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  • Globalization and the Politics of Institutional Reform in Japan by Motoshi Suzuki
  • Eiji Kawabata (bio)
Globalization and the Politics of Institutional Reform in Japan. By Motoshi Suzuki. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, 2016. xii, 252 pages. $125.00.

Motoshi Suzuki's book provides an analysis of government reform in Japan, in connection with changes in the international environment, especially globalization; the analysis consists of three components. The first is a theoretical discussion. In chapter 1 the author offers an overview of approaches to institutional change, particularly those based on rational choice, and presents the main framework that is used to examine Japanese government leaders' role in adjusting Japan's economic system to changes in the international environment in order to pursue economic development. The author also incorporates theoretical discussions in other chapters, in particular developing his analysis in conjunction with various discussions of Japanese politics and policymaking. The second component is historical studies. Suzuki uses the framework he has outlined to analyze government reform in Japan in case studies of reforms stimulated by changes in international relations before World War II. The third and final component is the application of his framework to case studies of contemporary government reforms under the influence of globalization in Japan. Each of these cases is very important, but they have rarely been examined by scholars outside Japan and the book's concise overview provides a basic understanding of each. The book thus covers a wide variety of relevant aspects of the issue, including theoretical approaches, historical overview, and case studies on recent government reform. This breadth of coverage is the book's strongest point.

Nonetheless, the analysis includes some significant problems, among which I would include the following. First, the model the author sets up is in need of clarification. Suzuki's model is straightforward, if not simple. He posits "the extent and process of policy change" as dependent variables [End Page 485] and "change in the international order" as the independent variable, adding "policy authority allocation and related political strategies" as intervening variables (p. 8). However, methodologically, the last two variables are not intervening variables. An intervening variable is caused by an independent variable(s), but in this case neither of these two variables is caused by the independent variable. I would instead suggest that they are independent variables; it is plausible to argue that either policy authority allocation or related political strategies, or the combination of these two variables, determines the mode of policy change. The author needs to address this possibility or at least clarify his special use of the term.

Second, the author's analytical framework has an epistemological problem in that it does not clearly distinguish between normative and positive theories. In general, normative theories incorporate value-based argument, for example, "what ought to happen," as an essential component, and normative theorists elucidate their position on a given subject. In contrast, theories based on positivism (try to) detach subjective value judgments in constructing theories. The author acknowledges that his "analytical framework has both normative and positive elements" (p. 8) and presents a normative analysis in chapter 1. However, none of the theoretical frameworks that are used in developing the author's "normative" theory belongs to the tradition of normative theories. Each of the cited theories may provide prescriptive propositions, but these propositions derive not from normative discussions of value but from empirical analysis, thus generally placing these theories in the positivist tradition. Suzuki also notes in this chapter, "I develop a normative analysis that sets the stage for the positive and empirical analysis" (p. 16). This implies that he combines normative and positive theories, but this is hardly a conventional approach in political science. Where theories such as critical theories do this, they explicitly state their epistemological stance. Unfortunately, since the author here does not explain his epistemological framework, his use of the term "normative theory" is confusing at best.

Third, the book lacks consistency in its use of analytical models and theories. In chapter 1, the author discusses theories of institutional change along with the international relations theories of transgovernmentalism and intergovernmentalism. In chapter 2, based on existing studies, he presents four models of the relationship between...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-4721
Print ISSN
0095-6848
Pages
pp. 485-489
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-31
Open Access
No
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