The Political Economy of Japanese Globalization

By Glenn D. Hook; Hasegawa Harukiyo | Go to book overview

9

'Japanization' and 'globalization' as metaphors for capitalist rationalization

Hasegawa Harukiyo

A defining characteristic of the last 200 years, extending even into the twenty-first century, has been the dynamics of Western global expansion. Its own logic dictated the style and geographic scope of such expansion, and created strategies to counter the feedback effect of its spread; other countries, on the other hand, were involved in a complex development process of their own through being drawn into the exogenous dynamics of the West's quest for economic growth.

In this process, Japan found itself creating a unique pattern. Originally taking the path to modernization in the Meiji period (1868-1912) by using Western globalization to catalyse its industrial base, it proceeded in the twentieth century to pursue its own globalization through imperialistic conquest in East Asia. The post-war period brought a further need to update its economy, and once again a catalyst was employed, in this case US capitalism. This 'Americanization' led to another phase of Japanese expansion - 'Japanization', a term used here to describe the spread of Japanese industrial methods and even industries themselves to other parts of the world economy. In the 1990s, with Japanese economic momentum slowing down, major Japanese companies then modernized their corporate structures in line with the prevailing globalizing paradigm emanating from the US, placing Japan in a position of being both the source and the recipient of globalization processes.

This chapter aims to address this dual character by looking at the way an external system can be and has been used as a catalyst for internal capitalist rationalization. Under particular scrutiny will be examples of 'Japanization' in the UK in the mid-1990s and US-led globalization in Japan in the latter part of the decade.

There is nothing new or unexpected in emulating the relative advances of external cultures, and capitalist development is not free from this dynamic of history, as indicated in terms like 'Westernization', 'Japanization' or 'globalization'. Such emulation acts as a spur to local innovation - in capitalist terms, refreshing the national economy as well as its constituent enterprises. Hence, Japan's emulation of Fordism in the late 1950s and 1960s led to the variant known as 'lean production' (Womack et al. 1990), Toyotism (Dohse et al. 1985), 'Toyotizumu' (Nomura 1993) or 'innovation-mediated production' (Kenney and Florida 1993), which then inspired the Japanization of the 1980s and 1990s.

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