Political Economy of Japan

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As many theorists have already pointed out, Japan's economic development has not been simply because of the adaptation and import of the liberal logic from the West. There has been a subtle conflict between the newly imported liberal logic and the local tradition of mercantilism.


In terms of liberalism, the main element employed by the Meiji Japanese leaders was the idea of equal opportunity, which allegedly guaranteed that everyone could get awarded according to his/her talent. However, the elite group did not go as far as providing total individual freedom in order to achieve the unified population, which was essential for the process of catching up with the West in terms of industrial capacity as well as people's living standard. Instead of the western liberal ideas, they invented and employed some social ideas allegedly from the feudal society of Edo-tradition in order for the leaders to keep the power in their hands. This was where many of contemporary understandings of the supposed Japanese tradition were originated (Gluck 1998). The result of this mixture of the imported and historically retrieved concepts of social organization has been most obviously seen in the educational institutions.
In the current educational system in Japan, which Barthes calls the "Empire of Signs", to graduate from one of the best universities directly provides a ticket to obtain a secure, well paid, and lifetime employment. In order to study at one of the best universities in Japan, one has to be trained at one of the best high schools and follow the technique of answering standardised questions, which would be likely to be asked in entrance examinations of the universities. ...
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