Social Scientist. v 12, no. 131 (April 1984) p. 73.

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Japanese Miracle


CHALMERS JOHNSON is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. His book represents an example of the current of interest in political economy amongst North American political scientists, of which we have had ^ome notable examples.1 In spite of the mechanical character of John son's conception of political economy (to which we shall later return) the book is valuable on four counts.

Firstly, Chalmers Johnson does not believe that any specifically "Japanese" miracle has taken place, and denies those explanation^ of Japan's very high growth rate which are broadly based on a peculiarly Japanese culture, or on the efficient functioning of the freely operating capitalist market, or on a unique system of relationship between Japanese capitalists and workers in individual enterprises ("lifetime" employment, for example), or on the more simple minded versions of the explanations of Japanese industrial development in terms of Japan's nexus with the U S. He believes that it is one aspect of the Japan-U S relationship, namely, the relatively cheap import of advanced technology, and the ability, largely of the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), to ensure the absorptioA of this technology, which transformed the Japanese industrial structure. The identification of strategic industrial sectors, and policies ensuring the growth of the internal market, helped the Japanese export strategy, and led to the Japanese "miracle".

This industrial development strategy was pushed through at a heavy cost to the people of Japan, find also to medium and small enterprises. It was the big firms, evolved from the Zaibatsu conglomerates, which were the beneficiaries of Japanese industrialisation strategies, both before and after the war. The second merit ofjohnson's book is, therefore, the repeated references to what is evidence for the class character of Japanese industrialisation, although these are described jn a way whereby the full price of the strategy is not made apparent. ^

1 See, for example, Francine R Frankel India's Green Revolution: Economic Gains and Political Cffsfs, Princcton, University Press, 1971, and Indians Political Economy, 1947-1977: The Gradual Revolution, Princeton, University Press, 1978.

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