Portraits of the Japanese Workplace: Labor Movements, Workers, and Managers

Portraits of the Japanese Workplace: Labor Movements, Workers, and Managers

Portraits of the Japanese Workplace: Labor Movements, Workers, and Managers

Portraits of the Japanese Workplace: Labor Movements, Workers, and Managers


In this groundbreaking volume, one of Japan's most insightful contemporary labor analysts assesses the "light and shadow" of Japanese-style management, explaining why Japanese employees have stood apart from workers in other industrialized countries. Kumazawa brings to life the intense combination of competition and community within Japanese workplaces. He highlights dilemmas facing Japanese labor on the shop floor and in the labor movement. His discussion ranges from the role of women to issues of quality control and self-management. Highly critical of the hierarchical and undemocratic nature of Japanese industry, he offers a sympathetic view from the inside of the difficulties of surviving in the workplaces of contemporary Japan.


Japanese-style management has been a topic of intense interest throughout the world for some time. in the 1980s in particular, business managers seeking to revitalize market economies--whether from the Western European welfare states, Asia's newly industrializing economies, or former socialist states--decided Japanese industry possessed unusual competitive strengths in cost and in quality control. They concluded that these strengths were not simply the result of technological advances, but were based on underlying features of Japanese enterprises: systems of production management and personnel management, and strategies of industrial relations. As a result, they began attempting to introduce these practices in their own countries.

The United States has been no exception. in this era of chronic trade friction, the American political and business communities criticize the closed Japanese market, but economic specialists are in fact concerned that American business in general has fallen behind Japanese business in producing superior products cheaply. Consequently, progressive American business leaders are endeavoring to learn management theory from their formerly "backward" students, studying, for example, the practices of Japanese corporations located in America.

Managers worldwide have sought to emulate a number of internal features seen to account for the vigor of Japanese corporations. Even if one confines oneself to the realms of production, personnel management, and industrial relations, one can easily compile a long list of Japanese management practices being studied or adopted in other nations.

A minimal list of the practices that workers in Japanese companies in America are coming to experience includes the following: First, in employment policy, Japanese-style management does not set out to "buy" workers with specific skills to perform specific tasks. Generally speaking, a company designs a complex selection process to carefully select long-term "team members" who are versatile and adaptable. the employees thus chosen are required to work in flexible fashion when it comes to job definition, job assignments, production norms, and working hours, including . . .

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