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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Japan's Open Future

Japan's Open Future: An Agenda for Global Citizenship

by John Haffner, Tomas Casas i Klett, Jean-Pierre Lehmann

Published by Anthem Press

ISBN: 1-8433-1311-1320 pp

The authors, a Canadian, a Spaniard, and a Frenchman, have written a book that falls squarely into the genre of books that explain "what is wrong with Japan and how it can be fixed," and is one of the better books of the genre.
Maybe because of their combined years of experience in Japan the book has a bit more depth than many of its type. The essence of the authors' argument is that while Japan made a remarkable and swift transition from a Pre-Modern to a Modern society, it has failed to make the jump to a Post Modern society, and still clings to the mercantilism that enabled its economy to grow and prosper, but which is no longer suitable for the modern world of globalism.

Japan's Open Future

The introduction is excellent and gives a brief history of Japan without resorting to any of the myths that color much of other writings on Japan. The brief section on Japan's imperialist expansion and World War II manages to cover all the details that continue to haunt Japan and influence its relations with other countries.
The chapter on global communication covers Japan's poor performance with foreign languages, particularly English, but also has some interesting insights on communication issues within Japan. Many of the examples given come from the world of business, and this emphasis on business and economics continues throughout the book, with the next two chapters focusing on the Japanese economy.
Written in a way that makes the subjects understandable to a layman, one still needs an interest in the topics to stop the chapters from becoming hard going. The chapters on Japan's civil society and Japan's global roles cover most of the issues where Japan clings to exceptionalism. Throughout the book the authors point out that were Japan to open itself more (globalism in not so many words) the people of Japan would benefit greatly, however they barely touch upon any negative results of globalization.
In the conclusion they make an interesting suggestion that China's growing economic penetration of Japan may lead to the forced opening of Japan on a par with Perry’s black ships.

Book Review by Jake Davies

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