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ASIAN STUDIES CONFERENCE JAPAN

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181





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1999 June 26 conference

Room 308

9. Individual Papers on Politics and Society

Chair: Joel Campbell, Tohoku University

 1) Jennifer Amyx, The Australian National University. "Intra-ministerial Dynamics of Japan's Ministry of Finance: the Salience of Formal Institutional Structure

The institutional performance of Japan's Ministry of Finance (MOF) depends-- as do all institutions-- on the maintenance of an equilibrium of complex character in a continuously fluctuating environment. Many have written on the changes in external conditions wrought by globalization and liberalization in finance in the 1980s and 90s, but this paper's central interest is in the structures and processes within the Ministry of Finance (MOF) impeding or facilitating the maintenance of this equilibrium--a process which necessarily calls for the readjustment of processes internal to the organization. The paper's analysis thus proceeds at the intraministerial level, looking within the MOF for clues to the reasons for extreme variation in policy outcomes in the financial sector across time. The paper examines the individual incentive structures of Japanese Ministry of Finance (MOF) bureaucrats and argues that individual interests are entwined with institutional interests in such a way that the focal point of decision making for the individual becomes the organization and individual bargaining power becomes enhanced by forming associations. These associations then serve as the core of the ministry's pervasive relational networks. Further, the paper argues that this system of network relationships brings pressures to bear on individual decision making processes within the MOF which them become translated into institutional policy decisions. The more top-down rather than bottom-up nature of decision making in the financial policymaking bureaus of banking and securities bureaus has meant that pressures to forbear-- that is, pressures to allow or even encourage ailing financial institutions to side-step formal regulations in the hopes that they will eventually regain financial health-- are concentrated largely upon individuals. The result is that policymaking and regulatory decisions are typically made with clear reference to individual preferences and are therefore highly prone to manipulation by individual level relational networks.

The paper concludes with a discussion of recent alterations to the MOF's institutional framework and the effect that these changes will have on intraministerial dynamics and the decision making processes in the ministry.

2) Lynne Nakano, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Community Volunteers and the Implications for a Civic Sphere in Japan

The "volunteer" (borantia), a social role that has gained recognition in Japan over the past two decades, is now a common part of government welfare schemes, corporate policies and community programs. This paper focuses on the residents of a middle to lower-middle income residential neighborhood on the periphery of urban Yokohama for whom the role of borantia is a defining feature of their identity. Based on 18 months of field research in 1993-4, this paper reports that individuals excluded from mainstream avenues to success through education and white-collar employment, assert their place in society based on their civic contribution to local society as volunteers. Local volunteer projects address mainstream objectives of preventing juvenile delinquency and improving child-care and elder care, yet also provide a forum for criticizing mainstream institutions of school, family and work. I suggest that voluntary activities occur in a civic arena which lies ambiguously between the masculine world of work and the feminine world of home, offering a space for men to participate in "feminine" nurturing activities and for women to enter the "masculine" public arena. Volunteers negotiate between their commitment to being civic volunteers and the mainstream expectations that men provide for their families through success at work and that women devote themselves to family care taking. Individuals participating in the civic arena reinforce men's roles as organizers and leaders and women's roles as nurturers, and attempt to reformulate established gender and class identities.

3) Mohammed B. Alam, Miyazaki International College. Prospects for Nuclear Non-proliferation Regime in South Asia

With the recent explosion of nuclear devices by both India and Pakistan, the two traditional rivals in South Asia, the nuclear issue has again become a flash point for both regional and global non-proliferation regimes. This paper will examine the security environment in and around South Asia in the 1990s within the context of domestic compulsion in both India and Pakistan and with the Kashmir problem still continuing to be a thorny issue. Why are India and Pakistan still hesitant to sign the NPT and CTBT? What are the chances for reversal of a nuclear proliferation cycle? What will be its implications for the regional stability/instability? The paper will attempt to provide some answers to the above questions in addition to forecasting a likely scenario for the immediate future.  

4) Charles Weathers, Osaka City University. "Shunto Wage Setting in Comparative Perspective"

Japan's shunto wage bargaining system is distinctive for its "informal" institutionalization and for combining what one researcher calls dispersed bargaining with coordinated results. This contrasts with the more "formal" and centralized institutions that promote nationally coordinated wage setting in "corporatist" countries such as Sweden and Germany. My paper applies institutional and comparative analysis to the development of Japanese wage setting practices. More concretely, the paper will focus on (1) the development of Japan's principal labor and employer organizations, and (2) the transformation of the shunto wage settlement process into a mechanism of consensual wage restraint in the mid-1970s. In both cases comparison with European cases will be used to highlight the distinctive features of macrolevel wage setting in Japan.

The first section will examine major shapers of wage setting practices in Japan, including the major steel firms and unions, the International Metalworkers Federation-Japan Council (IMF-JC, the metalworkers' union federation), and the employers association, Nikkeiren. These organizations reject class interest and emphasize productivity and "economic rationality." In contrast, business and (especially) labor associations in the West tend to be more class- or market-oriented. A second key institutional contrast is that Japan's major labor and business associations have no formal authority over their affiliates, whereas industrial unions and employers associations in Sweden and Germany are reputed for their strong powers. My analysis emphasizes the greater importance of informal hierarchy (often exercised by leading firms) for maintaining coordination in Japan.

The second section examines the crucial 1975 shunto round, which instituted the system of strong wage restraint which persists to the present (and which followed two decades of lax wage discipline). Building in part on corporatist theories developed by Charles Maier and others, I identify key variables in the establishment of coordinated wage setting systems in Japan and Western Europe. These include the level of commitment to raising productivity and to containing inflation, the cohesion of economic associations, and the relative influence of metalworking industries, especially relative to the public sector. An outcome to be explained is the strong persistence of both coordinated restraint in Japan. My analysis emphasizes the common commitment of major actors in Japan to maintaining national industrial competitiveness; in comparison, the more pronounced class orientation of European economic actors makes cohesion and cooperation difficult to sustain. 

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