Japan’s Political Economy

The Japanese Economy is a new book by Hiroaki Richard Watanabe and published by Agenda Publishing. It is reviewed by Kwang-Yeong Shin of the Department of Sociology, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, Korea.

The book covers the political economy of Japan from the Meiji Restoration to the 2010s. It provides “a panoramic view of the Japanese economy, politics and society, dealing with the labour market, welfare, industrial policy, birth rate, aging and interest-based politics.”

Shin states that Watanabe rejects “perspectives influenced by modernisation theory,” to emphasise:

comparative political economy and institutionalism, discussing major changes in the economy, society and politics in a holistic manner…. He argues that Japanese economic institutions have become increasingly incompatible with the economy as capitalism has rapidly transformed the global economic environment. While administrative guidance in the developmental state has promoted industrial production, it is interest group politics, developed under Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) rule, that has protected inefficient and low-productivity sectors.

Shin concludes that the book:

a brief but compelling account of the history of Japan’s political economy. While it deals with almost all significant issues based on academic research in each period, it conveys non-technical narratives that can be read by those with a general interest in Japan. In short, readers without much knowledge of Japan could understand the country’s economy over two decades as it went from economic miracle to prolonged recession.

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