BETWEEN FOUR WORLDS: CHINA, RUSSIA, JAPAN AND AUSTRALIA;

BETWEEN FOUR CAREERS: DIPLOMAT, ECONOMIST, JOURNALIST AND JAPANOLOGIST;

BETWEEN FOUR LANGUAGES: ENGLISH, CHINESE, RUSSIAN AND JAPANESE

Chapter 15

EXPLAINING JAPAN’S PROGRESS
1.     The Straight Line of Progress
2.     The Limits of Rationalism: China, the Latins etc
3.     Japan Reconsidered
4.     The China Connection
5.     The Curve of Progress
6.     The Radius of Trust
7.     The North Europe connection
8.     The Feudal Connection
9.     The Rest of the World
10.   Conclusions

(Note: The previous chapter saw me groping for the terminology to describe Japanese/non-Japanese differences.

(Gradually I was moving to the term ‘rationalistic’ to describe us non-Japanese.  With the Japanese I had used the specialist term ‘particularistic.’ I had also favored the term ‘communalistic, though I have since moved to a slight preference for the term ‘collectivist.’

(For me, at least, ’collectivist’ highlights the similarities with the communist societies that Japan’s conservatives like to castigate.)  

Playing around with terminology was one thing. 
 
But it still left me with the problem of explaining why the collectivist/communalistic, particularistic Japanese had been able to create an economy powerful enough to frighten us advanced, modern, individualistic, rationalistic Westerners.
 
1.  THE STRAIGHT LINE OF PROGRESS
 
I had been educated in the conventional wisdom which says progress is a straight line.
 
We are supposed begin with the simple particularistic values of the tribe, clan or village. We advance to the feudal society. From there we make the jump to the advanced modern, individualistic, industrial society.
 
In other words, the more societies move away from the particularistic and towards the universalistic the more they progress. The feudalistic is simply a transitional stage to the universalistic.

