JAPAN: WHO GOVERNS? by Chalmers Johnson


The Rise of the Developmental State
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 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. (Graphs and tabular material)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-393-03739-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995


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