Technology Gatekeepers Combine: The Emergence of the Japanese Military-Industrial-University Complex

Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


The composite structure outlined in Chapter 2 under which a British-born marine technology was transferred to Japan has more implications than simply overturning the stereotype of government-directed industrialization and its revised versions. The composite structure has profound implications for an understanding of the emergence of the military-industrial-university complex in prewar Japan. The military-industrial-university complex here means an institutional structure made up of the governmental sector, particularly the military, the private industrial sector, and universities, mutually autonomous in their behaviours but in combination fulfilling a function of driving industrialization throughout both peacetime and wartime. Based on an independent case, this chapter provides strong empirical justification for the claim by confirming the composite structure and elaborating it to develop a prototype of the military-industrial-university complex in Japan. The independent case taken up here is the marine steam turbine, which was also transferred for the first time to Japan from the West around the turn of the century.


Technology Transfer Steam Turbine Product Innovation Rival Type Marine Engineering 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Charles A. Parsons, ‘Improvements in the mechanism for propelling and controlling steam vessels’, Patent record no. 394 AD 1894 (kept by Tyne and Wear Archives Service, Newcastle-upon-Tyne). As for events before this patent, see W. Garrett Scaife, ‘Charles Parsons’ experiments with rocket torpedoes: the precursors of the steam turbine’, Transactions of the Newcomen Society for the Study of the History of Engineering and Technology, vol. 60 (1991), pp. 17–29.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    In particular, how to cope with cavitation caused by the high revolutions of propellers was a problem the full answer to which was unknown even to the original inventor at the time (essentially the situation is the same today). For the problem and the countermeasures adopted by the original inventor, Charles A. Parsons, see C. A. Parsons, The application of the compound steam turbine to the purpose of marine propulsion’, TINA, vol. 38 (1897), pp. 232–42.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    See Yukiko Fukasaku, ‘Technology imports and the development of technological capability in the industrialization of Japan: training and research at Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard 1884–1934’, a doctoral thesis submitted to the University of Sussex in 1988, pp. 129–72 (a shortened version was published in book form entitled Technology and Industrial Development in Prewar Japan, London: Routledge, 1992).Google Scholar
  4. For a reference to the historical accident, see Hiroo Kato, ‘1890 nen kara 1945 nen madeno Nihon no hatsudenyo suisha gijutsu no jiritsu katei’ (Course of independence of Japanese water turbine technology for power generation 1890–1945), Kagaku Shi Kenkyu, vol. 23, no. 150 (1984), pp. 110–20. For an interesting work on the original invention and the development of the water turbine within a comparative perspective between the US and France, see Edwin T. Layton, Jr, ‘Millwrights and engineers: science, social roles, and the evolution of the turbine in America’, in Wolfgang Krohn, E. T. Layton, Jr, and Peter Weingart (eds) The Dynamics of Science and Technology (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1978), pp. 61–87. As far as we are able to confirm based on contracts, Japan acquired the right for the licence production of the steam turbine for generators as early as 1904, which might provide a suitable topic for further consideration. See C. A. Parsons and Company Ltd, Licences from C. A. Parsons and Company Ltd to Mitsubishi Zosen Kwaisha of Tokyo, Japan (kept by Tyne and Wear Archives Service, Newcastle-upon-Tyne), n.d.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 7.
