Consumer Politics in Postwar Japan: The Institutional Boundaries of Citizen Activism

Consumer Politics in Postwar Japan: The Institutional Boundaries of Citizen Activism

Consumer Politics in Postwar Japan: The Institutional Boundaries of Citizen Activism

Consumer Politics in Postwar Japan: The Institutional Boundaries of Citizen Activism

Synopsis

Providing comparisons to the United States and Britain, this book examines Japan's postwar consumer protection movement. Organized largely by and for housewives and spurred by major cases of price gouging and product contamination, the movement led to the passage of basic consumer protection legislation in 1968. Although much of the story concerns the famous "iron triangle" of big business, national bureaucrats, and conservative party politics, Maclachlan takes a broader perspective. She points to the importance of activity at the local level, the role of minority parties, the limited utility of the courts, and the place of lawyers and academics in providing access to power. These mild social strategies have resulted in a significant amount of consumer protection.

Excerpt

Consumers are the bedrock of modern capitalist systems. By spending and saving, they provide both the demand according to which goods and services are supplied and the resources needed to fuel the production process. As such, consumers have significant power, for to ignore their basic wishes is to invite a drop in profits or, in the case of governments, defeat at the polls.

Consumers are not interested only in spending and saving, however. Many are also concerned about the impact of the production and consumption processes on the environment and the health and welfare of their families; how economic and political authorities respond to their grievances; the ways in which their voices are incorporated into business and government decision-making processes; and the incidence of corruption in government and business circles. In today's capitalist economies, in other words, consumers recognize that consumption has moral, social, and political ramifications as well as economic ones.

Unfortunately for consumers, producers and their governmental allies are not always willing to acknowledge all their economic and “quality-of-life” concerns, particularly those without an immediate bearing on the profitability of firms or the outcomes of elections. In response, consumers in many advanced industrial democracies have sought power through association in both the marketplace and the political system in order to pressure the economic and political powers that be into addressing their grievances. To that end, consumer activists have met with mixed results, both longitudinally . . .

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