NIRA Research Report No.980114
Turbulent Times in Japan: Emerging future Powers
It is said that Japan is at an important historical turning point with the twenty-first century just around the corner. However, Japan's overall is not necessarily clear. The post-war system, a united body of political, economic and social systems which led Japan after World War II, has been deadlocked and is forced to change. The post-war system was the driving force of Japan's high economic growth and development into an economic superpower. Today, however, conditions which led the post-war system to achieve success no longer exist. Along with the steady maturing of society, internationalization, the end of the Cold War, mega-competition and progress in the information age, out-dated existing organizations are deterionating the performance of the post-war system.
Under these circumstances and in order to create a vision for Japan in the new era, this study attempts to follow Japan's own independent movements in the areas of politics, economy and society and take a look hard at Japan in the twenty-first century. This study focuses on organizations and groups which have not been considered major players in Japanese systems to date, but have recently played a remarkably active roles. These new players are freed from the ruling principles of the age, are aware of changes in the social mechanism coupled with the new needs arising therefrom, and create their own roles and play an active part. By observing them, it seems possible to discover new social principles which are being generated from the periphery of existing systems.
Thus, this study up local parties, NPOs, NGOs and venture businesses as the above-mentioned new groups and organizations in the fields of politics, economy and society. In addition, as examples of existing organizations and groups which are undergoing transfiguration, this study pays attention to local governments and companies. Moreover, this study considers the rapidly growing Internet world as a place of activity for the new players and examines its possibilities.
Local political parties are drawing attention as a new alternative to break down the current deadlock stagnating Japanese politics. Their principles are (1) Local political parties as an alternative to traditional all-powerful national political parties; (2) Promotion of a system of regional sovereignty and citizen's autonomy rather than a relationship between the central and local governments; (3) Local political parties based on the concept of citizens and "seikatsu-sha," people with various lifestyles and a broad outlook, as opposed to the concept of a uniform Japanese citizenry;(4) Aiming at a network-type organization and (5) Attaching importance to direct democracy and participatory citizen administration. Local parties are not only significant in terms of implementing political reforms and reorganizing the political world, but they can also contribute to establishing a new political society in the twenty-first century from the regional level.
Utilizing various survey investigations and statisticals, an objective and comparative analytical approach is taken to clarify the trends and characteristics of Japanese NPOs and NGOs. This study illustrates that NPOs are not just a new form of organization and that through NPOs, civil society is shouldering a responsibility to convert Japan's post-war systems.
In the situation where the national government system has become a controversial issue, the relationship between the central and local governments is being reviewed, and decentralization is being explored. During the course of this process, the possibility of provinces with equal and cooperative relations with the central government, especially the possibility of merging administrative duties at the prefectural and municipal levels, is being considered.
As for Japanese companies, their post-war "catch-up system" has apparently reached its limits. In today's drastically changing corporate environment, companies are forced to shift their strategies from that of "catch-up" to "front-runner." The task of the front runner is to efficiently produce "what has already been established," and, in addition, to create "something which has never been established before." Since corporate activities are becoming more globalized, corporations will have to reform their organizations and personnel structures and systems into a more transparent and readily understandable manner.
Since the early 1990s, Japan entered its third venture business boom. Compared with the previous two venture booms, the latest boom has the potential to become long-term -- evolving from a "boom" to an "established" phenomenon. In addition, environmental preparations are being made to foster various venture businesses. However, to break the current economic standstill, it is necessary for the industrial, academic and political worlds to cooperate in fostering companies and nurturing human resouces capable of creating networks.
Finally, the Internet, which experienced explosive growth in the 1990s, has led to the appearance of communities of young people who has values and technologies in common and the progress of joint projects beyond company walls. The Internet also has an effect on relations within companies organizations. It is clear that the Internet has provided an environment where individuals not only shulder the burden of industrial society but also have the opportunity to play an active role.
In response to issues proposed by the above-mentioned new organizations and groups, a wide-range of policy measures including political, economic and social reforms are required in order to create a comprehensive system for Japan's entry into the twenty-first century.
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