From 1900 through the 1920s, Singer put in place its proven selling system in Japan, despite making remarkably little adjustment to local conditions, and with a fair degree of success. But the company was hurt in the long run, with a turning point in the early- to mid-1930s, by its refusal to adapt - as its local competitors did - to the expectations of employees and the limited means of potential customers. Singer's dramatic rise and fall in Japan reveals ways in which practices of global capitalism are simultaneously transformed and transformative as they take root in particular locales.
The rise of a mass consumer society and the spread of commercialized leisure are aspects of global modernity in the 20th century. In Japan, these phenomena emerged to prominence in the transwar decades from the 1920s through the 1960s. This essay argues that the ascendance of middle-class lifeways, consumption and leisure prominent among them, took place through a process that involved the transposing of difference as much as the diffusing of sameness. It identifies a causal dynamic in ‘transwar’ history, which extends the concept beyond political economy and beyond the simple claim that continuities stretch across the purported break of World War II.