Edited by Michael Dietrich and Jackie Krafft
Chapter 16: The Japanese Firm
: from the analysis of a model to the understanding of its increasing heterogeneity Sébastien Lechevalier 16.1 INTRODUCTION From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, many papers with different backgrounds investigated the specificities of Japanese firms in comparison to their American or European counterparts, from the perspectives of both the internal structure and the external relationships. These studies have shown that Japanese firms are significantly different from their American and European counterparts in some aspects of their organization and strategy, such as: corporate governance (Aoki, 1994), corporate finance (Sheard, 1989), objectives of the firm (Odagiri, 1994), internationalization strategies (Belderbos, 1997), and resort to subcontractors (Nishiguchi, 1994). Moreover, these characteristics seemed to lead to better performance (for a critical survey of this literature, see Aoki, 1990). This last stylized fact has indeed been the starting point of the research agenda on the Japanese firm, more than some specific practices that may have been explained by cultural reasons. More than 20 years later, after almost 15 years of stagnation during the so-called ‘Lost “Decade”’ (1992–2005), we are far from that time, when the ‘Japanese model of the firm’ (J model) was celebrated as representing a new form of organization leading at the same time to higher performance and to better satisfaction for workers. It is fair to say that the Japanese firm is no longer at the top of the research agenda of researchers specializing in the theory and the empirics of the firm, outside Japan, the only exception being Toyota,...
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