With the enactment of universal male suffrage in 1925, Japanese political parties had to face a quadrupling of the electorate and this brought into question the effectiveness of long established methods of gathering votes. Moving beyond a reliance upon personal networks of selected constituents, candidates started to appeal systematically to the general public through the mass media. Campaigns soon became an elaborate combination of rally speeches, printed propaganda and audio-visual performances. These innovations were in tune with the more general and growing interest of the political elites in mass communication as an instrument for preempting social conflict and rousing popular support for government policies. This paper focuses on the five general elections held under universal suffrage before the dissolution of all parties in 1940, tracing the development of campaigns in terms of both technical progress and rhetorical style. It compares the communicative approach of the two main parties with that of the emerging socialists, pointing out how divergent choices among the combatants reflected differences in their social targets and political orientation. Research provides evidence against the widespread opinion that the enlargement of the franchise did not determine any significant change in the way politicians related to voters. On the other hand, however, campaign regulations suggest that the established parties put limits on the use of those media which did not offer them a competitive advantage over their “proletarian” rivals. Moreover, the concentration of modern propaganda in the urban centers suggests that social conditions in rural Japan were not yet ripe for a full transition to mass politics.

Learning How to Appeal to the Masses: Election Campaigns in Interwar Japan

REVELANT, Andrea
2011-01-01

Abstract

With the enactment of universal male suffrage in 1925, Japanese political parties had to face a quadrupling of the electorate and this brought into question the effectiveness of long established methods of gathering votes. Moving beyond a reliance upon personal networks of selected constituents, candidates started to appeal systematically to the general public through the mass media. Campaigns soon became an elaborate combination of rally speeches, printed propaganda and audio-visual performances. These innovations were in tune with the more general and growing interest of the political elites in mass communication as an instrument for preempting social conflict and rousing popular support for government policies. This paper focuses on the five general elections held under universal suffrage before the dissolution of all parties in 1940, tracing the development of campaigns in terms of both technical progress and rhetorical style. It compares the communicative approach of the two main parties with that of the emerging socialists, pointing out how divergent choices among the combatants reflected differences in their social targets and political orientation. Research provides evidence against the widespread opinion that the enlargement of the franchise did not determine any significant change in the way politicians related to voters. On the other hand, however, campaign regulations suggest that the established parties put limits on the use of those media which did not offer them a competitive advantage over their “proletarian” rivals. Moreover, the concentration of modern propaganda in the urban centers suggests that social conditions in rural Japan were not yet ripe for a full transition to mass politics.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/29705
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