cover image Japan and the Shackles of the Past

Japan and the Shackles of the Past

R. Taggart Murphy. Oxford Univ, $29.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-19-984598-9

In this accessible, all-encompassing portrait, Murphy (Japan’s Policy Trap), chair of the M.B.A. program in international business at the University of Tsukuba, Tokyo, demystifies the nation that ended the 20th century with “some of the most dazzling business successes of all time.” In part one, Murphy harks back to the establishment of the third-century imperial institution, then moves up to illustrate how the Tokugawa shogunate of the Edo period created a culture that “provided cover for the incubation of the modern Japanese state.” He develops that argument to ascribe much of Japan’s high-speed growth in the postwar period to the notion of “company as family.” In part two, Murphy explores the cultural mores that led to unsustainable career tracks for “permanent employees” and that barred educated women from the labor force. Each chapter is composed of several bite-size think pieces arranged by theme, and some end with appendixes that list the historical figures under discussion. While the review of recent Japanese scandals—such as the TEPCO coverup at Fukushima—and of the scars of WWII is painfully familiar, Murphy sheds much light on Japan’s current dependence upon the U.S. for maintenance of its political system and its future prospects, closing with an in-depth analysis of the current administration. Illus. [em](Dec.) [/em]