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 25: The firm as community: the road to industrial democracy*

Ronald Dore and D. Hugh Whittaker


This chapter has a simple thesis. On several counts the Community model firm is superior to the Company Law model firm: innovativeness, efficiency, competitiveness, the quality of life and kinds of satisfaction it delivers to those who work in it. Japan manages to have firms which are predominantly of this type, partly because they were clever enough to understand about these things, and lucky enough to have industrialized late when it was easier to do something about them; partly because the employee interest is quite strong vis-à-vis the shareholder interest in the Japanese form of capitalism for a variety of historical reasons; and partly because Japan is a society where authority is not in principle problematical, where hierarchy is more acceptable than in Britain, and subordinates are more willing to assume competence in their superiors and to accept instructions from them when the assumption appears to be confirmed. How can Britain, with none of these advantages, get more Community model firms? Once again, as in the case of incomes policies, we need deliberate social-engineering legislation to achieve by artifice what the Japanese enjoy largely by historical and cultural inheritance…. [The favourite British prescription: give employees a piece of the owners’ action - a tiny portion of the company’s shares - has severe limitations, so what can] alternatively be done to give employees a stake in their firm by giving them a share in the shareholders’ controlling power, and giving it to them qua employees? What, in other words, should...

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