The serious inquirer will find no quicker, surer guide to Japan's present economic eminence--and, in perspective, its...



The serious inquirer will find no quicker, surer guide to Japan's present economic eminence--and, in perspective, its ""institutional innovations""--than this crisp, authoritative text. Alien, Professor Emeritus at the University of London, is a lifelong student of the Japanese economy and a meticulous yet unstarchy writer. Chapter by chapter, he develops significant themes. First he notes Japan's readiness, before the 1868 Meiji Restoration, for industrial development--thanks to an agricultural surplus (the classic prerequisite for industrial take-off), experience in organizing large enterprises, a high regard for education (especially in ""useful subjects""), and, among the populace, curiosity and a passion for novelties. At the same time, the Japanese social environment--the vertical social divisions, the exercise of authority by groups, the consensual decision-making, the elevation of obligations over rights, the role of reciprocal obligation--beneficially delayed the emergence of attitudes hostile, elsewhere, to modern large-scale capitalism. But Allen is careful to distinguish between tradition and adaptation: the seniority wage system and lifetime employment, he stresses, were predominantly post-WW II responses to the need to draw factory labor from the group-oriented villages and to submit them to training and discipline. He has little patience, however, with the concept of Japan as a monolithic state--pointing to conflict between government bodies, consultation between big business and government, rivalry among private firms, the dynamism of individual entrepreneurs. . . all working, though, in the ""national interest."" What goal, then, for Japan--now that it has outstripped its model, the US? What prospects for diligent, disciplined labor--now that its living standards rival the world's best? In answer to these and similar questions, Allen cites Japan's resilience after the 1971 Nixon Shock (severing the yen from the dollar, removing the US as a prop) and the 1973 Oil Shock. He does not, however, vaunt Japan, or Japanese ways, as a model in turn for the West (except, perhaps, in drawing some invidious comparisons with his native Britain): this is instructive and stimulating at large--a resource, not (like Kahn, Vogel, et al.) a competitive rating.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981

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