2 March 2013

Straightjacket Society

I just finished reading Straightjacket Society by Masao Miyamoto--a book that was given to me about ten years back by a Japanese friend. Since this short work is basically one long rant about how consensus-driven collectivist Japan should be more like the individualistic rational West, there probably isn't much that will strike the western reader (especially those who have lived in the Confucian societies of NE Asia) as novel. I should add that, notwithstanding Miyamoto's portrayal of the West as a great bastion of rationality and fairness, many of the complaints could be made about any bureaucracy. Paper-pushers everywhere try to protect their tiny enclaves and funding, punishing anybody who opens them up to greater scrutiny or threatens their ongoing existence. On the other hand, since the book was written back in the heady days when Japan was on top and most top-sellers were telling us that we all had to become more Japanese, the book was prescient. It's also a reminder of how the benefits of collectivism (low crime, security, economic stability, .... the list goes on), are always offset by tremendous sacrifice as individuals must sublimate their desires for some nebulous notion of "the greater good."

For a more positive review, check out the Tokyo Damage Report.

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