2015年9月27日 星期日

The Wages of Affluence: Labor and Management in Postwar Japan

Recently I have read a book by Gordon, Andrew: The Wages of Affluence: Labor and Management in Postwar Japan.  (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2001). The following is my feeling on the book:
About the author: Andrew Gordon is a famous scholar of modern Japanese history. He is Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History at Harvard University and also the former chair of the Department of History from 2004–2007. He was Director of the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies between 1998 and 2004. In 1981 Andrew Gordon completed his PhD in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard University. After completing his graduate studies Gorden taught history at Duke University and at Harvard respectively. He is one of the leading experts on Japanese labor history. Recently Gordon focuses his research in the history of the sewing machine, and the making of the modern consumer in 20th century Japan. (Source: Wikipedia)
Brief summary of the book:
Chapter one touches on the evolution path of union movement in Japan after WWII, the movement was rather violent during the late 1940’s and 50’s, but became more peaceful starting from the late 1950’s. This transformation could be an obstacle for the unions to achieve a legitimate democratic environment in the work place, and eventually in the society at large.
Chapter two uses NKK, a steel mill, to study the role of unions. Previously, the unions were merely an advisory body with very limited power to participate in management, but this situation changed after WWII. In NKK, union leaders imagined that they had the mandate to revive the steel industry, and workers began to form unions in pursuit of equality etc.
Chapter three talks about the conflicting viewpoints between employees and employers on issues such as “labor-management consultation”, “industrial democracy” and “quality control”. Meanwhile, economic recovery in the 1950’s speeded up fundamental structural changes in the society.
Chapter four shows management’s attempts to weaken the power of the unions. Managers at NKK were successful in nurturing dissident parties within the unions so as to eliminate the left-leaning elements inside them. The corporate-centered society began focusing on the issue of “hegemonic order” in place of “embattled ideology”.
Chapter five gives the reasons for conflicts between managers and workers. Managers held the belief that the interests of both the company and of workers would depend on increasing productivity, and as such a rational job design and a merit-based wages system etc.were necessary. However, the union activists disagreed and suspected that they would harm their job security.
Chapter six talks about the strike happened in 1956-7. By the fall of 1957, the steelworkers’ unions were poised for their strongest industrial action ever. Managers were willing to take the risk of facing the strike. In response to the strike, managers put aside their disagreement and competition. Finally the strike failed. It was a turning point: the union abandoned the strike as a weapon since then.
Chapter seven concludes that the year 1957 was the last time for unions to make a serious attempt to force major steel companies to compromise. The NKK union failed to maintain existing working conditions and eliminate sacrifice. Now the unions would behave as partners of the management. The co-operative attitude of workers was rested on a “coercive consensus”.
Chapter eight concludes that most of the managerial reforms in Japan were inspired by American practice. Yet some management models were the creation of the Japanese, such as job wages and merit-based pay. Mangers took steps to better workers’ mobilization. Multiple work sites posting were gradually replaced by single site career path. The dual-status ladder for blue-collar and white-collar employees was combined into a single status hierarchy.
Chapter nine concludes that none of the outside pressures: from small company unions strikes to environmental activist protests etc. would constitute a threat to the corporate-center society. Helped by government and laws that reinforced corporate hegemony, managers in Japan sometimes used coercive powers in handling workers. The hegemony of the enterprise was capable of withstanding a wide range of challenges.
Chapter ten concludes that the history had showed that Japanese workplace could offer the possibility of an alternative scenario, one in which working people could devise strategy to restrain corporate values rather than to embrace them fully. In the postwar, gradually unions pulled back from activism and become a close ally of the managers. While this had the benefit of bringing economic gains, it would scarify workers’ own effort to control their lives.

Thesis/Argument of the book:  the book refutes the common predication in 1990s of the demise of Japanese mode of organizing the work place. It also queries the respectful attitude paid to the success of Japanese work place model, noting that the model was achieved more by coercion than by consensus.

My comments: the book is strong at making use of a large amount of historical documents: books, magazines, and pamphlets, from both English and Japanese sources. The book is successful in giving evident to support its arguments. To pick NKK is a wise choice to represent the situation in Japan in general.

2015年9月11日 星期五


A few weeks ago the Yomiuri News on-line reported the following:
20150708 0023

 On the 7th (July) a Korean paper the Donga Daily reported that the army was investigating the leaking of classified information from the Korean Army regarding the latest missile defense system: the "Final stage high altitude area defense (THAAD)" etc., which the USA was considering deployment in Korea, to the Chinese intelligence collaborators by a Korean Army executive.

 On the same day the Korean MOD also announced that this executive was arrested last month on suspicion of leaking secret. There was also a possibility that it might lead to diplomatic frictions between China and South Korea.

