Rich Nation, Strong Army: National Security and the Technological Transformation of Japan by Richard J. Samuels, head of the Department of Political Science and director of the MIT Japan Program, has won the 1996 John Whitney Hall Book Prize of the Association of Asian Studies.
The prize is awarded annually to an outstanding book on Japan or Korea on any topic in the humanities or social sciences. The book has also won the 1996 Arisawa Memorial Prize from the American Association of University Presses.
In the book, Professor Samuels contends that Japan has focused on acquiring, diffusing and nurturing an autonomous technological capability to achieve security in what it perceives to be a highly threatening world. He examines how Japan has embedded its defense industrial and technology base in its commercial industrial and technology base, not just to enhance its standard of living, but also to reduce its vulnerability to interruption of access to foreign technology.
The title of the book refers to a rallying cry that dates to the 19th-century Meiji Restoration. Facing an insecure future in a world presumed to be hostile, Japan's leaders organized a catch-up mobilization of resources that led to the calamitous defeat in World War II. After that, Professor Samuels observes, Japan's leaders simply shifted course.
The Hall Prize citation says of Rich Nation, Strong Army, "well researched, persuasively presented, and impressive in its interdisciplinary and comparative reach, this is a book with many lessons, not just for academics and Japan specialists, but for all thinking citizens of America and of the world today."
During his research for the book, Professor Samuels received support from the Fulbright Foundation and the National Science Foundation. The book has been translated into Japanese and Korean.
Dean Philip S. Khoury of the School of Humanities and Social Science praised Professor Samuels as the "leading political scientist of his generation focused on contemporary Japan."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 22, 1996.