Merchant Capital in Tokugawa Japan


  • Thanet Aphornsuvan Faculty of Liberal Arts Thammasat University, Bangkok


This article attempts to answer why industrial capital had not developed in Japan to the point of providing the basis for the rise of capitalism like it happened in Europe. The key finding is the role of merchant capital in the Tokugawa period. The important condition in this historic development is the system of production for the markets must replace the production for use. However, merchant capital is only circulating capital in which it has as yet by no means become the foundation of production. Moreover, the political roles of the merchant class are still much less significant than their economic roles. The merchant class as a whole does not cause the total transformation of the Tokugawa society. The rural merchants were still bound within a feudal authority structure which limited their activities to a certain extent. Thus, merchant capital, in its highest stage of the Tokugawa period, could not become industrial capital. The most it could perform was to provide a head-start and ground for the eventual emergence of a fully developed capitalist system.


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How to Cite

Aphornsuvan, T. (2015). Merchant Capital in Tokugawa Japan. Thammasat Review, 14(1), 77–98. Retrieved from