MIRACLE BY DESIGN: The Real Reasons Behind Japan's Economic Success by Frank Gibney

MIRACLE BY DESIGN: The Real Reasons Behind Japan's Economic Success

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Gibney is a veteran Japan-watcher (Five Gentlemen of Japan, 1953; Japan: The Fragile Superpower, rev. 1979) who's earned the right to be unoriginal--to contrast the Japanese ""long-term investment in people"" with our ""perpetual hiring and firing,"" their flexible consultations with our hard-and-fast contracts, etc., etc. The trouble with Gibney's version of what-the-Japanese-have-to-teach-us is that it sounds like the effusions of Shirley MacLaine et al. over Mao's China. ""Remarkably dedicated and efficient, their work force is better motivated and more secure than any other."" ""In the sense that their society is founded on a respect for relationships and a feeling for the harmony that comes from good relationships, the Japanese have to be called Confucian. This 'relationship' kind of thinking is the single greatest difference between the Japanese and ourselves."" In Japan, Gibney sees preserved a work ethic and ""traditional social values"" destroyed in America--just as others saw, in China, a different model of selflessness and community. (Gibney quotes Daniel Bell, and himself decries ""the cult of doing one's own thing."") Much of the book, then, is preaching--with some broad description: tributes to Japanese company unions, Japanese productivity, ""the world's most dedicated, intelligent, cohesive, and competent bureaucracy."" (Also, the success of Japanese companies in the US.) Almost the only specifics, however, concern the embarrassments of American companies trying to do things the American way and Gibney's own success in building up Encyclopedia Brittanica (Japan), Inc., by doing things the Japanese way. It's an interesting artifact of sorts--but for hard-headed, factual analysis of the Japanese miracle see, of late, The Eastasia Edge, by Hofheinz and Calder (p. 533), or Kenichi Ohmae's The Mind of the Strategist (p. 628).

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1982
Publisher: Times Books