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Globalization and Japanization

Social reality is held fast by both systems of power and power relations hence a fuller understanding of social reality entails a thorough and systematic analysis of the machinations of power. It involves an analysis of how social reality affects, modifies, defines and even redefines the changes in the notions of reality and the forces which affect the various institutions and structures that society has.

In lieu of this, this paper seeks to discuss how the globalization process between Britain and Japan has led to the changes in the human resources management systems in Britain as it is presented in Harukiyo Hasegawa’s article entitled “Globalization and Japanization”. Harukiyo Hasegawa (2001), in his article “Globalization and Japanization”, argues that “Japanization was…an additional and effective route for the diffusion of HRM in Britain” (p. 160). Japanization here refers to the “Japanese influence on UK management styles particularly in the area of production management” (Hasegawa, 2001, p.

159). The bases for his argument are the following assumptions. First, “Japanese management involve(s) elements necessary for the practice of HRM” (Hasegawa, 2001, p. 160). Second, “Japanization was possible in Britain without transferring the Japanese employment system and industrial relations…in Britain in this period” as a result of globalization (Hasegawa, 2001, p. 160). Globalization here refers to the “process of changes created by information technology and, in general, suggests trends which effectively make the world smaller in both ‘time’ and ‘space’” (Hasegawa, 2001, p.

161). Finally, the effectiveness of the ‘Japanization’ process in Britain should be seen as a sign that the ‘Japanization’ process does not merely stand as a result of Japan’s economic relations with Britain but as a sign that ‘Japanization’ stands as a new paradigm of HRM style. The effectiveness of ‘Japanization’, according to Hasegawa, is evident if one considers that it provides elements necessary for the practice of HRM such as its inclusion of an “employment system, techniques/methods for production management and industrial relations” (Hasegawa, 2001, p,160).

This is in accordance to HRM’s goal which is “to involve people more ‘flexibly’ within an organization… (which involves) a shift from collective, pluralist industrial relations to individual unitarist relations” (Hasegawa, 2001, p. 160). The difference of the ‘Japanization’ HRM system is thereby evident in its people management style. Within the article, Hasegawa emphasizes that the effectiveness of the ‘Japanization’ process stands as a result of the transfer of the production management techniques and methods which were in accordance to the legislative rules of the British employment system (Hasegawa, 2001, p.

163). It is through this application of the laws of the British employment system that one can perceive that ‘Japanization’ stands as a new paradigm of HRM style. The argument from such an assumption, in line with Hasegawa’s aforementioned article, is the view that globalization has enabled the emergence of a new dynamics of power relations between countries as well as between the institutions within these countries.

If such is the case, the process of ‘Japanization’ may no longer be delimited to Japan’s large influence upon the economic aspects of Britain’s market since the ‘Japanization’ process involves the adherence to the frameworks set by Japanese institutions within British institutions. This does not however entail that the existence of the new paradigm of ‘Japanization’ in HRM systems is not affected by economic aspects. Within the text, Hasegawa states, “the relational meaning of globalization enables us to link Japanization, linking macro-economic phenomena to micro-corporate phenomena” (2001, p.

161). The link between the macro-economic and micro-economic phenomena in the process of globalization is evident in the power relations between both countries. Hasegawa notes that the globalization process leads to the formation of relationship forms wherein one entity stands as the proactive entity and the other entity stands as the reactive entity (2001, p. 161-162). The proactive entity is determined by “the existence of surplus capital in individual firms” whereas the reactive entity is determined by the “relative shortage of capital in the receptor’s economy” (Hasegawa, 2001, p.

162). In the case of the relationship between Japan and Britain, Japan stands as the proactive entity whereas Britain stands as the reactive entity. Hasegawa states, Japan’s FDI has burgeoned…the growth of surplus capital… (and has increased) its competitive strength in manufacturing technologies, skills, production management methods, and work organizations… (As opposed to this) Britain’s long history of outgoing FDI and relatively low domestic investment has weakened its manufacturing industry, necessitating the attraction of a large amount of investment.

(2001, p. 164) As can be seen above, Hasegawa’s argument regarding the existence of ‘Japanization’ as a new paradigm in HRM systems is based upon his assumptions that the globalization process has enabled countries with a large FDI [in this case Japan] to influence the foundational frameworks of other institutions within countries with a low FDI [in this case Britain].

It is for this reason that he states at the end of his article that “Japanization (has) effectively functioned as a catalyst pushing Britain management along the HRM track… (and thus) HRM has now become a ‘universal’ preference of management in large corporations all over the world” (Hasegawa, 2001, p. 172-173). It is important to note that Hasegawa’s assumption above regarding the existence of ‘Japanization’ as a new paradigm within the HRM system is dependent upon a particular country’s development of an economic relationship with Japan.

In addition to this, it is also dependent upon Japan’s maintenance of its position as a proactive entity within the international market. To assume that the ‘Japanization’ process of HRM system may also be applicable to other management systems wherein Japan does not stand as the proactive entity within the relationship may thereby be false.

It may be stated that Hasegawa, within his aforementioned article in discussion, was merely referring to the ‘Japanization’ of British institutions and British companies however to assume that it stands as a new paradigm within the field of HRM systems involves the assumption that the same dynamics for the ‘Japanization’ of Britain is also applicable to other countries whose institutions and companies are considered to have adhered to the ‘Japanization’ process of their HRM systems.

Although it may also be argued that the ‘Japanization’ process merely refers to the institutions within a country’s adherence to the management system of Japan, it is important to note that it becomes problematic when a situation exists wherein Britain stands as the proactive entity in its relationship with another country.

Within such a situation, given that Britain has also applied its own rules and laws as well as incorporated the positive factors of its HRM system within what is referred to as the ‘Japanization’ of the British institutions and companies, the question arises as to whether one may refer to the reactive country who has adapted Britain’s HRM system to be ‘Britainized’.

It is within this context that Hasegawa’s concept of ‘Japanization’ becomes problematic since to assume that ‘Japanization’ is a paradigm for HRM systems necessitates the assumption that ‘Japanization’ is merely a framework which is not affected by external factors [i. e. the power relations between two countries in trade which is determined by their reactive or proactive status in relation to one another]. Reference Hasegawa, H. (2001). Globalization and Japanization: Implications for Human Resource Management in Britain. Japan Forum, 13. 2, 159-175.

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