After Neoliberalism?

The Curious Non-Death of Neoliberalism in Japan

In: Asian Journal of Social Science
Takaaki Suzuki Ohio University

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This article examines the curious non-death of neoliberalism in Japan. After initial predictions about the end of neoliberalism in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, more recent analysis, focusing primarily on the United States and Western European cases, have turned their attention to explaining the “resilience” or “non-death” of neoliberalism. I seek to contribute to this analysis by examining the case of Japan, a country that has faced three major financial crises since it began to embrace neoliberal policies and practices in the 1980s. I demonstrate that the Japanese state has scaled back its role in many of the functionally equivalent forms of welfare that were associated with the developmental state model that Japan adopted in the early decades of the post-war era. Moreover, despite these cutbacks, and in contrast to the predictions made by many observers of Japanese politics, I further show that there has not been a corresponding rise in more formal and universalistic forms of welfare for the working age population that would help mitigate the rise in the level of social stratification and risk in Japan caused by these cutbacks. Instead, I show that many formal welfare benefits have been cut back even as spending has risen, and the various tax and labour reform policies that have been adopted since the 1980s have further eroded the level of social equality and income security in Japan.

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