In August 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won a crushing victory over the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), thus bringing to an end over fifty years of one-party dominance. Around the world, the victory of the DPJ was seen as a radical break with Japan’s past. However, this dramatic political shift was not as sudden as it appeared, but rather the culmination of a series of changes first set in motion in the early 1990s.
The Evolution of Japan’s Party System analyses the transition by examining both party politics and public policy. Arguing that these political changes were evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the essays in this volume discuss how older parties such as the LDP and the Japan Socialist Party failed to adapt to the new policy environment of the 1990s. Taken as a whole, The Evolution of Japan’s Party System provides a unique look at party politics in Japan, bringing them into a comparative conversation that usually focuses on Europe and North America.
Race for the Exits: The Unraveling of Japan’s System of Social Protection (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006) paperback $22.46
Contrary to all expectations, Japan’s long-term recession has provoked no sustained political movement to replace the nation’s malfunctioning economic structure. The country’s basic social contract has so far proved resistant to reform, even in the face of persistently adverse conditions. In Race for the Exits, Schoppa explains why it has endured and how long it can last.
The postwar Japanese system of “convoy capitalism” traded lifetime employment for male workers against government support for industry and the private (female) provision of care for children and the elderly. Two social groups bore a particularly heavy burden in providing for the social protection of the weak and dependent: large firms, which committed to keeping their core workforce on the payroll even in slow times, and women, who stayed home to care for their homes and families.
Using the exit-voice framework made famous by Albert Hirschman, Schoppa argues that both groups have chosen “exit” rather than “voice,” depriving the political process of the energy needed to propel needed reforms in the system. Instead of fighting for reform, firms slowly shift jobs overseas and many women abandon hopes of accommodating both family and career. Over time, however, these trends have placed growing economic and demographic pressures on the social contract. As industries reduce their domestic operations, the Japanese economy is further diminished. Japan has also experienced a “baby bust” as women opt out of motherhood. Schoppa suggests that a radical break with the Japanese social contract of the past is becoming inevitable as the system slowly and quietly unravels.
The text of My Introductory Chapter is available on-line.
The years following World War II saw a huge expansion of the middle classes in the world’s industrialized nations, with a significant part of the working class becoming absorbed into the middle class. Although never explicitly formalized, it was as though a new social contract called for government, business, and labor to work together to ensure greater political freedom and more broadly shared economic prosperity. For the most part, they succeeded. In Social Contracts Under Stress, eighteen experts from seven countries examine this historic transformation and look ahead to assess how the middle class might fare in the face of slowing economic growth and increasing globalization.
The first section of the book focuses on the differing experiences of Germany, Britain, France, the United States, and Japan as they became middle-class societies. The British working classes, for example, were slowest to consider themselves middle class, while in Japan by the 1960s, most workers had abandoned working-class identity. The French remain more fragmented among various middle classes and resist one homogenous entity. Part II presents compelling evidence that the rise of a huge middle class was far from inclusive or free of social friction. Some contributors discuss how the social contract reinforced long-standing prejudices toward minorities and women. In the United States, Ira Katznelson writes, Southern politicians used measures that should have promoted equality, such as the GI bill, to exclude blacks from full access to opportunity. In her review of gender and family models, Chiara Saraceno finds that Mediterranean countries have mobilized the power of the state to maintain a division of labor between men and women. The final section examines what effect globalization might have on the middle class. Leonard Schoppa’s careful analysis of the relevant data shows how globalization has pushed “less skilled workers down and more skilled workers up out of a middle class that had for a few decades been home to both.” Although Europe has resisted the rise of inequality more effectively than the United States or Japan, several contributors wonder how long that resistance can last.
Social Contracts Under Stress argues convincingly that keeping the middle class open and inclusive in the face of current economic pressures will require a collective will extending across countries. This book provides an invaluable guide for assessing the issues that must be considered in such an effort.
Text of My Chapter, Titled “Globalization and the Squeeze on the Middle Class: Does Any Version of the Postwar Social Contract Meet the Challenge?”
This book examines the role of gaiatsu (or foreign pressure) in the Japanese policy process and asks why this pressure is effective in influencing Japanese policy results in some cases but not in others. The core of the book is a detailed study of the Structural Impediments Initiative talks of 1989-1993. Five issue areas were targeted by the U.S. with similar pressure at the same time during these talks, but the results varied widely. The book finds that the explanation for this variation lies in the way foreign pressure interacted with Japanese domestic politics in these five issue areas. One additional chapter examines the Clinton Framework talks in an effort to see whether the model developed to explain the SII results can also account for the outcome of these talks. Various grants, including a one-year Abe Fellowship provided by the Japan Foundation Center for a Global Partnership and administered by the Social Science Research Council supported this research project.
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The Japanese education system, while widely praised in western countries, is subject to heavy criticism within Japan. This book analyzes this criticism, and explains why proposed reforms have failed, concentrating on reform initiatives in the early 1970s and in the mid-1980s under Prime Minister Nakasone. The author shows how the Japanese policymaking process can become paralyzed when there is disagreement, and argues that this “immobilism” can affect other areas of Japanese policymaking as well.