Japan – Major Source of Conceptual Shocks

Paper prepared for What Is To Be Done?
Conference, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 3-5th February 2000

Assumptions held by Western economists, policy makers, and commentators about the nature of the world's second largest industrial power are so much at variance with observable reality there, that they ought to disturb our peace of mind. The realization that the discrepancy results from conceptual filters with which reality is normally apprehended, ought to have far-reaching consequences for those ready to rethink what is to be done about the world's international economic order.


A quick look at Japan's commercial banks affords an immediate glimpse of routine misinterpretation. In the eyes of Western governments and businessmen these are profit seeking institutions, operating in a private realm under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance (MOF). This would lead one to expect that they are regulated under civil law. But civil law and the commercial code do not at all control

Japanese Scandals as Order Keepers

On Japanese Scandals (PDF version)
Karel van Wolferen / Chuo Koron Sept. 1991

The study of Japanese political and economic affairs should be enriched with a special subcategory for scandals. Not because Japanese people produce more, or juicier, scandals than others. Some other countries are pretty good at it as well. But there is a need for systematic analysis of Japanese scandals because of their important function of keeping the Japanese power system running smoothly. The current security brokerage scandal is, again, a wonderful example of this.