The 56th GJS SeminarLogics of Liberalization under Non-Liberal Capitalism: Japan’s Trajectory of Socio-Economic Institutional Change

Date and time: November 9, 2018 (Fri.), 5:00-6:00PM
Venue: Lobby (1F), Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia,
The University of Tokyo
Speaker: Stefan Heeb, Research Assistant/PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, School of Social Sciences, University of Geneva
Language: English

Abstract: Liberalization of socio-economic institutions has been a common trend across industrialized capitalist democracies over the last four decades. Since the neoliberal policy turn, reform measures intended to release market mechanisms have been a signature phenomenon of our time. While liberalization is often mentioned alongside policies such as finance, product and labour market deregulation, welfare retrenchment or privatization, along with other social and economic policies, it is not quite clear how these policies are theoretically and empirically related, and what justifies to think of liberalization as a unified phenomenon. Drawing on a newly constructed dataset of structural policy discontinuities across a wide range of socio-economic areas (Armingeon, Baccaro et al., forthcoming), I analyse Japan’s policy trajectory and put it in perspective with other OECD countries. As I will show, Japan is amongst the countries where liberalization tendencies seem to have been resisted most strongly. This is reflected in the differential in reform directionality between what I call the productive system and the livelihood security system (the ratio of reform measures with the directionality liberalization), which is larger than that of any other country. To explain this particularity, I draw on two decades of comparative capitalism literature, in which Japan is a foundational case of non-liberal or coordinated capitalism. Opposed to the ideal-typical notion of liberal capitalism (as manifest most typically in the Anglo-American world), coordinated capitalism is somehow “more socially and politically constituted”. Modes of coordination other than the market have to be taken into account. I argue that in particular Japan’s hierarchically stratified “social status attribution system” (as reflected, for example, in employment status categories), is crucial for an understanding of its trajectory of socio-economic institutional change, which appears to have followed a logic of segmentalist liberalization.

Organizer: The Global Japan Studies Network (GJS)
Co-organizer: Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA)
Contact: gjs[at]