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The Enigma of Japanese Power: People and Politics in a Stateless Nation

The Enigma of Japanese Power: People and Politics in a Stateless Nation - Karel Van Wolferen This is a good example of the fearmongering anti-Japanese literature prevalent in the late 1980's and early 1990's. In popular imagination, the juggernaut of Japanese industry was on the verge of gobbling up the rest of the developed world. Terrorized American businesses embraced W. Edwards Demming's management theories -without hardly knowing what he was talking about- merely because of his association with Japan. Author Karel Van Wolferen lived in Japan for 38 years as a reporter for a Dutch newspaper, so he had a lot of "street cred" to write this book -which in retrospect was poorly spent. Given that amount of experience observing Japan, it is astonishing how completely perplexed he seems by all things Japanese. He goes to great lengths showing us "fellow outsiders" how enigmatic Japan is, how inscrutable and alien the Japanese are. That's too bad, because even though Japan has cultural ideosyncracies (as every nation does), most of their business practices and economic policies are easily explained from a conventional understanding of self-interested capitalism. Further, the author's critical eye is rarely turned inward. He excoriates media consolidation in Japan without a passing mention of how the American media is centralized to nearly the same degree(and was at the time of publication).In the years since this book was released, Japan's economy has fallen on the skids, and today titles anticipating an IMF occupation grace the shelves of Tokyo bookstores. In America, the spectre of Japanese dominance is long forgotten, and China is the new boogyman we use to distract ourselves from setting our own economic house in order (e.g. abolishing the Federal Reserve system and allowing the Treasury to print non debit-based exchange notes). I don't know whether Van Wolferen is still around, but I'd love to hear what he has to say about this ill-conceived forray into alarmist propaganda.