How have state policies influenced the development of Japan's telecommunications, computer hardware, computer software, and semiconductor industries and their stagnation since the 1990s? Marie Anchordoguy's book examines how the performance of these industries and the economy as a whole are affected by the socially embedded nature of Japan's capitalist system, which she calls "communitarian capitalism."Reprogramming Japan shows how the institutions and policies that emerged during and after World War II to maintain communitarian norms, such as the lifetime employment system, seniority-based wages, enterprise unions, a centralized credit-based financial system, industrial groups, the main bank corporate governance system, and industrial policies, helped promote high tech industries. When conditions shifted in the 1980s and 1990s, these institutions and policies did not suit the new environment, in which technological change was rapid and unpredictable and foreign products could no longer be legally reverse-engineered.Despite economic stagnation, leaders were slow to change because of deep social commitments. Once the crisis became acute, the bureaucracy and corporate leaders started to contest and modify key institutions and practices. Rather than change at different times according to their specific economic interests, Japanese firms and the state have made similar slow, incremental changes.
"Reprogramming Japan is rich in both detail and insight in analyzing the institutional context within which Japanese high-technology firms operate.... Anchordoguy paints a vivid image of Japan's capitalism and analyzes why Japanese firms have responded so sluggishly to fast-paced technological change.... The general reader will find great satisfaction in Anchordoguy's highly thought-provoking overview of what has gone wring in Japan's variant of capitalism. The specialist will find a wealth of detail, including extensive quotes from key actors in the four sectors semiconductors, computer hardware, software, and telecommunications."
Asian Business and Management
"Reprogramming Japan is an engrossing study of why Japan has performed poorly in almost all the information technology industries. In explaining Japan's adherence to communitarian capitalism, Anchordoguy disagrees with analysts who blame a political system that favors entrenched interests. Instead, she argues that the root problem is strong social norms that dictate against market disruption. Her best evidence is a rich body of material from her own interviews with an impressive array of Japanese business and government officials. The real jewels of the book are the quotes from these interviews that reveal Japan’s continued moral ambivalence about competitive markets."
"Marie Anchordoguy's clear and informative book should attract a wide variety of readers from political science, sociology, Japanese studies, and business. The central concept of communitarian capitalism, with its emphasis on risk avoidance and circumscribed competition, strikes me as a useful corrective to excessively functionalist versions of the 'capitalist developmental state' argument."
Gregory W. Noble, Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo