‘The Japan Problem’ and its Complexification of Globalization Theory

By Iain Donald Macpherson.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Japan has long since slipped from the radars of lay and scholarly attention. Yet, despite Japan’s decade of recession, and the rise of neighbouring China, today’s ‘Japan passing’ is as purblind as ‘Japan bashing’ was belligerent. And globalization scholarship is as guilty of this elision as mainstream media. Heightened recognition of Japan’s impact upon globalizations past and present, economic and cultural, will have two salutary effects upon current efforts to comprehensively theorize globalization. First, Japan puts further lie to the notion, clung to by both globalization’s champions and its detractors, that the concept-phenomenon is (or ever was) America-centred, or even west-centric. The Japanese had a formative influence upon modernist art, inaugurated the postmodernization of capitalism, and are now enjoying a fresh impact upon global popular culture.
Secondly, the many paradoxes of Japan’s involvements with globalization empirically impel, and Japanese ‘knowledges’ epistemologically legitimate, a conception of globalization that is much more ambivalent and speculative than those currently being proffered. The case and contexts of Japan frustrate critiques from both the political left and right, urging the conceptualization of a globalization that is and is not happening, and is a mixture of iniquities and liberations that complexifies understanding and defies dialectical resolution.

Keywords: Holistic Globalization Theory, Japan and Globalization, Japanese Management, Neoliberalism, Discourse Analysis

Global Studies Journal, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.95-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 537.914KB).

Dr. Iain Donald Macpherson

Ph.D. Candidate, The Faculty of Communication & Culture, The University of Calgary, Matsuyama, Japan

After several years of teaching ESL (along with working other ‘odd jobs’) in Asia, first Taiwan and then Japan, Iain Macpherson returned to Canada in 2005 to begin his Ph.D. in the Faculty of Communication & Culture at The University of Calgary. There, new interests in organizational communication and globalization theory merged with his interest in most things Japanese, and developed into a general research focus on Japanese multinational corporations. Presently, Iain is back in Japan doing the interview-based fieldwork for his dissertation – a ‘discourse-analytical’ study into the possible relations between the articulated job understandings of Japanese ‘salarymen,’ and Japanese framings of globalization.

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