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Political Economy of Contemporary Japanese Capitalism


Admission requirements

Students studying the MA in International Studies (MAIS) may find this course useful as it teaches key theoretical approaches in the area of international political economy, using the political economy of Japan as a case study in international studies and international political economy.


The Japanese model of capitalism has shifted from a consensus-based to a more market-oriented model over the past two decades. This includes the adoption of neo-liberal policies, an increased level of employment insecurity and the transference of risk from the state to individuals. It also includes changes to the Japanese model of the firm, financial and trade relations, integration within a broader Asian regionalism, the labour market and the introduction of Anglo-American corporate practices. Since the onset of the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-8, Japan has seen financial distress and public dissatisfaction with economic policy-making, resulting in the adoption of ‘Abenomics’ as a potentially alternative model which aims to revive Japan’s stagnating economy. This MA course provides students with an opportunity to explore and critically analyse these developments and the key theoretical debates that engage with these issues.

This course is devided in three sections.

The first section introduces key theoretical approaches to the contemporary Japanese capitalism, including institutlist approaches and Marxist approaches.

In the next section, students learn about specific characteristics of the Japanese model of capitalism, including its company-led capitalism, changing models of the firms, Japan’s relation with Asia, the labour market and the emergence of non-regular workers. It also explores the fiscal challenge Japan has been facing since the 1990s. Other issues include the relationship between technology, innovation and economic growth, and gender inequality in Japan.

The third section considers political elites’ responses to the Japanese economy in the light of the global economic crisis, and whether a transformed model of Japanese capitalism, such as Abenomics, can generate an alternative model of economic growth. The course closes with a summary of what we learned and encourages students to construct their own analysis of the overall trend in the Japanese model of capitalism.

Course objectives

This course provides a specific analysis of contemporary Japanese capitalism and theoretical attempts to explain its characteristics.

Students are expected to gain the ability to:

  • Acquire a sound knowledge of key debates and issues in political economy of contemporary Japanese capitalism;

  • Critically analyse a shift from a consensus-based to a more market-oriented model of contemporary Japanese capitalism;

  • Critically evaluate key theoretical debates of relevance to the political economy of contemporary Japanese capitalism;

  • Provides an assessment of strengths and weaknesses of political elites’ responses to the Japanese economy in the light of the global economic crisis

  • Communicate clear and coherent analysis in a range of forms and contexts, including written responses, oral presentation, and class discussion


Check timetable

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

The instructor will give an interactive lecture in the first half of the class, introducing the topic, the main problems that it raises, the principal authors and literature that has addressed the question, and so on. The instructor will subsequently initiate class discussion. The students are invited to engage in discussions in the second session of the seminar. The discussions take the form of group discussion, presentation, debate, and role play, depending on the contents of each week’s topic. The students should finish the required reading, prepare for the seminar questions (sent in advance) beforehand, and come to seminars ready to contribute; and their performance in the seminars will be assessed.

Course Load

All students MUST (280 hours for 10 ECs):
1. Attend and participate in 13 × 2-hour lecture/seminar sessions (26 hours);
2. Weekly reading (10 hours*13 weeks=130 hours);
3. One oral presentation (30 hours);
4. Write assessed research essay of 3,000 words, based on the material covered in the module (94 hours).

Assessment method

Participation element (incl. attendance, participation, and webposts): 30%
Research element (research essay (3,000)): 50%


Yes, see for more info Blackboard

A handbook denoting weekly readings will be posted on Blackboard by mid July. Additional information (useful websites, types of journals etc…) will also be found on blackboard over the course of the semester.

Reading list

Core textbooks (to be expanded and weekly reading will be announced in the handbook later)

Lechevalier, S. (2014) The Great Transformation of Japanese Capitalism (Oxon: Routledge).
Boyer, R. Uemura, H. and Isogai, A (2012) Diversity and Transformations of Asian Capitalism (Oxon: Routledge).
Boyer, R. and Sailllard, Y. (2000) Régulation Theory: The State of the Art (ed.) chapter 1,4,5 and 6
Stilwell, F. (2011) Political Economy: The Contest of Economic Ideas, 3rd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press), chapter 12-17.
Streeck, W. and Thelen, K. (2005) Beyond Continuity: Insttutional Change in Advanced Political Economies.
Hall, P. and Soskice, D. (2000) Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Youngshik, B. and Pempel, T.J. (ed.) (2012) Japan in Crisis: What will it Take for Japan to Rise Again? (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).
Hamada, K., Kashyap, A. K. and Weinstein, D. E. (2011) Japan’s Bubble, Deflation, and Long-term Stagnation (Cambridge: The MIT Press).
Imai, J (2011), Transformation of Japanese Employment Relations: Reform without Labour (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).
Miura, M. (2012) Welfare through Work: Conservative Ideas, Partisan Dynamics, and Social Protection in Japan (New York: Cornell University Press).
Aoki, M. Jackson, G. and Miyajima, H. (2008) Corporate Governance in Japan: Institutional Change and Organizational Diversity (Oxford:Oxford University Press).
Hatch, W. F. (2010), Asia’s Flying Geese: How Regionalization Shapes Japan (New York: Cornell University).
Suzuki, Y. (2011) Japan’s Financial Slump: Collapse of the Monitoring System under Institutional and Transition Failures (London: Palgrave Macmillan).


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