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Contemporary Japan’s Economy in Global Economic Crises


Admission requirements

Students in Asian Studies and MAIS.


The Japanese political economy has shifted from a consensus-based to a more market-oriented model from the 1990s onwards. Such a shift stems from the disintegration of the capital-labour compromise, the adoption of neo-liberal policies, an increased level of employment insecurity and the transference of risk from the state to individuals, and related labour activism. We also witnessed a change in Japan’s companyism and J-model in financial distress. Japan’s financial and trade relations with the Asian markets evolved into a more strongly connected ones and the Japanese economy has increasingly become more dependent on these markets, which also intensify competition between Japanese domestic firms and firms in Asia. Regionalism in Asia therefore plays an important role in terms of changes in the Japanese political economy. The wage-labour nexus in Japan faced drastic changes since the 1990s onwards and particularly witnessed an intensifying commodification of labour, which partly contributes to the emergence of labour activism in Japan. Japan faces fiscal challenges and this intensifies competition in the market, which explains a development of Anglo-American corporate practices. A level of financial distress and public dissatisfaction has risen in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-8, whereas political elites seemed to have failed to provide adequate policies or alternative economic growth model to reverse neoliberalism in Japan. Whether Abenomics can provide an alternative model which can revive Japan’s economy or not is one of the most interesting points to examine in the study of the Japanese economy. Students therefore engage with these issues and learn historical transformation of the model of Japanese political economy and how Japan’s socio-economic institutions interact and complement each other, or to what extent Japan witnessed a weakening level of complementarities of these institutions in global economic crises. This MA course provides students opportunities to consult with more specific readings and theoretically challenges students.

In the first block, this course provides students key theoretical approaches, such as classical political economy, neoclassical economics, Marxism and Keynesianism. With these theoretical approaches, students can engage with the specific issues and topics and examine how theories are applied to Japan’s political economy. Learning theories also enables students to construct their own knowledge over transformation of the model of Japanese capitalism.

In the second block, students learn about specific characteristics in the Japanese political economy in its relation with Asia, closely examine employment relations in Japan and what the emergence of non-regular workers mean in terms of capital-labour compromise. Furthermore, this course enables students to learn about the level of fiscal challenge Japan has been facing since the 1990s onwards and whether technology and innovation such as venture capital can contributes to the economic growth.

In the third block, students explore political elites’ responses to the Japanese economy in global economic crises and whether a transformed form of Japanese political economy can generate an alternative model of economic growth. The course reprises what we learned and encourages students to construct their own analysis of the overall trend in the Japanee model of capitalism. Students focus on Japan’s contemporary political economy by looking into the impact of the Global Fiancial crisis of 2008 upon the Japanese economy, and also examine characteristics of the current Abenomics and whether Abenomics provides an alternative model of the Japanese economy or a new accumulation regime.

Course objectives

  • Acquire a sound knowledge of key debates and issues in modern Japanese (political) economy and its recent transformation

  • Critical thinking and analysis of characteristics of Japan’s political economy

  • Formulate original research questions and conduct effective research activities in relation to this course

  • Oral presentation, group work, essays



Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar
    The instructor gives an interactive lecture in the first half of the seminar, introducing the topic, the main problems that it raises, the principal authors and literature that has addressed the question, and so on. The instructor also initiates the discussions for the students. The students are invited to engage the discussions in the second session of the seminar. The discussions take forms of group discussion, presentation, debate, role play game, etc., 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):

  • Attend and participate in 12 × 2-hour lecture/seminar sessions (24 hours);

  • Weekly reading (10 hours*12 weeks=120 hours);

  • One oral presentation (30 hours);

  • Write assessed research essay of 4,000 words, based on the material covered in the module (106 hours).

Assessment method

  • Presentation: 30%

  • Participation element (incl. attendance, participation, and webposts): 10%

  • Research element (research essay (4,000)): 60%


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)

  • Backhouse, R. E. (2002) The Penguin History of Economics (London: Penguin).

  • Milgate, M. and Stimson, S.G. (2011) After Adam Smith: A Century of Transformation in Politics and Political Economy (Oxford: Princeton University Press).

  • Watson, M (2005) Foundations of International Political Economy (London: Palgrave Macmillan).

  • Ekelund R. E. and Hébert, R.F. (1997) A History of Economic Thoery and Method, 4th edition (International edition) (London: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.).

  • 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).

  • Boyer, R., Uemura, H. and Isogai, A. (2012) Diversity and Transformations of Asian Capitalism (New York: Routledge).

  • 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).

  • Lechevalier, S. (ed) (2014), The Great Transformation of Japanese capitalism (Oxon: Routledge).


Registration through uSis


Dr. S. Shibata