Contrary to all expectations, Japan's long-term recession has
provoked no sustained political movement to replace the nation's
malfunctioning economic structure. The country's basic social
contract has so far proved resistant to reform, even in the face of
persistently adverse conditions. In Race for the Exits,
Leonard J. Schoppa explains why it has endured and how long it can
last. The postwar Japanese system of "convoy capitalism" traded
lifetime employment for male workers against government support for
industry and the private (female) provision of care for children
and the elderly. Two social groups bore a particularly heavy burden
in providing for the social protection of the weak and dependent:
large firms, which committed to keeping their core workforce on the
payroll even in slow times, and women, who stayed home to care for
their homes and families.
Using the exit-voice framework made famous by Albert Hirschman,
Schoppa argues that both groups have chosen "exit" rather than
"voice," depriving the political process of the energy needed to
propel necessary reforms in the system. Instead of fighting for
reform, firms slowly shift jobs overseas, and many women abandon
hopes of accommodating both family and career. Over time, however,
these trends have placed growing economic and demographic pressures
on the social contract. As industries reduce their domestic
operations, the Japanese economy is further diminished. Japan has
also experienced a "baby bust" as women opt out of motherhood.
Schoppa suggests that a radical break with the Japanese social
contract of the past is becoming inevitable as the system slowly
and quietly unravels.
Subjects: Political Science
Table of Contents
You are viewing the table of contents
You do not have access to this
on JSTOR. Try logging in through your institution for access.