A scholar's original and illuminating interpretation of what makes Japan a power to be reckoned with in the global village's marketplace. Moving confidently back and forth through history, Samuels (Political Science/MIT) offers a wealth of perspectives on the geopolitical and socioeconomic implications of the phrase that is the title of his absorbing text. As a rallying cry, the phrase dates back to the 19th-century Meiji Restoration when reformers resolved to overcome the stagnation caused by the Tokugawa shogunate's isolationism. While freed from the shackles of a feudal past, the author shows, Japan remained insecure about its post-1868 future in a world presumed to be hostile. Militarist regimes engineered a catch-up mobilization of resources that led to Japan's calamitous defeat in WW II. After that, Samuels observes, the nation's leaders simply shifted course. Protected under the security blanket afforded by America's Cold War with the Soviet Union, Samuels reports, Japan devised a three-part policy that made technology an indigenous part of the national culture and dispersed it throughout the domestic economy while nurturing the local enterprises that could employ it to advantage (it also became an indispensable element of national security). At the same time, he points out, the country's multinationals geared themselves to accommodate defense as well as commercial work, thereby gaining considerable protection against cyclical swings in procurement. Although aggressive efforts to counteract the lingering effects of late development strike some critics as retrograde mercantilism, the author argues persuasively that Japan's continuing drive for unassailable autonomy (in aircraft, communications, and other strategic industries) is firmly rooted in ancient ideologies and institutions designed to serve the public interest. A genuinely fresh framework in which to evaluate the challenges a Pacific Rim colossus poses for the West. Photos and helpful tabular material throughout.
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