Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

Tsunao Miyajima (1884–1965): From a Professor of Economics to Employers’ Representative

Kubo Shin, Kwansei Gakuin University

The interwar period witnessed an increasing divergence, or polarisation, in opinion among economists in Japan, to the point where the largest academic society for socioeconomic studies ceased its activity. The implacable rift was between those who maintained that social reform should serve harmony between capital and labour and those who considered it in terms of class struggle. The same period also saw an accelerating convergence, or internationalisation, in the field of economics, through several channels in the West. One important channel was international conferences and organisations, where economists exchanged opinions, considering political and economic realities./ This paper aims to delineate the intellectual trajectory of Tsunao Miyajima (M), a Japanese economist who remains unknown among historians of economics, and thereby shed light on the twofold development of economics mentioned above. M studied in Brussels under Waxweiler, a historicist economist famous for his opinion for profit-sharing. Returning to Tokyo before the outbreak of the Great War, M researched the industrial insurance schemes of many countries in the West and proposed establishing an industrial insurance scheme in Japan for lower-class people, who at that time remained uninsured. His transfer from Tokyo to Osaka after the war allowed him to turn to a grander project: that of founding his own principles of economics. The first part of M's project, on production, was modelled on the thought of Gide, sympathising with his philosophy for solidarity. As a result, M's production theory was generally classical and implied his view of wages as exogenous or sociologically given. Immediately after publishing the first part, he not only joined the Royal Economic Society and the Societé d'économie politique but also became a prolific correspondent with eminent economists in the West such as J. B. Clark. Thus in his project's latter part, mainly on distribution, M decided to follow Clark's marginal productivity theory of factor pricing. This attempt might have brought something discordant with his earlier view of social reform but was cut short due to his untimely resignation from Japanese academe in 1927. The next year, he became chief of the permanent Japanese employers' delegation to the ILO and met with such outstanding economists in Geneva and elsewhere as Cassel. In this position, where M remained until 1934, he broached the argument–at odds with his earlier one–that social reform from above on behalf of labourers could well end up unintentionally harming them./ M's intellectual trajectory can be considered unique in the Japan of his era, where many non-Marxist economists sought the harmony of labour and capital in the increasingly controlled war economy. On the other, it showed that the orthodox reasoning suggesting that wages would naturally equal the real value of the work done was instrument to defending business interests in Japan on the international scene.


Keywords: Tsunao Miyajima, Émile Waxweiler, Charles Gide, John Bates Clark, Social Reform, International Labour Organisation

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