Recently I have read the following book. Its main points are:
Book Title: Chalmers Johnson.1995. Japan: Who Governs? The rise of the developmental state. NY; London: W.W. Norton & Company.
- Introduction: the American was wary of state officials or bureaucrats in general, but while in Japan it was quite different. Japan had a non-adversarial political culture, and its state had attracted the best talent, leading the campaign of modernization from above. (7-8) Japan was a capitalist development state, distinct from a socialist development state (USSR) or a capitalist regulatory state (USA). (8)
- the five essays grouped in part I elucidate the role of the Japanese state in the economic role of Japan (11). The first essay compared Japan to medieval Venice as an example of a trading state, one that used economic policies to achieve what other nations attempted to achieve through the military. The second essay considers the nexus, if any between religion and capitalism as propounded by many western theorists. It rejects creative Confucianism as the eastern equivalent of Weber’s version of Protestantism. Instead, the essay credits Japan’s industrialization to a dictatorship of development.
- the comparison of Japan with Venice led to the third essay: the idea of comparative capitalism (12). Japan pioneered the capitalist developmental, or catalytic, state; and illustrated to the rest of world that the state could play an important role in market economies well beyond the laissez-faire economic. (68)
- the fourth essay focuses on the trade deficits that the US had with Japan since the late 1960s. This essay, together with the fifth essay, raises the issue of ‘revisionism’. Revisionism was referred the observation that Japan had a political economy different form the Anglo-American countries, most American academic economists maintained their pattern was the orthodox norm that defined capitalism; hence Japan had differed from this norm. Those who pointed out this were called revisionist. (12)
- these five essays attempt to show why a policy of pressuring Japan to alter its economic system to make it look like the American was doomed to fail.(12)
Part II addresses Japanese politics and bureaucratic government. In Chapter 6, the essay entitled ‘Japan: Who governs’ reflects the author’s growing understanding that the American-written Japanese constitution of 1947 did not fully describe the way the Japanese political systems actually worked. (13)
-chapter 7 suggested that those who governed Japan was its elite state bureaucracy. It was recruited from the top rank of the best law schools students in the country. The bureaucracy drafted virtually all laws. It also had the power of administrative guidance unrestrained in any way by the judicial system. (13) It talks about what these officials did when they left office: they became amakudari. Ch.8 talks about the language of Japanese in governing and in politics. Ch.9 talks about the candidate in author’s mind who would breathe life into the constitutional political system; he was the former PM, Tanka Kakuei. The author had expected Tanaka to lead Japan into a kind of democracy. Ch. 10 talks about the collapse of the LDP in 1993.
Part III (ch.11 -14) deals with Japan’s international relations – with China and other nations of the Asia-pacific region. These four essays all were about the implication of Japan’s newly achieved great economic power that combined with a comparative reluctance to assume commensurate political responsibility. (15)
- one main point in part 3 is to refute the view that the Japanese state was incapable of grand strategy because it was not under the kind of democratic guidance prevalent in the West. It seemed to the author that in responding the hegemonic actions of the US, and the emergence of a group of emulators of its own economic achievement in Asia (South Korea, Taiwan etc. the four dragons) Japan had preserved the country’s independence while also accommodated the Americans and the Communist adversaries (i.e. China). (16)
Ch.1.- it quotes a comment on the Most Serene Venetain Republic, which was founded in AD 421 and whose constitution persisted unchanged for almost five centuries , from 1310 to 1796. There were many striking similarities between this old Venice and contemporary Japan. Venice was surrounded by larger, more powerful states, but it survived and preserved its independence by successfully combining a preference for peaceful trade with a willingness to fight with all its resources to preserve it independence. Modern Japan was likewise normally preferred commerce and its wars all had a commercial basis. (23)
- separately in his book on MITI and on the history of industrial policy, the author has summarized the ingredients of the post war Japan’s high-growth as follows: a combination of the legacy of cartelization and state control, the emergency of pilot agency, i.e. the economic general staff, and the Yoshida School in politics. Another compatible formation was noted by one of Japans’ leading economic historian Nanakumra Takafusa. Nakamura saw two complex sets of causes: war and occupation. In his view the mobilization for the war had contributed to at least seven different Japanese institutional invocations that were salvaged after the defeat. (30)
(to be continued)