Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Zen Fascists

One idea that becomes entrenched throughout the Seventies and Eighties is that Japanese workers have more say in the production process and that the less hierarchical approach allows for greater efficiency through feedback, something which has developed out of Japan being a "consensus" society. This is a highly questionable notion, Japan is intensely hierarchical and more than anything, as with the other Asian tigers (though more notionally democratic”) it resembles a country still run on a war footing. In a sense like the Japanese soldiers of legend, the whole country has never come out of the foxhole. As one of the commentators puts it in John Pilger’s Japan behind The Mask  “This is not a consensus society, that's a western invention,t hey do what they are told.”

America and Japan do share one overarching characteristic, they both believe in their own myth. Japan is not, nor has ever been an especially equal country in terms of income distribution (and clearly the US is one of the world's most unequal countries), in research done to establish the relationship between real equality as measured by the Gini coefficient and subjective perceptions of inequality both the Japanese and the Americans see their countries as being more equal than they actually are.

An irony here is that although creative destruction is believed to have its roots in asian culture, the idea of the phoenix rising from the ashes of the old, Japan itself is constantly criticised by orthodox economists for propping up zombie banks and companies through deficits and a Zero Interest rate Policy (rather as the west is now doing) and within Japan itself as it sees its position in Asia usurped by china and approached by Taiwan and South Korea there is much soul-searching about the loss of the warrior spirit, the lazy modern-day generation and the greater zeal and inventiveness of workers abroad, along with moaning about the artificially low rate for the Won and the RMB and so on. In other words exactly the same set of moralising and culturalizing assumptions about what underlies economic success that pay no attention to cyclical or contingent factors, but do allow for the pleasures of self-righteous indignation. The attitude toward Filipinos for example, now the country is undergoing surprisingly strong growth is shifting, from lazy and backwards to a hard working and forward-looking people.

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