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Japan’s Failed Revolution

Japan’s Failed Revolution: Koizumi and the Politics of Economic Reform

Aurelia George Mulgan
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Japan’s Failed Revolution
    Book Description:

    Japan’s Failed Revolution: Koizumi and the Politics of Economic Reform asks why, despite all the high expectations, the Japanese public’s desire for economic reform, and leadership of a majority coalition in a parliamentary democracy, the reformer Prime Minister Koizumi has not achieved the economic reforms expected of him since he surprisingly attained power over a year ago. To unravel this ‘puzzle’, Aurelia George Mulgan eschews the simplicities of both cultural and rational choice explanations and systematically tests the propositions in the comparative literature on ‘failed reform’. The result is one of the best books ever written about contemporary Japanese politics. It explains how, despite British-style parliamentary institutions, Japan’s very ‘un-Westminster’ traditional policymaking process involving the ruling party and the bureaucracy’s structure and linkage has stymied and will probably continue to stymie even a sincere and active Prime Minister’s best reform intentions. This book should be read by all political scientists, journalists, economists, and students interested in contemporary Japan. Ellis S. Krauss Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies University of California, San Diego. The author takes a scalpel to dissect Japan’s dysfunctional political system. She shows with wonderful clarity and depth of knowledge why the Koizumi reforms are not succeeding, and why revolutionary political change is needed as a precondition for economic recovery. The book should be required reading for anyone involved with contemporary Japan. J.A.A. Stockwin University of Oxford.

    eISBN: 978-1-925021-05-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Aurelia George Mulgan
  5. 1 The political conditions for economic reform
    (pp. 1-42)

    If permanent high growth characterised the Japanese economy in the 1980s and permanent recession in the 1990s, then no one can predict what paradigm will capture the dominant economic trends in the first decade of the 21st century.¹ At the end of the ‘lost decade’ of the 1990s, the debate about Japan’s economic future polarised into two contending schools of thought: the ‘structural pessimists’ (or ‘Japan’s sun is setting’ school) and the ‘techno-revivalists’ (or ‘Japan’s sun is rising’) school. The structural pessimists argued that Japan’s inability and unwillingness to engage in fundamental economic reform condemned its economy to low or...

  6. 2 Koizumi’s power base
    (pp. 43-72)

    The discussion in this chapter centres on the core political conditions conducive to successful economic reform under Koizumi, particularly during the initial months of his administration. Political factors supportive of strucrural reform included a favourable political environment shaped hy economic crisis, the positive impetus provided by a political honeymoon period, Koizumi’s demonstration of strong and visionary leadership, his skilful use of the media, the social consensus supporting his reforms, the strong base of legislative support for the Koizumi administration in the Diet, and conversely, a fragmented and demoralised opposition.

    Japan certainly meets the test of economic crisis. The state of...

  7. 3 Koizumi’s reform team, its policies and approach
    (pp. 73-95)

    This chapter focuses on the phalanx of reformers who have assisted Koizumi in the pursuit of his program of economic change and on the endorsement this program has received from exrernal sources. It also examines those aspects of his policies and programs that are conducive to their successful implementation and to engendering support for strucrural reform amongst affected groups.

    The Japanese administrative reforms of January 2001 established a formal system underpinning the formation of a coherent government economic team led by the prime minister. The prime minister is head of a new Cabiner Office (Naikakufu).¹ The first and most important...

  8. 4 Opportunities lost
    (pp. 96-128)

    As the previous two chapters have argued, the Koizumi administration has enjoyed many of the political conditions that are widely accepted as contributing to processes of economic reform in societies seeking to make the transition from being interventionist to market-liberal economies. Koizumi’s apparent lack of success in engineering such a transition is, therefore, paradoxical. Surely, given the combination of Koizumi’s commitment to a genuine program of reform and a favourable political environment, he should have much more to show for his efforts? The discussion in this and subsequent chapters will provide an extended explanation of that paradox. It shows how...

  9. 5 Party-bureaucratic government
    (pp. 129-176)

    This chapter details the structural obstacles in Japan’s poiicymaking process which are preventing Koizumi from realising his stated reform goals and from capitalising on the positive political conditions for reform which he has enjoyed.

    The LDP with Koizumi as leader ruling in coalition with two smaller parties, the New Kômeìtô and the Conservative Party, has a solid majority in the Diet, which should in theory provide a strong base for the administration to enact its legislative program. Indeed, Koizumi’s party, the LDP, is in a position where it might even regain its majority in the next Upper House election in...

  10. 6 Policy stalemate
    (pp. 177-212)

    This chaptet will provide an assessment of recent reforms designed to buttress executive authority in Japan, It concludes that the changes have served merely to produce a policy stalemate¹ between revamped structures of executive power and the party-bureaucratic complex,² rather than eliminating the traditional policymaking system, An emergent trilateral system comprising the executive, the bureaucracy and the party portends even greater immobilism in the policymaking process.

    Japanese prime ministers who have been effective agenda-setters and policy-initiators have been the exception rather than the rule, despite a number of factors that have served to strengthen the position of prime ministers in...

  11. 7 Team weaknesses, tactical flaws and policy defects
    (pp. 213-237)

    Some of the political conditions that are negative for structural reform in Japan are givens, like well-entrenched policymaking structures in which forces opposed to reform are embedded. On the other hand, some factors in the political environment can be positively manipulated to deliver reform outcomes. This chapter continues the examination of structural obstacles to reform, bur it also elucidates deficiencies in Koizumi’s economic team and its approach which have limited the achievements of his administration. Finally, it offers an explanation for the reduced effectiveness of external aid in the form of gaiatsu.

    The technopol, Takenaka Heizô, may have been officially...

  12. 8 Koizumi’s failed revolution
    (pp. 238-246)

    This book has analysed the politics of Koizumi’s structural reform program against a general framework of hypotheses that posit the political conditions for economic reform. The study has thrown into stark relief the obstacles to reform that persist in Japan and which serve to override the many positive political conditions for reform that Koizumi has enjoyed. Despite widespread acknowledgment that radical reform is urgently needed, and despite a pro-active, pro-reform administration, Japan represents a case where economic reform is being attempted or initiated, but the process remains superficial, partial, incomplete and unconsolidated.

    To those steeped in the assumptions of parliamentary...

  13. References
    (pp. 247-255)
  14. Index
    (pp. 256-260)