THE JAPANESE CHALLENGE: The Success and Failure of Economic Success by Herman & Thomas Pepper Kahn

THE JAPANESE CHALLENGE: The Success and Failure of Economic Success

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Now that the Japanese have caught up with the West, they've lost heart; so futurologist Kahn (The Emerging Japanese Superstate, 1971), and his Hudson Institute colleague prescribe a new and better goal: creating ""the first full-fledged postindustrial society."" This clarion call, which has already appeared in Japan in a slightly different form, is intended also as a rebuttal to the antigrowth forces whose ascendancy, according to the authors, has robbed the Japanese of the satisfactions of their economic triumph and sapped their will; for Kahn and the Hudson Institute, ""continued economic growth is feasible, desirable, and likely""--and the only thing the Japanese have to fear is disillusion. So they should abandon a business-as-usual stance, with its assumption that certain problems--industrial overcapacity, access to raw materials, a trade surplus--are intractable, only to be dealt with on a piecemeal basis. Not so, say Kahn & Co.: Japan can utilize its productive capacity, reduce its hostility-triggering trade-surplus, and retain access to raw materials (others will sell, if they have the money to buy) by transforming the four Japanese islands into a technologically-advanced gardenland (per Leo Marx's The Machine in the Garden). Crowding can be mitigated by foreign travel and constructing homes on the steep, unpopulated hillside; centralization can be eased by making life in the provinces more attractive. But the kingpin of the Kahn program is a proposed ten-year investment in social infrastructure ""over and above existing plans""--which is spelled out here so as to maximize its psychological potential. All this assumes considerable familiarity with Japan and, indeed, is chiefly addressed to a Japanese audience; but Americans can do their part too: instead of trying to keep Japan down, we should rev up our own economy. Interestingly, however, Kahn no longer expects the Japanese model to prevail worldwide: ""One reason is that Japanese culture does not transfer easily."" For a somewhat different and more applicable premise, see Ezra Vogel's Japan As Number One, below; the resourceful Kahn is largely recycling his thoughts here.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1979
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell