Japan grew explosively and consistently for more than a century, from the Meiji Restoration until the collapse of the economic bubble in the early 1990s. Since then, it has been unable to restart its economic engine and respond to globalization. How could the same political-economic system produce such strongly contrasting outcomes? This book identifies the crucial variables as classic Japanese forms of socio-political organization: the circles of compensation. These cooperative groupings of economic, political, and bureaucratic interests dictate corporate and individual responses to such critical issues as investment and innovation; at the micro level, they explain why individuals can be decidedly cautious on their own, yet prone to risk-taking as a collective. Kent E. Calder examines how these circles operate in seven concrete areas, from food supply to consumer electronics, and deals in special detail with the influence of Japan's changing financial system. The result is a comprehensive overview of Japan's circles of compensation as they stand today, and a road map for broadening them in the future.
Kent E. Calder is Director of the Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at SAIS/Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C. He previously served as Special Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to Japan and as Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and he has taught at Princeton, Harvard, and Seoul National Universities.