Max Ward, "Thought Crime: Ideology and State Power in Interwar Japan" (Duke UP, 2019)


Max Ward’s Thought Crime: Ideology and State Power in Interwar Japan (Duke University Press, 2019) analyzes the trajectory and transformations of the implementation of Japan’s 1925 Peace Preservation Law from its conception until the early years of the 1940s. The law, which began as a state effort to tamp down radicalism and “dangerous thought” (mostly Marxism) and preserve and protect imperial sovereignty, spawned a massive apparatus populated by both state and nonstate actors dedicated to ideologically converting and rehabilitating thought criminals. In addition to being a case study of the nature and ideology of punishment and repentance for thought crimes in late Imperial Japan—and the way in which the emperor functioned as a “ghost in the machine” animating the pursuit of political repression—Ward’s book also provides insight into the policing of ideological threats and its relationship to national identity politics. Thought Crime follows the evolution and transformation of the Peace Preservation Law and its attendant social and institutional structures from interwar attempts to repress dangerous thought to a system of mass ideological conversion, and finally to the consequences of its integration into practices of total mobilization during wartime.

Your Host

Nathan Hopson

Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese language and history in the University of Bergen's Department of Foreign Languages.

View Profile