  Figure One

  Or as Charles Kindleberger puts it in his much-quoted textbook 'Economic Development': 'Development brings with it a change from particularism to universalism… For economic development to occur, some considerable rationality in cognition, universalism in membership and specificity in relations are needed.' Others seeking to relate values to economic and social development say much the same (Parsons, Levy*), namely that without universalistic values, societies cannot develop the systems of science, technology, economics, bureaucracy, ideology/philosophy, law and contract needed for social and economic progress. They also assumed that since we Westerners were more advanced than others, then ipso facto that proved our values were more rational (their word - I prefer rationalistic) and more universalistic than those of others. We lay at the top right-hand end of the straight line of progress. The rest of the world lay below, somewhere. 2. THE LIMITS OF RATIONALISM: THE OLDER CIVILIZATIONS? But even before the rise of Japan I had seen problems with the straight-line approach. For example, where are we supposed to place the older civilizations of China, India and the Middle East? Their economic and social progress had been agonizingly slow. But did that mean we had to place them in the feudal area, below and to the left of Japan? Their genuinely feudal eras had been millenniums earlier. They may have sunk into semi-feudalism later, but that was simply due to the breakdown of the advanced, centralized civilizations they had created earlier. Those civilizations with their superior scientific, technological, bureaucratic and other achievement had been created when we northern Europeans and the Japanese were still in mud villages.   What's more, even today they had retained the rationalistic values that had allowed them to create those earlier civilizations.   Even in pre-computer days it was clear to me that they could match Japan, and even the West, in the skill of their diplomacy - a fine test of rationalistic ability*.   Today their IT and computer skills prove the abilities of their peoples when it comes to rationalistic thinking.   Indeed, Japan increasingly is being forced to realize its own weaknesses in these areas, and to seek Chinese and Indian skills.    If only for those reasons, I felt they should at least be placed to the right of Japan on any axis trying to relate values to progress.   * (At a time when we had to put up with the noisy irrationality of US and Australian Cold War policies, over Vietnam especially, the cool sanity with which the Chinese presented their positions was impressive.   (Equally, the cool logic of their polemical debates with flustered Russian ideologues during the early sixties.   (As for the Indians, like many others I was awed by their argument skills. In the fifties, the presidency of the Oxford Union, the famous Oxford University debating society, had been dominated by Indian students for three years in succession.   (I had always savored Nehru's alleged remark when asked by a UK journalist what he thought of British civilization.   ("It would be a very good idea" Nehru is reported to have said.     North Europe/America versus South Europe/America   The gap in progress between north Europe/America and south Europe/America was equally puzzling.   In the past the Southerners also had scientific and other rationalistic achievement far superior to that of us Northerners.   Even today, and like the Chinese, Indians etc., they can produce top business strategists, politicians, intellectuals, scientists and diplomats equal to if not superior to those in north Europe/America - provided they have the opportunities to develop those abilities.   So why had they been overtaken by us Northerners?   That old chestnut - the Protestant ethic - was never very convincing.   Value systems create religions, not vice-versa. Religions simply reinforce the biases of the value system that created them.   So if Protestantism was a more progressive and more practical religion than Catholicism, that was because the Northerners had a value system that made them want to have a more progressive and practical religion.   We still had to explain why the Northerners had that value system.   3.  JAPAN RECONSIDERED   But it was Japan more than anything else that threw doubts on the straight line approach.   In the past, when Japan lacked progress, it could be seen as still somewhat shackled by the semi-particularism of a post-feudal society.   It could be placed somewhere in the middle of the straight line, with us Westerners at the top end, and the rest of the world below. (See Figure One above)   Even the considerable progress of Meiji and Taisho Japan could be seen in the context of Japan moving away from, but not being fully liberated from, the village/feudalistic values of Tokugawa.   It was not until the amazing progress of postwar Japan through to the 1980's that people were forced to re-think.   