The New Community Firm

Employment, Governance and Management Reform in Japan

The New Community Firm

After sweeping all before it in the 1980s, 'Japanese management' ran into trouble in the 1990s, especially in the high-tech industries, prompting many to declare it had outlived its usefulness. From the late 1990s leading companies embarked on wide-ranging reforms designed to restore their entrepreneurial vigour. For some, this spelled the end of Japanese management; for others, little had changed. From the perspective of the community firm, Inagami and Whittaker examine changes to employment practices, corporate governance and management priorities, in this 2005 book, drawing on a rich combination of survey data and an in-depth study of Hitachi, Japan's leading general electric company and enterprise group. They find change and continuity, the emergence of a 'reformed model', but not the demise of the community firm. The model addresses both economic vitality and social fairness, within limits. This book offers unique insights into changes in Japanese management, corporations and society.


"After so many facile generalizations about Japan's so-called 'lost decade', it is good to have such a clear and comprehensive analysis of what has actually been happening to Japanese corporations. Inagami and Whitaker provide both a practice of general trends in employment, organization and finance, and fascinating detail of the style and rate of change in one of Japan's great companies. No one will ever again be able to talk airily about 'the Japanese community firm' without reading their meticulous and subtle analysis of the ways in which Japanese firms were, and the extent to which they remain, communities of employees." Professor Ronald Dore, Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics and Political Science

"This timely and well-written book is jam-packed with data and insights. It is a welcome addition to the literature on the evolution of Japanese firms. Combining troves of data on trends across a large spectrum as well as an in-depth historical overview of Hitachi, this book is a must-read for students of Japan as well as anyone interested in the future of economic enterprise and company-employee relationships." Schon Beechler, Associate Professor, Columbia Business School

"A timely book on an important topic. How have Japanese firms responded to the challenges of the 1990s? This volume brings welcome empirical evidence to the debate." Michael A. Witt, Assistant Professor of Asian Business and Comparative Management, INSEAD

"Inagami's longitudinal studies complement nicely Whittaker's in-depth study of one firm, Hitachi, to provide two very different perspectives on change and the change process in Japanese firms." - Tom Roehl, Western Washington University

"The book is an illuminating tour through a mountain of evidence on what has been going on...readers will walk away much better informed about the 21st-century Japanese corporation."
Paul Almeida, American Journal of Sociology