    See, for example, Barry Barnes, Interests and the Growth of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1977);Google Scholar
  6. Michel Callon, John Law and Arie Rip (eds) Mapping the Dynamics of Science and Technology: Sociology of Science in the Real World (London: Macmillan, 1986);Google Scholar
  7. B. Barnes, David Bloor and John Henry, Scientific Knowledge: A Sociological Analysis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). Most of these inquiries tend to take up one of the latest contemporary topics in science as case materials.Google Scholar
  8. For example, see Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1979);Google Scholar
  9. Michael Mulkay and Nigel G. Gilbert, Opening Pandora’s Box: A Sociological Analysis of Scientists’ Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984);Google Scholar
  10. Harry M. Collins, Changing Order: Replication and Induction in Scientific Practice (London: Sage, 1985);Google Scholar
  11. Brian Martin and Evelleen Richards, ‘Scientific knowledge, controversy, and public decision making’, in Sheila Jasanoff, Gerald E. Markle, James C. Petersen and Trevor J. Pinch (eds) Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (London: Sage, 1995), pp. 506–26;Google Scholar
  12. Karin Knorr Cetina, ‘Laboratory studies: the cultural approach to the study of science’, in ibid., pp. 140–66; Karin Knorr Cetina, ‘Laboratory studies and the constructivist approach in the study of science and technology’, Japan Journal for Science, Technology & Society, vol. 2 (1993), pp. 115–50. At least two events seem to have opened the door to applying this sociological approach to technology: first, the breaking of the tradition assuming cognitive dependence of technology upon science; secondly, direction of attention to conceptualizing cognitive change in technology itself.Google Scholar
  13. For the former, see Barry Barnes, ‘The science-technology relationship: a model and a query’, Social Studies of Science, vol. 12, no. 2 (1982), pp. 166–72;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. And for the latter, see Rachel Laudan (ed.) The Nature of Technological Knowledge: Are Models of Scientific Change Relevant? (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1984).Google Scholar
  15. For case studies based on this approach, see Donald Mackenzie, Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990);Google Scholar
  16. Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes and Trevor J. Pinch (eds) The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987);Google Scholar
  17. Thomas P. Hughes, Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880–1930 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983);Google Scholar
  18. David E. Nye, Electrifying America: Social Meaning of a New Technology, 1880–1940 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990), and others. However, we have to be careful about hasty application of these concepts, particularly in describing and analyzing technology transfer, because the composite structure involved in the technology transfer provides, in turn, an indispensable context within which alone the meaning of these concepts can be concretely modified.Google Scholar
  19. 8.
    See Richard J. Samuels, ‘Rich Nation, Strong Army’: National Security and the Technological Transformation of Japan (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994);Google Scholar
  20. for a study focusing on the latter aspect of Japanese industrial policy based on the history of national research institutes of Japan since the Meiji Restoration, see Chikayoshi Kamatani, Gijutsu Taikoku Hyakunen no Kei: Nippon no Kindaika to Kokuritsu kenkyu Kikan (The road to techno-nationalism: Japanese modernization and national research institutes from the Meiji era) (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1988).Google Scholar
  21. Also see Miwao Matsumoto, ‘Review: The road to techno-nationalism: Japanese modernization and national research institutes from the Meiji era’, Historia Scientiarum, no. 38 (1989), pp. 75–80. Understandably, several efforts to revise the stereotypes of government-directed industrialization in Japan have been made by focusing upon, for example, local industries as mentioned in Chapter 1 (for a recent effort of this direction,Google Scholar
  22. See Jun Suzuki, Meiji no Kikai Kogyo (Machinery industry in the Meiji period) (Kyoto: Minerva Shobo, 1996). Apart from such efforts, however, a fresh reconsideration of government-directed industrialization by means of a detailed sociological inquiry into the behaviour pattern of the public sectors itself is needed to understand its role as technology gatekeeper. The understanding obtainable from such an inquiry will not only reveal a much more complex structure of contemporary Japanese industrial policy than is usually supposed, but also enable us to gain broader insights into the social function of the public sector in gatekeeping.Google Scholar
  23. 13.
    On the invention and the development of the American Curtis type, see Euan F. C. Somerscale, ‘The vertical Curtis steam turbine’, Transactions of the Newcomen Society for the Study of the History of Engineering and Technology, vol. 63 (1992), pp. 1–52.Google Scholar
  24. 27.
    Ibid., pp. 454–5. As will be mentioned later, this contract was made between the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company, and the Mitsubishi Limited Partnership (Mitsubishi Goshi Kaisha) and the Imperial Japanese Navy. Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard belonged to the Mitsubishi Limited Partnership. For the origin of Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard, see Yoh Nakanishi, Nihon Kindaika no Kiso Katei: Mitsubishi Nagasaki Zosen Sho to sono Roshi Kankei, 1855–1900 (Emergence of a modern Japanese enterprise and its industrial relations — Mitsubishi Shipyard, 1855–1900), 3 vols (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppan Kai, 1982, 1983, 2003).Google Scholar
  25. 38.