Had Japan really moved away sufficiently from the 'traditional', feudalistic values of the past and towards the 'modern' universalistic values that were supposed to be crucial to such progress?   Three very different schools tried to give us the answer. None of them impressed me very much at the time.   Japan As Number One?   One school - what I call the Japan As Number One school - said yes. It said that Japan had not only made that move to universalistic values, but in many areas had done so even better than us Westerners .   Japan's education and bureaucracy systems were supposed to be excellent. Its managers were said to be superb. Japan was indeed Number One.   Some even saw it as a model for us Westerners.   But could Japan, almost overnight, have jumped from the semi-feudal, particularistic values of Meiji/Taisho years to modern universalistic values superior even to those of the West?   That seemed unlikely, as I wrote at the time in a book review requested by the Japan Foundation (it was the last request I was to receive from that rather Japan Is Number One organization).   As far as I was concerned, the enterprise was still the familial village, and its managers were still its semi-feudalistic owners.   In many other respects - the bureaucracy, the politics, the universities - Japan was still caught up in a feudalistic/small group approach   The Japan As Number One school never even seemed to realize these important points, let alone try to explain them   In any case, the Japan As Number One people have since become quite silent - now that the economy is in trouble, bureaucratic scandals are being exposed almost daily, the poor secondary and university education is being criticized relentlessly , etc etc.   Even the once-called 'excellent' management system is now under attack, with some Japanese managers now trying to import Western management systems.      (Some years after I had developed my tribe theory and was trying to refine the terminology, I came across the text of Yukawa Hideki's address to a 1964 University of Hawaii symposium on the Japanese mentality.     (Yukawa discovered the meson and is one of Japan's more deserving Nobel Prize winners. If only for that reason it is likely he understands the mentality of his compatriots better than most.   (His words closely matched my own views of the Japanese mind. They confirm the depth and strength of Japan’s ‘cultural’ biases – the non-rationalistic bias in particular.     (Some quotes: 'The Japanese mentality is, in most cases, unfit for abstract thinking and takes interest merely in tangible things… '   ('Originally speaking, rationality takes an interest in the permanent and universal order transcending the narrow scope of space and time. But Japanese thought is concerned mainly about the local and the temporary order ….'   ('The peculiarity of the Japanese mode of thinking lies in its complete neglect of complementary alternatives. This we may term Japanese irrationalism. Of course, this is completely foreign to any form of scientific spirit. …It has the tendency to sidestep as far as possible any kind of confrontation'   (Yukawa also confirms closely my own thoughts about the Chinese influence on Meiji Japan:   (' As was seen in the instances of the introduction of Buddhism and Confucianism, the Japanese were very progressive in the assimilation of their high-level cultural assets.'   ('But among these, only the ones were appreciated that were effective in regulating the existing social and political order. Hence, a thoroughgoing rationalism, such as the philosophy of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, escaped general comprehension and found sympathy in the intellectual minority alone.'   (Yukawa was one of that rationalistic minority, hence his scientific success. His father was an expert in the Chinese clasics   Japan as a Fragile Flower?    Another school - what I call the "Japan As A Fragile Flower" school* - agreed that Japan was indeed still caught up in the feudalistic values of its past.   It said Japan's postwar progress was ephemeral - the result largely of generous US aid and the chance to rebuild modern factories to replace those bombed out during the war.   But that boom would be short-lived. Japan had moved too far away from its still semi-feudal social base, and would soon be in trouble.   In other words, while Japan may temporarily have jumped up above the straight line of progress, it would fall back to where it should have been all along - somewhere in the middle of the particularism/universalism straight-line.   But this school too had its problems.   Japan's recent economic problems might seem to suggest fragile flower elements. But despite appalling economic mismanagement**, Japan is still far from reverting to being a semi-developed economy.   Some other explanation is needed for Japan's progress.   *(That Japan was a 'fragile flower' was the conclusion of a US academic, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who spent all of six months in Japan in the early-seventies researching for a book with just that title.   (During that time I saw something of Brzezinski, and think I discovered the answer to another riddle - how a hawk such as he ended up as National Security adviser to a dove such as Jimmy Carter.   (It appears that in his run for high political office Carter realised he lacked expertise in foreign affairs.   (Brzezinski at the time was setting up the Trilateral Commission - a Cold War operation with strong Japanese participation intended to counter Kissinger's G7 grouping. Kissinger's efforts for detente with the Brezhnev regime had made him anathema to rigid anti-Soviet hawks such as Brzezinski.   (Brzezinski invited Carter to join the Commission. The former peanut farmer was so dazzled by the wealth of power and fame around him and by Brzezinski's ability to drag in top US, European and Japanese personalities, that he appointed Brzezinski as soon as he won the presidency.   (It is in such haphazard ways that the ways of history, and politics, are made.   (But for that appointment, the several Cold War blemishes of the Carter era could have been avoided.   **(The bad economic planning since 1996 - i.e. the resort to Hooverite policies in the midst of severe deflation and chronic lack of domestic demand - reflects an innate weakness of intellect .   (Supply side economics in an economy which suffers chronically from excess supply and inadequate demand is economic madness.   (It also reveals a severe intellectual weakness in the Western observers who, largely for ideological, rightwing reasons,  encouraged Japan in those mistaken policies, little realising that Japan's economic problem was not lack of restructuring but chronic lack of domestic demand.   (They too urged supply side economic policies when Japan clearly needed demand side, Keynesian policies.   (China's measured,  Keynesian-style economic policies have been far more sensible, and effective.   Japan Converging?   Finally we had the convergence school which said that while Japan's progress may have been due to good luck or other factors, nevertheless as a result of that progress its particularistic, feudalistic value system would begin to converge that of the modern, universalistic West.   The Japanese would become more like us - more individualistic and rationalistic. The younger Japanese would be the agents for this change.   But as someone who has spent some time trying to educate young Japanese, I would beg to differ.   They are not moving to embrace Western-style individualism, intellectualism, or any other significant Western values.   They are still very Japanese. The propensity to irrational booms and moods remains as before.   Interest in intellectual activity remains weak - if anything weaker than before when Japan saw itself more in competition with the outside world and took more interest in ideas.   They are still group oriented.   What differs is the range of group attachments.   In the past, thanks possibly to feudal and prewar nationalist influences, group consciousness could be expanded to embrace the enterprise or the even the society.   Today it has shrunk to the close circle of friends and colleagues.   The bushido style of morality that controlled behavior in the society generally and not just in the small group has also broken down, to the distress of the conservatives.   But it has not been replaced by a Western-style morality.   In effect the younger Japanese have reverted to a more 'village' or tribal approach - concern only for their small, tight circle of close friends around them. with little regard for the society outside.   One result of this shrinkage in group interests are the ‘freeters’ (free agents not interested in joining enterprises), or the ‘neeters’ and hikikomoris (withdrawn completely from society) - that worry the older generation so much.   Japan was still the tribe that became a nation.   We still needed to know why, and how, it had succeeded - and whether it would continue to succeed, and to remain a ‘tribe’ at the same time.   4  THE CHINA CONNECTION   It was China that eventually was to give me the answer.   At the time I had to assume that the Chinese were less individualistic and universalistic than us Westerners. They had, after all, failed to match our Western economic progress.   I was still caught up in the common belief that our superior Western progress in so many fields had to be the result of our superior rationalism/universalism.   Asian civilization was supposed to be more passive and accepting, and therefore less scientifically oriented than our own.   But in no way could I accept that the Chinese were less rationalistic/universalistic than the Japanese.   Or as Yukawa Hideki had put it: 'Though Eastern culture is characterized as being passive and static in its essence, in contrast with Western culture, we may say, disregarding differences in many respects and the exceptional case of Japan, that rationalism is a common factor.'   Certainly that matched my own experience.   Even in the depths of their Cultural Revolution ideological madness, the Chinese I met seemed much more individualistic and rationalistically minded than the Japanese.   