At about 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 20th, Chal breathed his last. Chal was in hospice care here at home for ten weeks. We tried to keep him as comfortable as possible, and many evenings our cat Seiji slept on his bed to keep him company. The last two evenings, at twilight, we heard two owls loudly calling to each other and I was reminded of one of Chal’s favorite phrases: “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings at twilight.” I decided to look it up:
“One more word about giving instruction as to what the world ought to be. For such a purpose, philosophy always comes on the scene too late…. When philosophy paints its gloomy picture then a form of life has grown old. It cannot be rejuvenated by the gloomy picture, but only understood. Only when the dusk starts to fall does the owl of Minerva spread its wings and fly.”
- Hegel, Philosophy of Right (1820), Preface
It seems to me this could well apply to Chal's last four books. They paint a gloomy picture of a way of life grown old, and they perhaps cannot change the course of history, but they were written with the hope that readers would gain greater understanding as to what is happening to our Republic and the world.
Our dear friend Murray Sayle, who also recently died, once described marriage as “a long conversation.” And so it was, for us. W.H. Auden, in a different context, wrote: “though one cannot always remember exactly why one has been happy, there is no forgetting that one was.”
With love, in great sadness,
Sheila K. Johnson
Dear Mrs. Sheila Johnson,
I was shocked to hear the sad news that Professor Chalmers Johnson passed away. He was a best friend and great supporter of Okinawa. We shall never forget his assistance.
My sincere condolences to you. I pray his soul may rest in peace.
With deepest regret,
(Former Governor of Okinawa)
Chalmers Johnson, RIP
... Without the slightest doubt, he was one of the most
remarkable authors I’ve had the pleasure
to edit, no less be friends with. He
saw our devolving American world with
striking clarity and prescience. He wrote about it with
precision, passion, and courage. He never
softened a thought or cut a corner...
Tom Engelhardt -- AntiWar.
Japan 'revisionist' scholar Chalmers Johnson dies at 79
LOS ANGELES (Kyodo) -- Chalmers Johnson, an international politics
scholar known as the original "Japan revisionist," died
Saturday at his home in California aged
79, people close to him said. [...]
As a revisionist, Johnson considered
Japan different from other developed
countries and his book "MITI
and the Japanese Miracle" on Japanese economic development
had a great impact on both Japanese and
U.S. authorities. MITI, the Ministry
of International Trade and Industry,
has since been renamed the Ministry of
Economy, Trade and Industry....
Japan -- November 22, 2010
Nov 21 2010, 1:40 AM ET
have just heard that Chalmers Johnson died a few hours ago, at age
79, at his home near San Diego. He had had a variety of health problems
for a long time. (Photo source here.)
Johnson -- "Chal" -- was a penetrating, original, and
influential scholar, plus a very gifted
literary and conversational stylist.
When I first went to Japan nearly 25
years ago, his MITI
and the Japanese Miracle was already part of the canon
for understanding Asian economic development.
Before that, he had made his name as
a China scholar; after that, he became
more widely known with his books like Blowback,
about the perverse effects and strategic
unsustainability of America's global
James Fallows -- The Atlantic
Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke
Chalmers Johnson and the Patriotic Struggle Against Empire
With one word, "blowback," Chalmers Johnson explained
the folly of empire in the modern age.
In the aftermath of the
terrorist attacks of September11, 2001, true American patriots
-- as opposed to the jingoists and profiteers whose madness and
greed would steer a republic to ruin -- needed a new language for
a new age.
They got it from Johnson. His 2000 book,
Blowback,: The Costs and Consequences of
American Empire (Macmillan), he took an old espionage term -- which
referred to the violent, unintended consequences of covert (and
sometimes not so covert) operations that are suffered even by superpowers
such as the United States -- became an essential text for those
who sought to explain the attacks and to forge sounder and more
responsible foreign policies for the furture...
John Nichols -- The
The Passing of a Great Man: Chalmers Johnson, Critic of Empire
...Although I never knew him personally (I met him briefly after
a lecture in which he read from his then-forthcoming
book, Sorrows of Empire), I felt like I
did. And I can remember the exact moment
when I first felt that I knew him. It was
in 2000, when I read the following passage
in the prologue of Blowback: The Costs
and Consequences of American Empire:
"Knowing what I did
about guerilla war, revolutionary politics,
and foreign armies, I thought it a mistake for us (the United States)
to involve ourselves further in what was visibly a Vietnamese civil
war. But once we did so in the mid-sixties, I was sufficiently
aware of Mao Zedong's attempts to export 'people's war' to believe
that the United States could not afford to lose in Vietnam. In
that, too, I was distinctly a man of my times.
It proved to be
a disastrously wrong position...."
Paul Rosenberg -- Open Left
Chalmers Johnson, RIP
...Though he had a long career before he became a leading
critic of American empire, it is for this
criticism that he is best known to those
of us in my generation. He and his arguments
will be missed....
Daniel Larison -- The
A Scholar and A Patriot: the Death of Chalmers Johnson
He had the ability of many great professors to treat anyone's question
or assertion with the greatest seriousness--and
then patiently elucidate his response.
With the higher-ups, though, he wasn't
always so patient--I remember him referring to one member of the
American embassy in Japan as an "intellectual geisha." Johnson's
attitude, I think, could be summed up in
the 1960s phrase "question
authority." Chalmers did a lot of questioning....
Jacob Heilbrunn -- The
Chalmers Johnson, 1931-2010, on the Last Days of the American Republic
...During the Cold War, he served as a consultant to the
Central Intelligence Agency and was a supporter
of the Vietnam War, however, later became
a leading critic of U.S. militarism and
imperialism. He wrote the book, Blowback:
The Costs and Consequences of American Empire in 2000, which became
a bestseller after the 9/11 attacks. He went on to complete what
would become a trilogy about American empire...
Remembering Chalmers Johnson
...A China scholar before becoming a Japan watcher in the 1970s,
Chal had three fundamental insights that
are as significant today (perhaps more
so) as they were in the 1980s. The first
was that Japan and the United States were
playing very different economic games.
He very early understood that Japan's industrial policies that
focused great effort on development of what were deemed to be strategic
industries and of and that emphasized export led growth while suppressing
domestic consumption in favor of fostering high rates of saving
and investment constituted a new economic paradigm....
Clyde Prestowitz -- Foreign
The Impact Today and Tomorrow of Chalmers Johnson
Chalmers Johnson, who passed away Saturday
afternoon at 79 years, invented and was
the acknowledged godfather of the conceptualization
of the "developmental
state". For the uninitiated, this
means that Chalmers Johnson led the way
in understanding the dynamics of how states
manipulated their policy conditions and
environments to speed up economic growth.
In the neoliberal hive at the University
of Chicago, Chalmers Johnson was an apostate
and heretic in the field of political economy.
Johnson challenged conventional wisdom
with him and his many star students --
including E.B. Keehn, David Arase, Marie
Anchordoguy, Mark Tilton and others --
writing the significant treatises documenting
the growing prevalence of state-led industrial,
trade and finance policy abroad, particularly
-- Steve Clemons - The Washington Note