2436 Japanese style management

study team indicated that the three pillars were
kept in place by a fourth: Japans cultural
values. Underpinning the three structures were
a traditionally Japanese predilection for verti
cality in human relationships (e.g., seniority),
for being part of a group (e.g., long term
employment), and for consensual relationships
(e.g., enterprise unionism). By the 1970s these
cultural features had come to be codified in
academic accounts of nearly every aspect of
Japanese society a paradigmatic approach or
viewpoint which came to be known as nihonjin
ron. This kind of cultural essentialism view
came to dominate much of the Learn from
Japan boom of the late 1970s and the 1980s.
The structures mentioned above were initi
ally seen as part of an overall system of indus
trial relations that produced few strikes, wage
restraint, and high levels of motivation as major
factors facilitating Japans rapid growth in
the 1960s and 1970s. However, the literature
about JSM shifted attention downward from
the societal level and macroeconomic outcomes
to the microeconomic concerns associated with
employment relations in the firm. To some
extent this shift reflected a general change in
interest in the field internationally from the way
tripartite frameworks for labormanagement
relations came to be institutionalized to a much
more multi dimensional mapping of employ
ment relations and human resource manage
ment. Despite this shift, many in the field
continued to assume that the industrial relations
system in Japan was largely the sum of the
HRM practices found in each Japanese firm.
At this level the model was developed further
to highlight uniquely Japanese approaches
such as widespread bottom up consultation
(e.g., nemawashi, the memo system known as ringi
seido), spontaneous and voluntary quality con
trol circles, internal labor markets, joint labor
management consultations, the absence of a
strong militant class orientation in ritualized
conflicts such as the Spring Wage Offensive
(the annual round of 68 weeks each spring
when unions put forth their wage demands
and settlements are negotiated between labor
and management), and the highly integrated
production systems which utilized large num
bers of firms linked together to form enterprise
groupings known as keiretsukigyo.
In the 1970s numerous scholars sought to
codify the linkages between nihonjinron and
nihonteki kei ei (Ogishima 1984). In the late
1950s the anthropologist Abegglen coined the
term lifetime employment to describe what
he perceived to be a peculiar feature of manage
ment practices at the firms he studied in Japan.
In the next decade Hazama (1963) began the
codification by which he and others sought to
link aspects of JSM to cultural underpinnings.
However, it was in the 1970s that those founda
tions came to be seen as uniquely Japanese (and
not just remnants from a tradition associated
with all pre industrial societies). As a kind of
postmodern outcome, the Japanese firm was
seen as being able to maintain a delicate balance
between the push for greater social justice (as
seen in the demands of left wing unions) and
the efforts of management (with the cooperation
of business unions) to obtain greater efficiency.
Nakayama (1974) wrote about a system generat
ing true efficiency (honrai no noritsu) by com
bining an emphasis on economic rationality
(noritsu) with an emphasis on fairness (kosei).
For Tsuda (1977), the terms were cooperative
community (kyodo seikatsutai), rationality (gor
isei), and consensus (goi); for Hazama (1971),
group oriented labormanagement relations
(shudanteki roshi kankei), profit seeking (eiri no
tsuikyu), and continuity of the company (kaisha
no eizoku); for Iwata (1977), the formative prin
ciples of Japanese management (nihonteki kei ei
no hensei genri), organizational demands (soshiki
no yokyu), and the demands of individual
employees (kojin no yokyu). In hindsight an
increased awareness of how the institutions
associated with JSM were born out of the
immediate post war years, the shift in the bal
ance of power first to unions and then back to
management, and the ongoing ideological battle
between Cold War camps has helped those
interested in JSM to see how it was produced
out of a peculiar historical milieu in which
the tensions between capitalist and socialist
views worked themselves out in the context of
successful economic resurgence and the efforts
to reestablish positive assertions of national
In the 1980s debate revolved around the
exportability of JSM, with many questions
raised about the exportability of the cultural