Reforming Japanese-style management : destabilizing hegemony through discourse intervention

Rear, David GND

This paper examines the attempts of Japanese business groups to destabilize the discursive hegemony of Japanese-style management and replace it with a new neoliberal order advantageous to management interests. Japanese-style management (Nihon-teki keiei) can be seen as a key element of Japanese social identity, which interpellates both workers and management into performing particular institutional practices. Altering these practices requires not only deregulatory reforms to the labor market but also a powerful discursive intervention to undermine and replace sedimented positions. Through an analysis of public policy documents, this paper shows how Japanese business groups have been carrying out such an intervention through the articulation of two keywords – “diversity” (tayōsei) and “independent-style employee” (jiritsu- gata jinzai) – which are used ambiguously to structure a controversial deregulatory agenda into existing discourses of globalization, creativity and social values.

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