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“Imitation and Innovation” Book by Eleanor Westney Report

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Updated: Nov 28th, 2020

After reading chapters three and four of Imitation and Innovation by Eleanor Westney, it is deducible that during the Meiji period (1868- 1912), Japan’s modern history experienced remarkable social transformation. The Japanese took a very short time to adopt a wide range of phenomenal and new institutions, communications technologies, and classic manufacturing methods from the advanced Western countries in an effort to transform their nation into competent, modern state1.

With reference to Eleanor’s summary, it is clear that she investigated the influence of western culture on the traditional Japanese culture as well as the impact of evolution of organizational processes patterns on the new culture. Taking into account three cases namely the mass circulation of newspaper, the postal system, and the police, these chapters bring out a great deal of how people made and formulated decisions thus revealing how organizations shaped the country’s social context. This paper will seek to provide Eleanor’s main themes, arguments, and the way in which she develops them.

Since chapter three talks much about the extensive organizational revolution in terms of creating a coordination and control centre, the theme of imitation and changes is noticeable. Given the fact that the postal system plays an unchallenging and mundane role in state organization, revolutionizing the organizational and integral part of the system was necessary2. The telegraph and the post respectively are complementary as opposed to competitive. As such, organizational transition sought to use the telegraph for short and urgent messages and the post for less immediate and detailed communication since the latter was cheaper slower.

The theme of imitation traverses this chapter as indicated by the actions taken by Maejima Hisoka, “Japanese post father”. Having secured a position in the Ministry of Finance, the mission to England, due to his knowledge and expertise in English, he wasted no time as he tried to learn and investigate the postal system used by the British. Sources depict that he aimed at demonstrating and applying this information in Japan.

Another main theme expounded on by Eleanor is that of changes. Well, years before the entry of the westerners, the Japanese relied on traditional methods of transferring messages from one end to another. Nevertheless, when the transfer of western organizational patterns to Japan started, there were changes in the postal system3. People adopted and started using telegraphs and posts in transferring messages. Additionally, this country’s police force underwent serious changes.

Years before the Meiji period, Japan lacked organizational control system. Administrative services based on power rather than a set system of specialized governance. Nonetheless, this changed when the transfer of organizational patterns from the West started transferring to Japan4. As illustrated by Eleanor, the transfer brought about specialized administrative offices, which represented changes in the police force.

Agreeably, there are some arguments presented in Eleanor’s work. Critical analysis demonstrates that Eleanor’s work fails to shine light on or discuss the vitality of the National Shintoism or the emperor in depth. In her work, both ideology and nationalism of the Meiji period do not play a pivotal role in the analysis of the organizational changes5. Apart from that, Eleanor does not mention the underlying ideological and nationalistic aspect but goes ahead to consider these treaties as mere practical political concerns. Japan as well as many other Asian countries such as India, China, and Vietnam encountered takeovers by the western powers.

These takeovers aggravated a sense of further crisis in Japan in late 1850s, which then led to increased resentment and development of nationalism movement. The view of achieving parity with the Powers from the West gave rise to Meiji nationalism. Arguably, there is no way that one can discuss the social movement or organizational changes during the Meiji period without taking into account the theme of nationalism.

As explained herein, Eleanor constructs her work from a great historical perspective. The evidence provided in the fourth chapter paint a clear picture of intensity in her theme construction. As earlier aforementioned, her chapters show uniqueness in Meiji period, which is a coexisting and distinct factor or element constructing an argument6. She constructs her themes with a progressive and liberal sound, which at first glance seem contradictory. However, the presence of the corresponding ingredients provides moral and pragmatic bases for Meiji nationalism, which in turn matches the subjected goals and feelings.

In conclusion, it is agreeable that Eleanor’s work is persuasive mainly because, despite the huddles experienced during this period, the achieved culmination represented a symbolic figure of moral values that showed ways in which the country rallied7. Late development, by definition, talks about production of patterns that are uniform or common across a cluster of societies, which embark on industrialization during the same time.

Its effects make infinite variations since it has influences on behavior and organizations that are very unique to one of the societies but exert similar pulls on the others hence form convergences across all these industrial societies. This paper has offered specific insights into the themes, and arguments as well as ways in which Eleanor Westney constructs them.


  1. Eleanor Westney, Imitation and Innovation: The transfer of western Organizational patterns to Meiji Japan (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2002), 128.
  2. Ibid, 130.
  3. Ibid, 145.
  4. Ibid, 158.
  5. Ibid, 213.
  6. Ibid, 215.
  7. Ibid, 221.
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IvyPanda. (2020) '"Imitation and Innovation" Book by Eleanor Westney'. 28 November.

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