Shinto and the State: 1868-1988.

Hardacre, Helen. Shinto and the State: 1868-1988. Princeton University Press, 1989

Helen Hardacre examines the relation between Shinto and the State in Japan from 1868 to 1968. Shinto has been said to be the indigenous religion of the Japanese people; at the same time, it is said to be non-religious in character, a sort of suprareligious entity expressing the essence of the cultural identity of the Japanese people. Hardacre asserts that for much of its history, Shinto has had no independent, autonomous existence; it was practiced either as an appendage to Buddhism or as the localized cult of community tutelary deities. Further, Shinto has no legitimate claim to antiquity as Japan’s indigenous religion.
After Buddhism lost state patronage in 1868, Shinto took its place providing the rites and rituals of the empire. Between 1868 and 1945 Shinto was sponsored and its doctrines promulgated by the state. Hardacre discusses the evolution of Shinto during this period over several chapters covering issues of the development of a nationally organized Shinto priesthood and the creation of a nationally ranked hierarchy of shrines. She describes Shinto rituals that affected the religious life of the entire nation and how it bore on issues of religious freedom under the Meiji Constitution.
Shinto was dissolved as a state patronized system of doctrines by the Allied occupation following World War II. Hardacre notes that there have been recent attempts by the Japanese government to revive the symbolism of Shinto towards achieving several goals, of which political and cultural legitimation is not the least. However, contemporary Japanese political culture is pluralistic, and hence the state no longer enjoys hegemony in its manipulation of Shinto rites and symbols. According to Hardacre, this study of the relation between Shinto and state in Japan illustrates the general principle that political regimes have sought to legitimate themselves by forging symbolic links to the sacred realm; at the same time many religion have claimed the authority to provide doctrinal foundations for a secular – Shinto is one such example.