The Changing Role of Law in Japan
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The Changing Role of Law in Japan

Empirical Studies in Culture, Society and Policy Making

Edited by Dimitri Vanoverbeke, Jeroen Maesschalck, David Nelken and Stephan Parmentier

The Changing Role of Law in Japan offers a comparative perspective on the changing role of law in East Asia, discussing issues such as society, cultural values, access to the legal system and judicial reform. This innovative book places Japan in the wider context, juxtaposed with Europe, rather than the US, for the first time.
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Chapter 3: State-society synergies in Western and Japanese economic and judicial reform

Volkmar Gessner


An insightful description and analysis of recent judicial reforms in Japan (Vanoverbeke and Maesschalck 2009) shows - just like in Latin America, with which I am more familiar - mainly two elements driving all public policy initiatives: first, the interest in supporting the economy; and second, the goal of establishing the rule of law. These two reform elements are nicely linked by the assumption that the rule of law leads to economic growth. Unfortunately, there is mixed evidence for this assumption, and in current debates new assumptions emerge. Some very successful economies operate without formal rational law. On the one hand, Western nation states explain their economic success by efficient legal regimes. On the other hand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and in particular China, with their rates of economic growth unknown in Western industrialized countries in the latter half of the twentieth century: failed to put judiciaries and problem-solving lawyers at the center of the governance process, failed to serve as convenient fora for private litigation to enforce property and contract rights, failed to protect minority shareholder rights, failed to take intellectual property rights, competition law, or insolvency law very seriously, and failed to legalize state-private sector relations through constitutional and administrative law (Ohnesorge 2007, p. 290).

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