    When there is only a small technology gap, for example, ‘multiple invention’ may take place, although these actual institutional arrangements vary from one society to another. As for the different milieu in which the De Laval, Parsons, Curtis and Rateau turbines developed nearly simultaneously, see Edward Constant II, The Origins of the Turbojet Revolution (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), pp. 63–82. For a critical appraisal of the concept of ‘multiple invention’ itself, see idem., ‘On the diversity and co-evolution of technological multiples: steam turbines and Pelton water wheels’, Social Studies of Science, vol. 8, no. 2 (1978), pp. 183–210.Google Scholar
  26. 40.
    From the viewpoint of Western countries, these wars, particularly the Russo-Japanese War, also taught them important lessons about marine technology, including battleship design. For this, see for example, ‘Le materiel naval et la bataille de Tsou-Sima’, Le Temps, 13 February (1906); Edinburgh Review, no. 419 (1906), pp. 185–91. On contemporary British battleship design, see David K. Brown, ‘British battleship design, 1840–1904’, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, vol. 6, no. 1 (1981), pp. 79–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. On contemporary British naval policy, giving the background of the Russo-Japanese War, see Jon Tetsuro Sumida, In Defence of Naval Supremacy: Finance, Technology, and British Naval Policy, 1889–1914 (London: Routledge, 1993), pt 1.Google Scholar
  28. 41.
    Several innovative evolutionary economists have tried to explain technological innovations within or without the framework such as production function, input-output analysis, which might lead to the opening of the black box. ‘National styles of innovations’ proposed by Christopher Freeman, among others, might certainly have some relevance to a study beyond ‘black boxism’ (Richard Whitley) in terms of technology, but unfortunately the concept seems to be too schematic to pinpoint the complex subtleties of the role played by technology gatekeepers as elucidated above. See C. Freeman, Technology Policy and Economic Performance: Lessons from Japan (London: Pinter, 1987).Google Scholar
  29. Also see Richard Nelson and Sidney G. Winter, An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change (Boston: Harvard University Press, 1982);Google Scholar
  30. And Christopher Freeman and Luc Soete (eds) New Explorations in the Economics of Technical Change (London: Pinter, 1990).Google Scholar
  31. 42.
    See Ryoshin Minami, Power Revolution and Industrialization of Japan, 1885–1940 (Tokyo: Kinokuniya, 1987). For the electrification of society within different national contexts, see Hughes, Networks of Power; Alain Beltran, ‘Du luxe au cœur du système: électricité et société dans la région parisienne (1880–1939)’, Annales, 44e année, no. 5 (1989), pp. 1113–35, and others.Google Scholar
  32. Also see Edmund N. Todd, ‘A tale of three cities: electrification and the structure of choice in the Ruhr, 1886–1900’, Social Studies of Science, vol. 17, no. 3 (1987), pp. 387–412;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Robert U. Ayres, The Next Industrial Revolution: Reviving Industry through Innovation (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 1984), pp. 110–25.Google Scholar
  34. 46.
    Iwasaki Ke Denki Kanko Kai (ed.) Iwasaki Yanosuke Den (A biography of Yanosuke Iwasaki), Gen Kan (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1971), pp. 323–4.Google Scholar
  35. 50.
    Taijiro Asano and Ryozo Asano, Soichiro Asano (Tokyo: Asano Bunko, 1923), pp. 490–1.Google Scholar
  36. 54.
    Seiichi Terano, ‘Tabain sen ni tsuite’ (On turbine ships), Zosen Kyokai Kaiho, no. 4 (1906), pp. 57–9.Google Scholar
  37. 61.
