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Welcome to the Japanese Political Economy Wiki!

National University of Singapore

Department of Japanese Studies JS4227 (2014-15, Sem 2)

Dr. Chris McMorran

Political economy defies easy definition, but its focus is the relationship between political and economic processes. Some political economists study state policies used to stimulate economic growth, prevent extreme economic and social divisions, and regulate trade (by lowering or eliminating tariffs on some good and/or instituting them to protect particular industries considered “essential” to the economy). For many, however, political economy indicates an explicit historically- and culturally-informed critique of capitalism that sees society as divided into classes. Because of this connection to social class, many scholars in the social sciences emphasize the social aspects of political economy, by situating politics and the economy, broadly defined, within society. This focus on society separates political economy from “pure” economics by arguing that we are not context-less, rational economic beings. We all are embedded in social networks and relations that influence our (economic) decisions. In this sense, Japanese political economy studies the ways that Japanese politics and the economy impact and reflect upon society. 

This course concentrates on the political economy of postwar Japan. Standard discourses of this era describe an economic miracle, the bubble bursting, and the “lost decades” that brings us to today. This course avoids studying Japan merely as an economic machine, and instead asks what constitutes the economic and how the economy operates at different geographic scales, from the global to the household and the individual. In recent years, social scientists – from political economists to anthropologists – have taken part in what one might call a “neoliberal turn.” This has included more books and articles claiming the rise of a neoliberal Japan. What does this mean? Is it a useful or accurate conceptual framework for explaining Japan? This module will expose you to these ideas and push you to take a stand on this intellectual, and ultimately very personal, issue. 

Through this wiki, students will author and edit content related to Japanese political economy, as well as previews and summaries of their self-directed weekly seminars. Through the processes of online authorship and in-class leadership, students will develop vital skills for the future.


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