Yet China was clearly behind Japan in terms of economic and social progress.   (Arriving in Beijing in 1971 with a bunch of Australian pingpong players was like returning to the Third World - a tiny shriveled airport run by ideological robots stuck out in the middle of poorly-cultivated wheat fields.   (But the taxi ride into the city was like returning to the West - drivers who would like to argue and debate intelligently the news of the day, or any other topic one cared to raise.   (Returning to Japan's Haneda airport surrounded by tall buildings and neon signs was a return to civilisation. But the taxi ride into the city was a return to the world of evasive ambiguity and non- debate.   (One impression from that trip was a visit to the slogan-festooned steel works in Beijing and Anshan, both struggling to produce a million or two tons a year in the midst of squalor and disorganization.   (Just a week earlier I had visited the brandnew super-effficent NKK complex at Fukushima producing 12 million tons a year with one tenth the manpower.)   (But at the final dinner party for us in Beijing the officials had been briefed to say just the right things so that our reports back to Australia would convey just the right mixture of trade threat and promise needed to woo Canberra from its anti-Beijing policies.   (As I said to myself at the time, the Chinese might not be able to make steel. But they could certainly make diplomacy.)   The Camel’s Back   But if the Chinese were to be put between the Japanese and the West in terms of rationalism, but below both of them in terms of progress, what happens to the straight line?   It would have to rise sharply from village-feudalism to where Japan stood. From there it would have to make a firm bend downwards to where the Chinese stood, and then upwards against to where the West stood.   It would end up looking more like a camel's back   The lack of symmetry would be appalling.   For a while I toyed with the idea that there might be two paths to progress - one via strong particularism as in Japan and another via strong rationalism as in the West, with the Chinese falling down somewhere in between.   But that did not seem to make great sense.   A Breakthrough   I remember well the day it happened.   I had been drooling on my blackboard in front of some Sophia students using the Kindleberger text, trying to point out how the straight line approach could not explain the progress of 'particularistic' Japan.   Nor could it explain China, or the other older civilizations.   Then suddenly it occurred to me. Instead of trying to put China somewhere between Japan and the West, why not move China and the other older civilizations to the far right-hand side of the board, beyond the West?   In other words, why not accept the possibility that these peoples might be even more rationalistic than us Westerners?   Indeed, that should have been the conclusion from my own original theory as to the origins of rationalism.   These older civilizations had had a much longer history of continental conflict and competition than us Westerners, us northern Westerners especially. They had been forced to develop strong ideologies and central governments long before we Northerners even had a word for government.   By definition, and under my theory,   they were bound to be more rationalistic than us, and that had been proven by their impressive record of scientific and philosophical achievement in the past.   Today, if these peoples can receive the education and other opportunities available to us Westerners, they can easily match or even outdo us in terms of rationalistic achievement.   Their computer and business skills are well-known. One third the population of Silicon Valley was once said to be made up of Chinese, Indians and Koreans (very few Japanese, incidentally).   They are now creating computer and other high-tech industries equal to or even better than those of the West and Japan.   (The idea of China and the rest of Asia being behind us Westerners in terms of rationalism owed much to the romantic idea of Asia as some kind of geographically favored paradise where harsh thinking and debate were not needed.)    (Even the usually astute Yukawa had been caught up in the idea that harsh geographic conditions encourage rationalism, and that the conditions in the West were harsher than in the East.)   (But if we move from the highly nebulous concept of geography to the much more definitive concept of  history – namely frequent conflict with foreign peoples as the key to rationalistic thinking -  then the rationalistic strength of the older Asian civilizations becomes more understandable.)   5.  THE CURVE OF PROGRESS.   The moment I made that change - putting China, India etc. to the right of Japan and the West on the horizontal axis - I realized I had the answer to my problems.   I was looking at a beautifully symmetrical curve, with the apex at the point where particularism and universalism - or as I preferred to put it, collectivist values and rationalistic values - were in equal 50/50 balance.

