a world-system study of japanese social movements

Tue, 25 Mar 1997 18:05:38 -0500
christopher chase-dunn (chriscd@jhu.edu)

Elson Boles is working on a dissertation on an important social
movement in Japan in the late nineteenth century. Boles is looking at
the world-system contextual factors involved in this last millinarian
rebellion and how it was related to Japan's incorporation into the
Europe-centered system. An abstract of his thesis follows:

ABSTRACT: Ph. D. Dissertation

TITLE: REBELS, GAMBLERS, AND SILK: Agencies and Structures of the
Silk Network, 1858-1890

AUTHOR: Elson E. Boles, Sociology, Ph. D. Candidate, State University
of New York, Binghamton
DEFENSE: 11 April, 1997


In 1884, Meiji Japan's largest armed peasant uprising, involving
3000-7000,erupted in Saitama prefecture. The nature of the incident has
been passionately debated among Japanese historians. The orthodoxy sees
it as the climax of the Liberty Movement; revisionists argue it was the
last and greatest millenarian peasant uprising.

This study scrutinizes and resolves the debate by revealing the role of
bakuto (gamblers) in this and other incidents tied to the Liberty
The revision furthermore transcends the local focus of earlier studies
exploring the world-historical dimensions of the rebellion and related
struggles. Social-history and world-systems
perspectives are united through an multi-level movement from global to
local developments, showing the world-historical dimensions of events
and agencies and, conversely, the local faces of global-scale processes.

The rebellion occurred as part of the Japan-US silk network's formation,
1860-84. The division of labor's emergence saw the decline of Chichibu
petty sericulturists, the rise of new filatures in Japan, and
high-technology silk weaving factories in the US. The
interrelated class-patriarchal changes among the network's sectors
engendered new forms of resistance, including the first known factory
strikes in Japan, by women reelers in Kofu (1885-86), and strikes by
silk workers in Paterson, New Jersey (1886-90).

Meiji silk export development programs during the 1870s nurtured the
network's formation. But Meiji state policy was less a product of
Western ideas, as previously thought, than the reconstitution of earlier
"domain development" strategies of Satsuma and Choshu han. Indeed,
these domains seized power in 1868 on the basis of
successful export-oriented accumulation 1750-1860, and then extend their
strategies on a national scale after the Restoration.

The retrenchment phase of modernization, 1880-86, triggered peasant debt
deferral movements across Japan and repression of gamblers and political
activists led to new inter-class alliances. This work explains, for the
first time, how activists recruited
bakuto and indebted peasants to form revolutionary armies, why the
latter joined, and the "incidents of violence" that followed.

Narrowing in on Chichibu with primary resources, we detail how local
bakuto joined the Liberty Party and fused their party status with
gambler-style chivalry. Villagers accepted redeemed bakuto as righteous
leaders, reinvented millenarianism, and followed bakuto leaders in a
revolt against corrupt officials and land expropriating

As the last millenarian uprising in Japan, the uprising marks the
of Japan's incorporation into the modern world-system; the Liberty
Movement, struggles by gamblers, and the Kofu and Paterson strikes,
signify Japan's systemic transformation as part of the world-system.