The politics of uncertainty in Japan

Published: 2004   |    By: Michael W. Donnelly    |    Volume 61, No. 3


The idea of a Japanese economic miracle lapsed from popular consciousness years ago. In its place the country’s prolonged struggle to escape the stubborn economic stagnation and political turmoil that followed the bursting of the speculative bubble in 1991 has become one of the legendary international stories of our times. As many readers will know, there has been all manner of speculation and theorizing in academic and policy-making circles about the nature of Japan’s economic and political ills, their impact and the needed cures.

Evaluation of Japan’s future prospects rests on an understanding of this domestic economic struggle. An economically weak Japan at home will not be an influential Japan abroad. The most widely accepted assertion is that the nation’s inability to recover is related to tightly interwoven “structural” impediments that link macroeconomic conditions, the organization and management practices of a wide range of firms and financial institutions, and the manner in which the government intervenes in the economy.

About the Author

Professor Michael W. Donnelly is director of the Asian Institute at the University of Toronto and holder of the Dr. David Chu Professorship in Asia Pacific Studies. He gratefully acknowledges the suggestions and research help of Lynne Kutsukake and Hidemi Shiga.