Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture
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Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture

What it Means to Take Japan Seriously

Ronald Dore and D. Hugh Whittaker

Social Evolution, Economic Development and Culture brings together Ronald Dore’s key writings for the first time, making his work accessible across a wide range of social science disciplines. It produces a distinctive perspective with four interlinking themes – technology-driven social evolution, late development, culture and polemics. These are highly topical in the current context of rapid technological innovation and socio-economic change, globalization and accompanying policy choices.
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Chapter 15: Authority, hierarchy and community*

Ronald Dore and D. Hugh Whittaker


HOW TO EXPLAIN: HISTORY, IDEAS, TRADITIONS The reader should have a fairly good idea, by now, of the differences in authority styles that we are talking about. I think it likely that he will agree that: (a) the differences fit in with, seem like logical consequences of, the difference between the purely contractualist ‘Company Law’ model firm and the ‘Community’ model firm as set out in Chapter 3; and (b) it is not intuitively surprising that the Japanese Community type should have superior competitive power. Once again one has to ask how much of the difference is ‘national character’ - genes which nobody can do much about, or culture shaped by institutions which change slowly only over generations - and how much is to be attributed to contemporary sustaining institutions? Let us begin with the former, with culture in fact, because there is nothing very useful I can say about genes. [Figure 15.1] makes clear the implicit framework of explanation I’m using. The ‘cultural factors’ are, in effect, the precipitate of history, the flows of causal influence shown by the A arrows. The pattern of quiet authority, unassertive leadership and acceptance of hierarchy has by no means always been the dominant pattern in Japan. In the period of turbulent feudalism from the eleventh to the end of the sixteenth century, the military rulers of Japan - or of their respective parts of it - were rather different men, even if they were not exactly as they appear in the historical...

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