Academic journal article Social Justice

Japanese Accumulation Structure and the Postwar World-System

Academic journal article Social Justice

Japanese Accumulation Structure and the Postwar World-System

Article excerpt

Wolferen, Karel V. 1994 "Nihon: Kaishakozo no Nazo" (Japan: The Puzzle of the Corporate Structure). Shukan Tokyo Keizai (July 23): 6-7.

1993 "Japan's Non-Revolution." Foreign Affairs 72 (September/October): 54-65.

1990 "The Japan Problem Revisited." Foreign Affairs 69: 42-55.

1989 The Enigma of Japanese Power: People and Politics in Stateless Nation. London: Macmillan.

Half a century after the end of world war II, The Politico-Military institutional arrangements of the Cold War era are in the process of disintegration. Although the superpower status of the United States appears to remain intact, the decline in its economic capacity has resulted in a situation where the U.S. must seek financial assistance for overseas military deployment and use the United Nations to legitimize its actions, As Giovanni Arrighi previously noted (1982), the decline of U.S. hegemonic power is a process that had already begun in the 1970s, The double asymmetry of economic and military power on both sides of Pacific - i.e., strong U.S. politico-military power coupled with its diminished economic power in contrast to strong Japanese economic power and weak politico-military power - became the source of popular discussion concerning U.S. policy toward Japan and the status of the Japanese state in the interstate system. Despite the decline of U.S. hegemony, the world-system as a system of capital accumulation is functioning with apparent vigor. In contrast to some world-systems researchers who believe the capitalist world-system is in crisis, my view is that the world-system is in "good" shape, both as a system of accumulation and as a system of governance.

An examination of the historical processes in the 20th-century world-system is the first objective of this article. The second objective concerns the Japanese accumulation structure. The Japanese business enterprises that grew under the postwar (that is, post-Word War II) world-systemic order have been expanding their activity networks over the entire world economy, and in so doing have contributed to the transformation of the very order that nurtured the "rise" of Japan. The expansion of Japanese corporate activities have occurred concurrently with adjustments inside Japan, such as the restructuring caused by appreciation of the yen, changes in the method of corporate financing, adjustments in employment practices, the recent political shakeup, etc. These adjustments mark the substantial transformation of the Japanese accumulation structure. Some argue that these adjustments are the indicators of dissolution or crisis of the Japanese accumulation structure. However, when viewed from the larger and longer framework of the capitalist world-system, this transition in the Japanese accumulation structure comprises neither dissolution nor crisis.

Therefore, the second objective of this article is to evaluate the transition of the Japanese accumulation structure from the viewpoint of the world-system. Below I will review the postwar world-system and the hegemonic role of the U.S. Next, the postwar Japanese accumulation structure is discussed, followed by an examination of its transition in the context of the greater changes in the world-system itself.

The Capitalist World-System under U.S. Hegemony

The structural contradiction of the capitalist world-system in the first half of the 20th century manifested itself in the form of intra-core (or inter-imperialist) rivalry, independence movements (or anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist struggles) in the periphery, and communist/socialist revolution in the semiperiphery (i.e., Russia). It is possible to interpret the outcome of the historical processes during the second half of the 20th century to be the elimination of these structural problems for the continued capitalist accumulation of capital under the hegemonic leadership of the U.S. Today, impediments to the free movement of goods, services, and money across national boundaries, especially among the core countries, have been removed to a large extent and "national economies" have increasingly been integrated into a single "global economy. …

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