Japan, who governs? : the rise of the developmental state /

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Main Author: Johnson, Chalmers A.
Format: Book
Published:New York : Norton, c1995.
Edition:1st ed.
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Review by Choice Review

Johnson taught East Asian political economy at the University of California, and he has written several books on Japan, including the influential MITI and the Japanese Miracle (CH, Sep'82). The tripartite division of his present book covers economics, politics, and international relations. Chapters are full of seminal ideas, and they can serve as sources of reference material on selected writers, who are either summarized or mentioned as background for the author's ideas. Johnson contrasts Japan's economic system to those of other free market economies. He compares Japan to the trading city-state of Venice and contends that the Japanese mercantilist model of a noncapitalist market economy is a distinct category; thus he is a "revisionist" of the conventional view that the US and the Japanese economies are fundamentally similar. Inevitably, the author focuses on industrial policy and the ways of Japanese bureaucracy, as well as on Japan's obfuscations related to structural impediments to trade and American expectations. Three of the chapters on politics had been written noticeably earlier. The book's final two chapters could become the starting point of a debate and merit wide circulation. Johnson is excellently informed, uses sources in Japanese to good advantage, and poses challenging questions for the Japanese as well as the Americans. B. Mieczkowski; Ithaca College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In one of these provocative essays, which have appeared previously in other publications, Johnson (Miti and the Japanese Miracle), professor of international relations at the Univ. of California, San Diego, describes how a misinterpreted nuance of the Japanese language led to a prolongation of WWII and the atomic bombing of two Japanese cities. He believes that the difficulties of the Japanese language for Westerners require a greater understanding of the dissimilar cultures, which, he points out, most American commentators lack. He blames the prominent role of U.S. economists in policymaking for our misunderstanding of the Japanese value system and Japan's ``capitalist development state.'' For all the fear of state control bruited about in the U.S., Chalmers points out, Japan's great wealth, highly educated workforce, low-cost health care and low unemployment result precisely because Japan's economy is planned. Other essays explore the growing commonality of interests between Japan and its giant neighbor, China, and the implications for the West. A lucid and enlightening account of the U.S. relationship with Japan and its prospects. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A collection of perceptive essays from a top Asian scholar who sheds considerable light on how Japan managed to become a world-class economic power following its defeat in WW II. Among other arresting judgments, Johnson (Pacific International Relations/Univ. of California, San Diego; MITI and the Japanese Miracle, 1981) contends that samurai capitalism is quite unlike its Darwinian equivalents in Europe and North America on several important counts. To begin with, he states, the island nation engages in an effective form of producer economics that views markets as means, not ends. In addition, respected government ministries provide domestic industry with administrative guidance that permits corporate enterprises to pursue essentially mercantile goals without paying much attention to the interests of either employees or stockholders. The author dates the ascendancy of this prestigious, professional bureaucracy (which created what he calls a developmental state) to the destruction of Japan's military during the US occupation. Mounting trade deficits and the end of the Cold War have induced Washington to reappraise America's relations with Dai Nihon and the Far Eastern countries that have followed its economic lead. For the most part, Johnson concludes, neither US policy makers nor the mass media have a realistic understanding of how Japan's commercial practices (which have precious little concern for the welfare of home-front consumers) differ from those in the West. Expanding on this theme, he examines language barriers, Tokyo's bonds with nations comprising what it once referred to as the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and the reform-resistant system that passes for democratic politics in Japan. Addressed as well is the outlook for a renewal of the ties that once bound the US to an ally that no longer appears to value its gaijin security blanket. Authoritative perspectives on a consequential country that remains indominatably foreign for most of the West. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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