 According to the said paper, the executive was a Navy Lieutenant Commander of the Military Security cum Counterintelligence Defense Security Command Institution. It was suspected that early this year, purporting that "I reside in China, so I would like to study it", got information from a junior and handed it to the Chinese side the information on operation arrangements of the THAAD and how the Korean had responded. There was also a suspicion that deployment plans of submarines were leaked out.

I think spying is normal among countries.

2015年9月4日 星期五


A few weeks ago the Yomiuri News on-line reported the following:
20150702 1922

 On the 2nd (July) the three companies of Tokyu Corp., JR East and Tokyo Metro announced that some viewing facilities would be constructed at a roof of a skyscraper at Shibuya station (47 stories with a height of 230 meters).

 The said building was expected to be completed in fiscal year 2019. It was possible to look down upon a scramble intersection in front of Shibuya station which was very popular for foreign tourists. The three companies had the idea that they would like to make the viewing facilities a new tourist spot.

 The roof portion of the said building was about 3,000 square meters in size and it was said that the building groups in downtown, the Yoyogi Park, and even Mt. Fuji could also be seen if the weather was good. An entrance fee was being considered.

It is nice to know that another scenic spot will be available in the near future in Shibuya.

2015年9月2日 星期三

新力:銷售“4K”監控攝像機, 預計奧運活動和車站有需求

A few weeks ago the Mainichi News on-line reported the following:
ソニー:「4K」監視カメラ発売へ 五輪や駅で需要見込む
毎日新聞 20150702日 2255分(最終更新 0702日 2300分)

  Sony on the 2nd (July) announced that a security camera, which was compatible with the Internet and could take pictures in "4K" high definition, would be on sale starting from August 20th. Digitalization was developed for security cameras; an expansion in demand was expected for crime prevention measures in events of the Tokyo Olympics, and at public facilities such as stations and airports.

  About this product, a sensor was used together with a digital camera or a video; even if it was near total darkness, you still could take pictures in color. The suggested retail price was 358,000 yen (excluding tax).

  Regarding taking pictures in high definition, it would lead to improvements in facial authentication accuracy. When doing management on the net, it was possible to analyze a picture while sharing it.

For sure 4K pictures are much clearer. One factor needed to be considered regarding the installation of  camera is the high cost.

2015年9月1日 星期二


A few weeks ago the FNN News on-line reported the following:
中国外務省「南沙諸島での工事完了」 高まる批判かわす狙いか
06/30 22:55


On the 30th (June) the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs made clear that the reclamation works advanced by them at Nansha Islands in the South China Sea (English name Spratly Islands) had been finished.

 In a regular interview on the 30th Hua Chunying the press attaché of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that "China has already finished the reclamation work at part of a reef in the Spratly Islands", and made clear that for China the reclamation works at the Spratly Islands that had been advanced was completed.

About China’s putting a break on the reclamation work, it was thought to have the aim to fend off the growing criticism from the United States and neighboring countries.

On the other hand this press attaché stated that "Construction of facilities will be advanced from now on". It was thought that to advance the construction of structures to the artificial island was to establish the fact that they had a possession right over the Spratly Islands.

  I am interested to know whether the structures to be constructed would cause controversies again.


A few weeks ago the Yomiuri News on-line reported the following:
20150624 2352

 On the 24th (June) the Russian senate approved a bill which would, from January next year, prohibit mass drift net catching of salmon within 200 nautical miles (about 370 kilometers) from the coast that was the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

 The Lower House also approved a bill, and President Putin signed his name to carry it out. In the Russian EEZ the Japanese fishing boats were doing drift net fishing. Centering on Hokkaido the bill looked likely would be a big blow and it also affected relation between Japan and Russia.

 Regarding the bill it was submitted to the Lower House in December of last year by Councilors from Russia Far East Kamchatka for reasons of protecting fishing resources. The contents would prohibit drift net fishing as from January next year, including Russian fishing boats.

 Regarding the drift net fishing prohibition, it affected the eastern area of Hokkaido. There was view point that it would go beyond 25,000 million yen a year (trial calculation by Nemuro city). For the Japanese Government they opposed the bill and regarded it as "scientifically groundless". In the evening of the 24th Prime Minister Abe had a phone call discussion with President Putin, telling him the worry of the Japanese fishermen concerned, and asking for cooperation so that the bill’s passage could be avoided. But the bill was approved about 4 hours later.

 After 1985, regarding the Russian EEZ, by yearly negotiation, allocation on fish catch between Japan and Russia was decided. Japanese fishing boats paid a fishing fee in order to operate there.

 According to the Fisheries Agency in the fishing season 2014 (June-July) there were about 6,400 tons (3,300 million yen) of salmon landing volume from the said water area, being about 4 % of the landing volume of the whole country. Even if there was a prohibition on fishing, a view point was that the impact was limited. But there was a possibility that domestic circulation values would rise.

It seems that fish price in Japan will go up because of this restriction on fishing.