Five Conceptions of Neo-Liberalism in Japan: From 1920s to 2010s

Teru Sako, Professor, Tokyo Metropolitan University

This presentation elucidates five major conceptions of Neo-Liberalism and their rises and falls in Japan, from 1920s to 2010s. As everybody knows, the word “Neo-Liberalism (Shin-Jiyushugi)” was in a vogue all over the world especially from 1990s to 2010s. But was destined as a buzzword, the meanings of “Neo-Liberalism” became vague and obscure. My text analytics finds following five points. 1) In Japan, the earliest usages of the word “Neo-Liberalism” was found in 1920s. mostly referred to the mixture of ‘new liberalism’ and ‘new freedom’ of Hobson, Hobhouse, and W. Wilson. This strand of Neo-Liberalism insisted in the restoration of personal autonomy against the growing corporate powers. 2) From 1960s to 1990s, Neo-Liberalism was almost equated with the post-war German ‘Ordo-Liberalismus’. This strand laid stress on the positive role of state power to create artificial market mechanism. 3) It was solely in 2000s that Hyek-Friedmann’s kind of Neo-Liberalism was introduced in Japan. It encouraged government’s deregulation and competition in the private sector. 4) There were sudden leaps of Harvey and Foucault in 2010s. Using the word “Neo-Liberalism” as an effigy, Harvey criticized negative socio-cultural consequences of the Friedman-based economic reforms. Japanese leftist readers welcomed it. Foucault’s 1970s essays were translated in Japanese that overviewed the modern four-staged general history of Liberalism from Walpole to Friedman. 5) As listed above, many debaters talked about “Neo-Liberalism” without defining it. As a result, in 2020s, everybody is blaming the term “Neo-Liberalism” on being meaningless. In my opinion, we’d better focus not into the sole-true conception of “Neo-Liberalism”, but into the ways how such a meaningless term worked and functioned in the modern Japanese society.

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 Presented in Session 35. Measuring the Fisc