May 2007. Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes Chalmers Johnson for a discussion of his new book, Nemesis. In the interview, Johnson, an Emeritus Professor of the University of California, analyzes the impact of the American empire on democracy at home. Comparing the United States to Rome and Great Britain, he argues that a combination of military Keynesianism, the Bush administration's attempt to implement a unitary presidency, and the failed checks on executive ambition point to political and economic bankruptcy.
Chalmers Ashby Johnson 1931 (age 77–78) is an American author and professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. He fought in the Korean war, was a consultant for the CIA from 1967-1973, and ran the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley for years. He is also president and co-founder of the Japan Policy Research Institute, an organization promoting public education about Japan and Asia. He has written numerous books including, most recently, three examinations of the consequences of American Empire: Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic.
Johnson was born in 1931 in Phoenix, Arizona. He earned a B.A. degree in Economics in 1953 and a M.A. and a Ph.D. in political science in 1957 and 1961 respectively. All of his degrees were from the University of California, Berkeley. During the Korean War, Johnson served as a naval officer in Japan. He taught political science at the University of California from 1962 until he retired from teaching in 1992. He was best known early in his career for scholarship about China and Japan.
Johnson set the agenda for ten or fifteen years in social science scholarship on China with his book on peasant nationalism. His book MITI and the Japanese Miracle, on the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry was the preeminent study of the country's development and created the subfield of what could be called the political economy of development. He coined the term "developmental state." As a public intellectual, he first led the "Japan revisionists" who critiqued American neoliberal economics with Japan as a model; their arguments faded from view as the Japanese economy stagnated in the mid-90s and beyond. During this period, Johnson acted as a consultant for the Office of National Estimates, part of the CIA, contributing to analysis of China and Maoism.
Johnson was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1976. He served as Director of the Center for Chinese Studies and Chair of the Political Science Department at Berkeley, and held a number of important academic posts in area studies. He was a strong believer in the importance of language and historical training for doing serious research. Late in his career he became well known as a critic of "rational choice" approaches, particularly in the study of Japanese politics and political economy.
Johnson is today best known as a sharp critic of American imperialism. His book Blowback won a prize in 2001 from the Before Columbus Foundation, and was re-issued in an updated version in 2004. Sorrows of Empire, published in 2004, updated the evidence and argument from Blowback for the post-9/11 environment and Nemesis concludes the trilogy. Johnson was featured as an expert talking head in the Eugene Jarecki-directed film Why We Fight, which won the 2005 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. In the past, Johnson has also written for the Los Angeles Times, the London Review of Books, Harper’s Magazine, and The Nation.
In these lively and unedited video interviews, distinguished men and women from all over the world talk about their lives and their work. Guests include diplomats, statesmen, and soldiers; economists and political analysts; scientists and historians; writers and foreign correspondents; activists and artists. The interviews span the globe and include discussion of political, economic, military, legal, cultural, and social issues shaping our world. At the heart of each interview is a focus on individuals and ideas that make a difference.
Harry Kreisler is executive producer and host of the series, which is produced at the Institute of International Studies at the University of California - Berkeley. Conceived in 1982 by Mr. Kreisler as a way to capture and preserve through conversation and technology the intellectual ferment of our times, Conversations with History includes over 450 interviews.
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