Book Review: Japan in Transformation Essay

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Jeffrey Kingston. Japan in Transformation, 1952 – 2000. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2001. 230 pp.

Over the past fifty years Japan has seen significant changes in all aspects of its society and the way it interacts with the outside world. For example, despite suffering a defeat in World War II, Japan soon became one of Asia’s greatest economic powers. In Japan in Transformation, 1952 - 2000, Jeffrey Kingston focuses on various aspects of change in Japanese society and politics in the period after World War II. These include the effect of the US occupation, analysis of postwar politics, the economic boom, changes in demographics, the treatment of women, and foreign policy and security issues.
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Interestingly, Kingston points out pragmatic reasons for practices such as lifetime employment, seniority wages and the above mentioned high savings rate which many may simply attribute to Japanese traditions.
Another topic discussed is the changing role of women in modern Japan. Kingston argues that women have considerably contributed to the economic boom in the 1950s and 1960s by acting as a sort of “shock absorbers” to the economy by accepting “relatively low wages and limited benefits [thus helping] subsidize the favored core workforce of full-time, male workers.” (43) However, Kingston notes that “the popular stereotype of meek, submissive Japanese women has long obscured the reality of their lives, status, experiences and perspectives, and, by the end of the twentieth century, is no more than a condescending caricature at odds with contemporary reality.” (68) As evidence he cites and three-fold
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