Leading Japan: The Role of the Prime Minister

Leading Japan: The Role of the Prime Minister

Leading Japan: The Role of the Prime Minister

Leading Japan: The Role of the Prime Minister

Synopsis

Shinoda provides an analytical framework for examining the role of the prime minister in Japan's political decision making. Although the conventional view of Japanese politics is that the bureaucracy and the ruling party are strong, Shinoda argues that the prime minister plays a pivotal role for major policies.

Excerpt

In the 1990s, the Japanese political scene witnessed a series of drastic changes, including the end of the 38-year-long reign of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the establishment of the LDP-Socialist coalition government, the formation of the minority government led by LDP president Hashimoto Ryûtarô, LDP's reemergence as a majority in the lower house, LDP's loss in the 1998 upper house election and Hashimoto's resignation, and the establishment of the Obuchi Keizô administration. While these rapid changes perhaps provided embarrassment to the so-called revisionists who assert that Japan can never change, they offered excitement to many Japan scholars, and at the same time headaches to those of us trying to finish a book on current Japanese politics: I have spent the past several years constantly revising my draft to keep up with the current situation.

These changes not only have provided different political environments surrounding the Japanese prime minister but also have significantly increased public interest in his political leadership. Whereas interest has increased, however, understanding has fallen far behind. There are very few academic works in any language totally dedicated to describing the leadership role of the Japanese prime minister. Lack of literature and understanding is not unique to Japan's leadership, of course. As James MacGregor Burns describes, "Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth." Although people recognize the central role of a national leader, the scholarship on the president, the prime minister, or the chancellor lags far behind scholarship on other areas of political science.

For Japan, there are biographies of individual prime ministers in separate books or series of books written mostly by journalists closely associated to one personality. The focus of these studies, however, is the life and career of a . . .

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