Research Handbook on the History of Corporate and Company Law
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Research Handbook on the History of Corporate and Company Law

Edited by Harwell Wells

Understanding the corporation means understanding its legal framework, but until recently the origins and evolution of corporate law have received relatively little attention. The topical chapters featured in this Research Handbook, contributed by leading scholars from around the world, examine the historical development of corporation and business organization law in the Americas, Europe, and Asia from the ancient world to modern times, providing an invaluable resource for both further historical research and scholars seeking the origins of present-day issues.
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Chapter 15: Japanese corporate law and corporate governance in historical perspective

Bruce Aronson


Chapter 15, on the evolution of Japanese corporation law, challenges views relying on a stereotyped vision of Japan in which informal relationships between businesses and the State, and a cultural disposition to avoid disputes, have produced a system in which formal law does not matter. To the contrary, it argues that formal law has mattered a great deal in Japan, and provides an account of Japanese corporation law since 1868 marked by ‘constant, if gradual, change over time; significant experimentation with corporate law to meet businesses’ needs; flexibility and choice rather than rigidity; and practical efforts to adopt over time to changing political, economic, and social circumstances’. This chapter follows Japanese corporation law through two eras, each of which saw foreign models profoundly influencing Japanese legal development. The first began with the Meiji period, where European, and especially German, law shaped Japan’s first comprehensive corporation law, the Commercial Code of 1899; the second commenced after World War II when US law deeply influenced many areas of Japanese law. The chapter continues by following Japanese corporate law and corporate governance through the postwar periods of Japanese triumph and stagnation, and concludes in the twenty-first century, where it speculates that a third era of corporation law may have appeared, as Japan increasingly pursues a multipolar model focused on growth and the importance of ‘soft law’.

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