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Japanese Capitalism and Modernity in a Global Era

re-fabricating lifetime employment relations


Matanle, P. (2003) Japanese Capitalism and Modernity in a Global Era: Re-fabricating Lifetime Employment Relations, London: Routledge.

Published: 14 August 2003.
ISBN 978-0-415-30574-7; 6 Chapters, 200pp.

Publisher Website -- Library Access --

Reviewed by Leo McCann in Organization

In a short but highly readable book, Peter Matanle provides an excellent qualitative examination of the experience of white-collar employees at four Japanese organizations. ... Despite the popular notion of pressures towards some kind of convergence around 'global' (or more accurately North American) employment relations norms in all societies, Matanle argues that there is no real prospect of such dramatic change in Japan. The data and argument of the book create a strong contribution to a growing literature that reminds us of the continued importance of local and national arrangements."
Professor Leo McCann, Manchester Business School, in Organization.


Publisher Book Summary

Japanese Capitalism and Modernity in a Global Era provides an in-depth examination of one of the most central and defining aspects of capitalist modernity in contemporary Japan - the lifetime employment system. The book investigates the key themes surrounding the system, including the work attitudes and values of Japanese company employees and whether or not Japan is converging on Western forms of capitalist organisation. Peter Matanle presents and analyses original documentary data, drawn from extensive research within four large Japanese corporations, in order to explore these issues from the perspective of both management and employees. The findings are then discussed in terms of the development of Japan's capitalism and modernity. Contrary to the popular hypothesis that the lifetime employment system and the values of the 'salaryman' are changing in response to both the globalization of market capitalism and the achievement of material affluence, this book controversially argues that there has not been a fundamental transformation of the system's underlying structures.

Personal Book Description

Coming out of my PhD at the University of Sheffield, in Japanese Capitalism and Modernity in a Global Era I argue that Japan's lifetime employment system is not collapsing under the twin pressures of globalization and modernization, but that it is developing gradually and continues to work well for the salarymen that work within it. Consequently, I contend that Japanese capitalism and modernity remain differentiated from western counterparts in crucial ways. However, pressures for convergence towards the Anglo-American system persist, and in future Japanese corporate managers will struggle to maintain such distinctiveness.