Most discussions of economic growth and economic policy in postwar Japan focus on the economy as an isolated sector, neglecting its place in Japanese history as a whole. Partly this is because discussion of the economy usually moves quickly to technical problems. Partly it is due to the common assumption that high-speed economic growth emerged out of an attempt to create high-speed economic growth for its own sake-thus making redundant any sustained inquiry into its origins (as opposed to its mechanisms). We now have a fairly clear understanding of the technical means by which Japan became rich: rapid growth was achieved through high savings used for technology-led investment, based both on market forces channeled into planned directions and a flexible response to unplanned opportunities, such as American assistance to Japanese economic development. What is murkier is the social and political context for economic growth.