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 17: The importance of educational traditions: Japan and elsewhere*

Ronald Dore and D. Hugh Whittaker


It is some time now since the economists decided that education was too important to be left to the educationalists. Numerous studies of the rate of return to educational investment have been published in the last decade and a half, mostly concerned to demonstrate - with increasing technical sophistication, introducing time lags and discount rates and shadow prices - that investment in education by the individual pays off in enhanced lifetime earnings, and investment in education by society pays off in enhanced rates of economic growth. The chief thing wrong with all this literature is that it suffers from the sin of misplaced aggregation. To an economist one pupil-year of education is a pupil-year, is a pupil-year. It is the numbers that count, because it is only the numbers that can be counted. It is always mildly flattering to see oneself quoted, but nowadays, when I pick up a book on education and development and take that furtive look at the bibliography to make sure the author has shown due awareness of my own modest contribution to the field, I do so more with apprehension than with pleasurable anticipation. As like as not, a book I once wrote on education in Tokugawa Japan will be quoted for one thing and one thing only: R. Dore estimates (or sometimes calculates; or sometimes, baldly, ‘states’) that in 1870, 40 to 50 per cent of Japanese boys and 10 to 15 per cent of girls were attending school. Apart from the fact that...

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