Maruyama Masao was Japan
's most distinguished essay
ist and scholar of political science
, seeking to create a Japanese body of political thought at a time when most of Japan's thinkers were importing "fashionable" ideas from the West. In this, he is perhaps second only to Fukuzawa Yukichi
(whom he studied extensively) in shaping the hybrid Western-Confucian society of modern Japan.
He was born in Osaka in 1914, and graduated from the law faculty of Tokyo Imperial University in 1937. His early studies focused on the bakufu rule of the Edo era, culminating in his 1952 work Studies in the Intellectual History of Tokugawa Japan. He also studied the fukoku kyohei ("rich country, strong army") days of the Meiji and Taisho eras.
After 1945, Maruyama's research interests turned to a very pertinent question: how to establish a stable government for postwar Japan. The Allied occupation of Japan had given the country a powerful democratic regime, but many Japanese questioned the Americanized system of rule well into the 1960's, culminating in the infamous riots over the forced passage of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation between Japan and the United States of America. One of Maruyama's key arguments was that democracy could only be sustained by the efforts of its people: indeed, he often described democracy as a "permanent revolution."
His masterpiece in this field was Thought and Behavior of Modern Japanese Politics (1964), which examined fascism, communism, and democracy in a Japanese context. Many Japanese political scholars still see this book as a bible of sorts, and yes, it is available in translation. Most of Maruyama's books are not: the only way to read them is in the Iwanami Shoten original.
Maruyama was a professor at the University of Tokyo for most of his life, but came to America on several occasions to teach at Harvard University, Princeton University, and the University of California, Berkeley. He won three major literary prizes before his death on August 15, 1996, fifty-one years to the day after Japan's surrender.