  Figure Two

  Japan and the West straddled the apex.   The rest of the world lay somewhere down the slope, either to the left or the right.   In short, a conclusion I had long been working towards was neatly confirmed - namely, that the ideal for modern, industrial progress was not 100 percent universalism/rationalism.   It was a mix of the practical, groupist cooperation merits of Japan's collectivist approach, and the reasoned, scientific merits of the West's more rationalistic approach.   The ideal was at the point where the virtues of both value systems could be combined.   Chinese, Indians Explained   The Chinese, Indians etc had in the past clearly gone too far in the rationalistic direction. They had become too enamored with excessive bureaucracy, ideological dogmatism and scholasticism.   Their entrepreneurs were (and to some extent, in the case of India, remain)  too intelligent, preferring to make their money through cerebral activities such as trading, finance and speculation rather than the difficult, risky, hands-on business of manufacturing.   They were into selling things rather than making things.   Which is fine - except that in a situation where no one is interested in making things, people end up scrabbling at the margins for profits from the sale and distribution of simple handicraft and farm goods, and the few imports that can be afforded.   Some hundreds or even thousands of years earlier these people had been at or near the apex - largely, one suspects, because of their efficiency in organising their mainly handicraft and agriculture based societies, and in devising weapons to defeat enemies.   But they had since become over-organised and bureaucratic. They had lost their grassroots practicality and collective cooperation. They had slipped far down the right-hand side of curve.   THE LATIN CONNECTION   The Southern Europeans/Americans Explained   In much the same way I was able to find an explanation for gap between the southern Europeans/Americans and us Northerners.   On the straight line graph I had had to put us Northerners above and to the right of the Southerners. Together we formed the bloc that I had called the West.   But as already mentioned, I was not very happy with that.   But if progress was a curve rather than a straight line, then everything fell into place.   The Southerners could neatly be moved to a position to the right of us Northerners, and below.   In other words, they shared somewhat the same background and problems as the Chinese, Indians etc.   They too had moved early to strong ideologies, centralized societies and rationalistic values.   They too had created advanced civilizations while we northern Europeans were still in primitive tribes and clans.   Even today, the quality of their elites - their top businessmen, politicians and scholars especially - probably put them ahead of us Northerners.   Certainly it put them ahead of the Japanese.   But they too had become too rationalistic.   Like the Chinese, Indians etc. before them, they too had also begun to embrace excessive bureaucracy and scholasticism. Their entrepreneurs too began to prefer making money from cerebral activities rather than making and maintaining things.   The simple, gut-instinctive cooperation and inventiveness that had created our northern European manufacturing excellence had escaped them.   A society may have the best bureaucrats, scholars and speculators in the world. But without manufacturing it cannot progress, unless it is Monaco or Luxembourg, or more recently the UK, relying on the strategic factors that allow them to become financial/business centers.   The Religious Factor   Much of the debate over the North-South gap has focused on the alleged backward elements in the Catholic ethic of the South.   But as a religion, Catholicism, almost by definition, is far more universalistic than Protestantism.   Protestantism, with its flexible Bible interpretations and its various sub-groups based mainly accidents of personality or geography, is 'Japanese' in its lack of universalism.   The concept of a Church of England is a good example. How can a religion claim to be the religion for one country and not for another?   By definition almost, a religion claiming to represent a God has to claim universalism. It has to claim that all mankind should embrace its doctrines.   That is what we find with Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism and all the other main religions.   But with Protestantism, few seem to worry much about the contradictions involved.   (Japanese Buddhism is even more doctrinally flexible and factionalist that Protestantism. There we see even more clearly a mentality that accepts contradictions without any crisis of faith.   (It has moved greatly from the original Indian Buddhism.   (As for Shinto with its beliefs in vague, nature-based gods, this literally is an animistic, tribal religion.   (Other than in times of imperial expansion, it is taken for granted that Japan's national 'religion' - Shinto - is purely for Japanese and not for other peoples.   In short, it is precisely because Catholicism can claim to be universalistic that it has appealed to the minds of the more rationalistic Southerners.   And, as mentioned earlier, it appealed also to the highly rationalistic mind of my father.   6. RADIUS OF TRUST   Another interesting explanation for the lack of progress in the South compared with the North belongs to a former US AID expert, Lawrence Harrison.   He called it the 'radius of trust.'   During his long exposure to Latin America and southern Europe he noticed that for the Southerner this radius was very narrow - often confined to relatives and the local clergy.   (In my own visits to Latin America I have found it even narrower. Even the priests are not trusted greatly by some.   In the North, the radius included a much wider range of people - colleagues in various work, professional, voluntary, regional and other groups around the individual.   According to Harrison, the greater degree of cooperation derived from this wider radius of trust explained the superior progress in the North.*   It is an interesting theory. But first there has to be some explanation for why this difference in trust attitudes exists .   Harrison saw it as yet another byproduct of the Protestant-Catholic division.   But that left him with the problem of explaining non-Protestant Japan.   I met Harrison in the late eighties when he came to Japan to try to substantiate his claim that Confucianism was Japan's equivalent of Protestantism.   