    For a taxonomy of the concept of rationality, see John H. Goldthorpe, ‘Rational action theory for sociology’, British Journal of Sociology, vol. 49, no. 2 (1998), pp. 167–92. In his taxonomy, rationality, here means weak, situational, special rationality, and non-rationality means the non-existence of rationality in this sense, though this kind of taxonomic argument contains no substantial information enabling us to specify the importance of the entrepreneurship of technology gatekeepers. In line with classical sociological tradition, the importance of the definition of situation given by agents seems to hold researchers’ attention again in action theories (for example, Special issue, European Sociological Review, vol. 12, no. 2 (1996), though the above lack of specification can be observed in this emphasis on the definition of situation too).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 63.
    For a theoretical consideration of the process by an economist, see Nathan Rosenberg, Inside the Black Box: Technologies and Economies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 120–40.Google Scholar
  39. 67.
    C. A. Parsons, ‘The application of the marine steam turbine and mechanical gearing to merchant ships’, TINA, vol. 52 (1910), pp. 168–72.Google Scholar
  40. 73.
    There is a vast amount of literature in development economics which deals with this topic in technology transfer. To cite only a few examples here, see Richard R. Nelson, ‘Less developed countries — technology transfer and adaptation: the role of the indigenous science community’, Economic Development and Cultural Change, vol. 23, no. 1 (1974), pp. 61–77;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lynn K. Mytelka, ‘Stimulating effective technology transfer: the case of textiles in Africa’, in Nathan Rosenberg and Claudio Frischtak (eds) International Technology Transfer: Concepts, Measures, and Comparisons (New York: Praeger, 1985), pp. 77–126;Google Scholar
  42. J-J. Salomon, A. Lebeau and C. Sachs-Jeantet (eds) The Uncertain Quest: Science, Technology and Development (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1994), and so on. Taking the subject one step further, there is often the problem of a colonial context, within which imbalance in various terms between advanced and developing countries is revealed.Google Scholar
  43. See, for example, P. Petitjean, C. Jami and A. M. Moulin (eds) Sciences and Empires: Historical Studies about Scientific Development and European Expansion (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1992);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lewis Pyenson, Civilizing Mission: Exact Science and French Overseas Expansion, 1830–1940 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993);Google Scholar
  45. Jacques Gaillard, V. V. Krishna and Roland Waast (eds) Scientific Communities in the Developing World (New Delhi: Sage, 1997);Google Scholar
  46. Deepak Kumar, Science and the Raj, 1857–1905 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997), and so on.Google Scholar
  47. 76.
    Tokyo Daigaku Hyakunen Shi Henshu Iinkai (ed.) Tokyo Daigaku Hyakunen Shi (A centenary history of the University of Tokyo) (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppan Kai, 1984), Shiryo 1, p. 88.Google Scholar
  48. 79.
    Okurasho (ed.) ‘Kobusho Enkaku Hokoku’ (A report on the origin of the Ministry of Engineering, Tokyo, 1889), collected in Hyoe Ouchi and Takao Tsuchiya (eds) Meiji Zenki Zaisei Keizai Shiryo Shusei (Collection of the historical documents on finance and economy in the early Meiji period), vol. 17, pt 1 (Tokyo: Meiji Bunken Shiryo Kanko Kai, 1964), p. 395. Interpolations by author.Google Scholar
  49. 80.
    Saiichiro Uchimaru, Joki Tabin (Steam turbine) (Tokyo: Maruzen, 1908).Google Scholar
  50. 81.
    If we consider change in the value of the currency from 1894 to 1911 in accordance with various price indices, the cost becomes even less than one-ninth of the sum spent by Britain. This estimation is based on various price indices given by B. R. Mitchell and P. Deane, Abstract of British Historical Statistics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962). pp. 471–6.Google Scholar
  51. 82.
    Studies on the aspects of the risk-taking entrepreneurship in Japanese industrialization started from Schumpeterian tradition (for example, J. Hirshmeier, The Origins of Entrepreneurship in Meiji Japan (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964), though they have tended to focus upon biographies of successful businessmen without connecting them with institutional patterns of behaviour and the risk-avoiding strategy of the public sector including the military. Unfortunately, reliable, detailed and comprehensive studies on the military-industrial-university complex in prewar Japan have not yet been attempted.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Miwao Matsumoto 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations