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Growing Democracy in JapanThe Parliamentary Cabinet System since 1868$
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Brian Woodall

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780813145013

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813145013.001.0001

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(p.211) Conclusion
Growing Democracy in Japan

Brian Woodall

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter summarizes the book’s central findings. The Kan cabinet and the governments that ruled during the “lost decades” were products of evolutionary change that resulted in a dysfunctional cabinet system. This explains the flawed response to the March 2011 disasters and the prolonged inability to right the economic ship. Japan’s inability to achieve parliamentary democracy in practice is reflected in its failure to institutionalize cabinet government. Indeed, the American military dictatorship, an activist bureaucracy, “policy tribes,” and “Twisted Diets” assured that the postwar cabinets did not perform their expected role. The distinctive organizational structures, roles, and relationships that constitute Japan’s cabinet system were forged in a matrix composed of laws, ordinances, structures, norms, and unwritten codes. Moreover, the postwar cabinet system inherited institutions, structures, personnel, and norms from an authoritarian prewar order. In sum, while postwar Japan has established a stable system of democratic governance, it has yet to produce the effective executive leadership that is needed to respond to the challenges of an advanced industrialized democracy. The evolution of Japan’s parliamentary system teaches that growing democracy is not easy and that would-be reformers must consider the institutional and historical context in which they seek to implant institutions.

Keywords:   Japanese politics, cabinets, parliamentary system, Westminster model, institution, institutionalization, historical institutionalism, path dependence, critical juncture

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