The Misunderstood Miracle: Industrial Development and Political Change in Japan

The Misunderstood Miracle: Industrial Development and Political Change in Japan

The Misunderstood Miracle: Industrial Development and Political Change in Japan

The Misunderstood Miracle: Industrial Development and Political Change in Japan

Excerpt

This book addresses the reasons for the spectacular growth of Japanese manufacturing industries in the period beginning with the mid-1950s and ending in the late 1970s. It focuses on the machine tool industry in Japan from about the time of the Great Depression to the present. I argue that often overlooked or misinterpreted political and industrial developments made it possible for Japanese manufacturers to build goods more flexibly than producers elsewhere. The widespread growth and development of firms seeking production flexibility provided the country's industries with significant competitive advantages at home and abroad. This argument calls for substantial revisions in most contemporary explanations of Japanese success.

Understanding the reasons for Japanese economic development is one of the most serious challenges for students of comparative political economy and industrial policy makers, for no theory of development and no strategy for promoting growth can ignore the country's postwar advance. Striking cases of economic success play an important role in the way other societies analyze their own problems, critique their established beliefs, validate new ideas. In practice Japan is especially important, because its remarkable achievements in such sectors as automobiles, electronics, and automation stand in stark contrast to the manufacturing crisis that continues to grip the United States and most of Western Europe. In clarifying the reasons for rapid Japanese expansion, we improve our ability to interpret and respond to circumstances elsewhere.

In this chapter I discuss two major explanations offered to account for Japanese growth. The theories hold that extensive bureaucratic . . .

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