Follow-Up on Kyoto: Sitting Down with Professor Hiroyasu Uemura

SASE is very pleased to feature an interview with Hiroyasu Uemura, Professor at the Graduate School of International Social Sciences, Yokohama National University, Japan. Professor Uemura has been one of the main contributors to the influential stream of scholarship that focuses on comparative dynamics of European and East Asian capitalisms. Together with a group of renowned Japanese and European political economists, Professor Uemura has integrated the tools of the French-originated Regulation Theory to analyze institutional developments within the East Asian socio-economic context. While operating within the institutional political economy tradition, the Japanese branch of the Regulation School has enriched it with valuable concepts that foster a better understanding of the peculiarities of East Asian growth regimes. The interview with Professor Uemura can be viewed as a follow-up to the last SASE Annual Meeting held in Kyoto. Among other successes from this last meeting, the event was a milestone for raising awareness about intellectual traditions that help us adequately comprehend and encapsulate regional socio-economic trends.

Interview conducted by SASE Newsletter Editor Kostiantyn Ovsiannikov.

Recent years have been marked by the appearance of some notable volumes that you co-edited, among which The Rejuvenation of Political Economy (2016) and Evolving Diversity and Interdependence of Capitalisms (2018). Is there a common idea uniting these books? What is the significance of the updated take on comparative capitalisms if we consider the Diversity and Transformations of Asian Capitalisms—a collection of works that you co-edited in 2013—as a benchmark?

The French-Japanese international collaboration has already produced several books. Especially, the following books are the main results of our collaborative research: Japanese Capitalism in Crisis: A Regulationist Interpretation, Boyer, R. and Yamada, T. (eds.), Routledge 2000; Diversity and Transformation of Asian Capitalisms, Boyer, R., Uemura, H., and Isogai, A. (eds.), Routledge 2012; Capitalismes asisatiques: Diversité et Transformations, Boyer, R., Uemura, H., and Isogai, A. (eds.), Presses Universitaires de Rennes 2015; Evolving Diversity and Interdependence of Capitalisms: Transformations of Regional Integration in Europe and Asia, Boyer, R., Uemura, H., Yamada, T., and Song, L. (eds.), Springer 2018. Our international collaborative networks started as a study on the Japanese economy in the 1990s, and have since developed extensively, including works on not only the Japanese economy but also the evolving diversity and interdependence of Asian and European capitalisms, which has made us understand more about the institutional characteristics of capitalisms more broadly.

The Rejuvenation of Political Economy, Yokokawa, N., Yagi, K., Uemura, H. and Westra, R. (eds.), Routledge 2016, is a more encompassing publication on political economy that was organized by the Japan Society of Political Economy.

While it certainly uses concepts that emerged within the Western context, its Japanese version is quite distinct. Still, there are generally applicable aspects of this theory, such as an evolution of the Fordist regime of accumulation. What are other examples of shared regulationist notions that can be useful to a comparative political economy analysis between Europe and Japan?

Since Toshio Yamada introduced regulation theory to Japan in the 1980s, the theoretical foundation of our international collaborative research has been regulation theory, but we have tried to integrate the fruitful results of various evolutionary and institutional economics. “The mode of regulation” and “growth regime” are the basic concepts for our research, and we also use some important concepts of institutional economics such as institutional complementarity, co-evolution, and endogenous preferences. The concept of “Fordism” is a little controversial. There have been diverse understandings among Japanese researchers about whether we can use the concept to characterize the Japanese growth regime in the 1960s in the first place, since it exhibited a different pattern of growth and distribution based on different institutional arrangements from the American one (as seen in Boyer and Yamada 2000).

Extending the previous question to an empirical dimension, in the book Evolving Diversity and Interdependence of Capitalisms (2018) you describe the interdependence patterns of growth regimes within Europe and Asia. Are there any noticeable patterns between these continents?

In our new book (Boyer, Uemura, Yamada, and Song 2018), we try to make a comparative analysis of transformations of regional integration in the EU and East Asia from the historical institutionalist perspective in regulation theory, especially focusing on interactions between polity and economy. We suggest that the European integration is a unique historical process that cannot be a benchmark for East Asian integration. In the European integration, polity and supranational institution-building have dominated over the economies, but the national economies with heterogeneous institutional structures cannot be effectively coordinated by common institutional rules and the Euro as a single currency. In East Asian integration, multinationals’ business activities have dominated over political objectives, and the de facto economic integration has been developing in the diversity of Asian capitalisms (H. Tohyama and Y. Harada) without stable international political relations.

Against the recent revival of interest in growth models among post-Keynesian scholars, what are the main theoretical (and, maybe, empirical) contributions of regulation theory to this topic?

Regulation theory and post-Keynesian theories are complementary because the former makes institutional analysis at the macro level and the latter formalizes theories of growth, distribution, structural change, and financial instability. The pioneering research in this line was Boyer R. “Formalizing Growth Regimes,” in Technical Change and Economic Theory, G. Dosi et al. (eds.), Pinter Publisher 1988, which integrated Kalecki’s theory of growth and distribution and Kaldor’s theory of demand-led productivity growth to characterize different growth regimes. Based on this theoretical framework, Japanese researchers have developed multi-sectorial models with Pasinetti’s idea of industrial structural change and applied them to the analysis of productivity-differential inflation (or deflation) and de-industrialization (H. Uni; H. Uemura and S. Tahara). Furthermore, a shift in causality between variables in post-Keynesian macroeconomic models has been analyzed with the logic of a shift in “institutional hierarchy” in regulation theory (H. Nishi).

The two famous pillars of regulation theory applied towards Japanese political economy are “companyist regulation” and “hierarchical market-firm nexus”. As we know, after the “bubble burst” in the early 1990s, these features underwent substantial changes, leading to what Robert Boyer called a “dysfunction of regulation”. Regarding this, has regulation theory come up with any updated concepts reflecting the modern state of things in Japan?

In our international collaborative research, the mode of regulation in Japanese capitalism has been characterized by the concepts of “companyist regulation” and “hierarchical market-firm nexus” (consisting of large firm organization, hierarchical inter-firm relations, and the segmented labor market). Faced with domestic institutional changes leading to more heterogeneity (S. Lechevalier) and the multinationalization of Japanese firms to cope with economic globalization (Y. Hirano and T. Yamada), the Japanese mode of regulation has been eroded, and the dysfunction of regulation as coordination mechanisms has been exacerbated. In the 2000s, excess savings in large Japanese firms accompanied by stagnant wages and consumption are coordinated by expansionary monetary policy and public spending with increasing public debt, but this does not establish a stable growth regime. The dramatic transformation of Japanese capitalism is an important topic for our future research.

* This article is taken from the SASE Summer Newsletter 2019 – Click here to go back to the Contents Page *