Japan’s Ambivalent Pursuit of Shareholder Capitalism


Steven K. Vogel

(U.C. Berkeley)

Date/Time January 11, 2019 6:00 PM
Location Room 549 5th floor, Akamon Sogo Kenkyuto Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo  [map]
Abstract Modern-day markets do not arise spontaneously or evolve naturally. Rather they are crafted by individuals, firms, and most of all, by governments. Thus “marketcraft” represents a core function of government roughly comparable to statecraft. This talk builds upon the recognition that all markets are crafted, and then explores the implications for understanding the evolution of the Japanese market model. As the Japanese economy descended from boom to bust in the early 1990s, government and industry leaders called for a decisive move toward U.S.-style shareholder capitalism. But a funny thing happened on Japan’s way to the U.S. model – it never got there. In practice, the government gave firms more options for restructuring, but did not make them more beholden to shareholders. And firms favored superficial adjustments to prop up share prices rather than fundamental changes. In fact, Japanese government and industry were probably wise to be ambivalent of the shareholder model, for some of the core features of that model – such as stock options, share buybacks, and mass layoffs –have not proven to improve long-term corporate performance in the United States.
Bio Steven K. Vogel is Chair of the Political Economy Program, the Il Han New Professor of Asian Studies, and a Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He specializes in the political economy of the advanced industrialized nations, especially Japan. He is the author of Marketcraft: How Governments Make Markets Work (2018); Japan Remodeled: How Government and Industry Are Reforming Japanese Capitalism (2006); and Freer Markets, More Rules: Regulatory Reform in Advanced Industrial Countries (1996).