International Inequality in the Age of Globalization: Japanese Economic Ascent and the Restructuring of the Capitalist World-Economy

Paul S. Ciccantell, Stephen Bunker


This paper shows how Japanese ?rms and the Japanese state constructed a development model based on the steel industry as a generative sector that drove Japans economic ascent in the world-historical context of U.S. hegemony. We make three arguments in this paper. First, there is a new model of capital accumulation that does create new forms of social inequality by redistributing costs and bene?ts in very di?erent ways than earlier models. Second, Japanese ?rms and the Japanese state created this new model of capital accumulation and social inequality via mechanisms including joint ventures, long term contracts, and other forms of international trade and investment, not U.S.-based transnational corporations, as is usually assumed. Third, world-systems theory reconstructed through the lens of the new historical materialism explains this restructuring of the capitalist world-economy as the outcome of Japans economic ascent over the last ?fty years. Further, we argue that this new model of capital accumulation has had similar impacts on redistributing the costs and bene?ts of development between core and peripheral regions of the capitalist world-economy in a wide range of global industries. These strategies created a tightly linked set of technological and organizational innovations to overcome the natural and social obstacles to Japanese development, dramatically increase Japans international economic competitiveness by lowering production costs in all sectors of the economy, turn Japan into the worlds largest exporter of manufactured products, restructure a range of global industries, and recreate the world-system hierarchy in support of Japanese development. In particular, organizational inno-vations in the use of long term contracts and joint ventures in raw materials industries to foster global excess capacity and lower rents to resource extracting ?rms and states reallocated the costs of providing the material building blocks of Japanese development to the states and ?rms of its new raw materials periphery. This competitive advantage drove Japanese capital accumulation and economic ascent, and simultaneously drove underdevelopment in Japans periphery. These Japanese innovations became key elements of globalization as U.S. and European transnational corporations and states sought to compete with Japan. Joint ventures, long-term contracts, and other forms of inter?rm cooperation have replaced vertically integrated foreign direct investment, the earlier U.S. model of capital accumulation and international economic linkage, as the model for global industries.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Paul S. Ciccantell, Stephen G. Bunker

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