fall of the Leninist concept of imperialism and the appearance of new concepts: the world system theory, postcolonial studies, and the application of the constructivist concept of a historical narrative to analyze imperial systems. The second breakthrough in the development of Japanese imperiology was the end of the Cold War, which resulted in development of the ephemeral hegemony of the United States and the collapse of communism in the USSR. According to Matsuzato, the collapse of the Soviet empire: “did not result in democracy and respect for human rights in many of its successor nation-states” (P. 5).1 In the twenty-first century a significant role was played by the program of the Hokkaido University Slavic Research Center “Making a Discipline of Slavic Eurasian Studies,” carried out in 2003–8. At that time, the Slavic Research Center organized a number of conferences that became the basis of collective works published as subsequent volumes of the Slavic Eurasian Studies series.2 The book under review is a product of this collective enterprise of empire studies.

Kimitaka Matsuzato distinguishes three fundamental research trends in Japanese imperiology: the global history school, the theory of composite monarchies, and the Central Eurasian school.

The global history school was established as a result of overcoming the economic determinism characteristic of the early stage of development of world system theory. This notion emphasizes the autonomy of state structures in the global system. Empire development is a result of the peripheral and metropolitan interests of social and political elites, which – deprived of any choice – are forced to negotiate with each other. [End Page 315] Global history is represented by Shigeru Akita, the author of a book published in Japanese in 2003...


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