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PEIR Lecture: Introduction to the political economy of modern Japan (fall semester)


Admission requirements

There are no admission requirements for the course. Familiarity with key issues in contemporary Japanese studies will be assumed, but no prior knowledge of the political economy of modern Japan will be required for students taking the course.


The Japanese model of capitalism has experienced considerable change and transformation throughout the post-war period. This includes the experience of rapid economic growth (1960s -1970s), the bursting of the bubble economy (1991), the lost decade(s) (1990s (and 2000s)), the Asian Financial Crisis (1997-98) and post-2008 Global Financial Crisis, and the rise of neoliberalism (from the 1990s onwards). It also includes changes to patterns in finance, trade and employment practices. Students will be introduced to these empirical developments and the theoretical attempts to explain their development.

The course is divided into three sections.

In the first section, students are introduced to key empirical developments, economic policy debates, and contrasting theoretical perspectives.

In the second section, the course provides an historical overview of Japan’s political economy. This covers Japan’s period of high economic growth, the bursting of the bubble economy, the Asian Financial Crisis (1997-98) and post-2008 Global Financial Crisis, and the rise of neoliberalism (from the 1990s onwards, especially as witnessed during the Kozimu Administration era).

In the last section, students focus on key components and developments in the political economy of modern Japan, including a focus on changes to Japan’s developmental state, finance, trade and labour.

Through these lectures, students are expected to learn basic concepts and theoretical frameworks used to undertand and explain the political economy of modern Japan from the pre-war period onwards. This will enable students to critically analyse the historical trajectory through which the political economy of modern Japan has developed during the post-war period, including periods of both rapid economic growth and prolonged stagnation.

Course objectives

This course provides an introduction to key empirical developments in the political economy of modern Japan and theoretical attempts to explain their development.

Students are expected to gain the ability to:

  • Acquire a sound knowledge of key debates and issues in the political economy of Japan and its transformation during the post-war period;

  • Critically analyse Japan’s political economy;

  • Critically evaluate key theoretical debates of relevance to the political economy of modern Japan;

  • Provide an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Japan’s modern political economy;

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


Mode of instruction

  • Lecture and 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 (140 hours for 5 ECs):
1. Attend and participate in 13 × 2-hour lecture/seminar sessions (26 hours);
2. Complete readings and contribute to web posts, and seminar discussions every week (5 hours*13 65 hours);
3. Written examination with essay questions (49 hours)

Assessment method

Participation element (incl. attendance, participation, and webposts): 40%
Written examination: 60%

To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following:

  • the final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average

  • Resits for the final exam will be take place in the resit period in January 2015.


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

The course is structured around three core textbooks. These textbooks may be purchased from the internet and local bookshops.

Core textbooks
Flath, D. (2014) The Japanese Economy, Third Edition (Oxford”Oxford University Press)
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).


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This course provides a foundational level understanding of the Japanese political economy and practice upon which students can build in the BA2 Introduction to political economy of Japan in Spring semester.