The Fable of the KeiretsuUrban Legends of the Japanese Economy

The Fable of the KeiretsuUrban Legends of the Japanese Economy

Yoshiro Miwa and J. Ramseyer

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226532707

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


For Western economists and journalists, the most distinctive facet of the post-war Japanese business world has been the keiretsu, or the insular business alliances among powerful corporations. Within keiretsu groups, argue these observers, firms preferentially trade, lend money, take and receive technical and financial assistance, and cement their ties through cross-shareholding agreements. This book demonstrates that all this talk is really just urban legend. In their analysis, the chapters here show that the very idea of the keiretsu was created and propagated by Marxist scholars in post-war Japan. Western scholars merely repatriated the legend to show the culturally contingent nature of modern economic analysis. Laying waste to the notion of keiretsu, the book debunks several related “facts” as well: that Japanese firms maintain special arrangements with a “main bank,” that firms are systematically poorly managed, and that the Japanese government guided post-war growth. In demolishing these long-held assumptions, this book aims to offer a reliable chronicle of the realities of Japanese business.