I tried hard to persuade him that (a) Japan was not very Confucian, and (b) that its progress had been very different from that of the genuinely Confucian societies in Sinitic East Asia.( For details of our debate see my Japan Times article of ….)   What's more, people in the Sinitic societies also seemed to suffer from a limited radius of trust, and this had harmed their progress at a time when Japan was moving ahead.   Even more than the Southern Europeans/Americans perhaps, they seemed to put excessive emphasis on kinship relations.   (To most, an emphasis on extended familial relations seems a proof of particularistic backwardness.)   (But if we accept the Nakane Chie view of the kinship relationship as attribute based, and my view that attribute based is a more rationalistic, principled approach to group relations, then the seeming contradiction is resolved. See below)   True, the Chinese had been able to expand the kinship concept to include very distant relatives. The Indians did likewise, and supplemented it with another attribute group - caste.   But precisely for that reason they suffered from radius of trust problems, especially when it came to creating the large enterprise.   In the traditional Chinese enterprise, positions often had to go to blood relatives since others could be trusted. Western and Japanese enterprises did not have this problem.   *(Harrison's important insight was later picked up by Francis Fukuyama, he of the 'democracy as the final goal of civilized history 'thesis which has done so much to justify recent US jingoistic efforts.   (Fukuyama's book entitled 'Trust' makes almost no mention of Harrison - another ugly by-product of US academic hegemonistic urges.   (However I understand that Harrison has since teamed up with Fukuyama to push the idea of trust as the final goal of civilized society.   (It seems he was not greatly influenced by our discussions.)   Attribute versus Location.   Observant readers will by now have realized that this radius of trust question relates directly back to the Nakane Chie concept of attribute (shikaku) versus ba (location) as a basis for relationships. (See Chapter )   Kinship is a very clearly defined attribute. So too is caste or class.   And to the extent that attribute can seen as more principled basis for relations, then those who rely on it for relationships of trust can be seen as more rationalistic than those who rely on location - even if the final result is less rational.   Location as a basis for trust - ie people trusting each other around them due to the simple fact of being thrown into a close group relationship - is a much more 'unprincipled,' eclectic, communal approach to relationships - even if it is more rational in terms of end results.   In the typical Japanese enterprise the top managers could be Suzuki, Watanabe, and Tanaka or any other haphazard collection of names. Kinship is irrelevant in most cases.   Long years of working together in the same enterprise cement bonds of trust just as strong, and much more productive, as kinship.   That top people can be chosen for ability and cooperativeness rather than the accident of a blood relationship clearly had much to do with the past superior progress in Japan, and north Europe/America.   (True, there is an element of cause and effect in all this.   (Progress may be the cause, rather than the result, of wider trust relationships.   (When a society is backward, people may have no choice but to fall back on firm attribute relationships.   (Anyone who has seen the way poverty in backward societies cramps the willingness to trust widely will realize what I mean.   (Even so, it is significant that even when the Northern and Japanese economies were much weaker than they are today we could see elements of non-attribute pragmatism in relationships.   ( Even in feudal Japan - when Confucianism and other factors meant that kinship was much more important than today - enterprise owners would allow efficient employees rather than inefficient sons inherit their enterprises, often through the device of having the efficient employee marry the owner's daughter.   (The Japanese custom of adopting outsiders into the kinship group, often simply for the sake of some temporary convenience, has long astounded the Confucianist Chinese and Koreans, for whom the ancestral kinship line should be inviolate.   (The pragmatic Japanese-north European willingness to have land inherited by the only son, as opposed to the more principled Latin approach of equal division is often seen as a major reason for the superior agricultural progress of the North over the South.   7.  THE NORTHERN EUROPEAN CONNECTION   But for me, by far the most startling and unexpected conclusion from the curve was realizing that the people remaining closest to the Japanese, at a point near the curve's apex, were none other than us northern Europeans/Americans.   Despite our vast differences in culture - religion, eating habits, language etc - could it be that in terms of basic values we were really quite similar?   At the time, the idea sounded too revolutionary to be true.   But the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that yes, we were indeed similar.   Our historical development, as isolated nations at either end of the Eurasian continent, had been similar.   We had both spent long periods in village and then feudal isolation.   We had both imported civilization from outside, and combined its rationalism with our native collectivist values.   We were hybrids, with strong elements of our original communal values retained.   The result was strong similarities with Japan.   (That this applies also to north Americans, Australians and New Zealanders, who imported Anglosaxon-Germanic communalistic values and then added to them through their history of frontier development and isolation is another branch of the same thinking.).   (This is especially true for Australia where the convict and bush ethics worked to create strong human bonds and a strong disinterest in principles and ideology.   (More on that later.)   Similarities   For example, both Japanese and us peoples of north European culture shared a strong sense of order and discipline- the Germans especially. Our trains used to run very much on time.   (All this only began to fall apart when rationalistic principles - the demand that the railways be run for profit, for example - began to replace communalistic commonsense.)   We liked detail and precision, as anyone who has seen our various statistical and other White Papers (the Japanese variety especially) will realize.   We also shared an emotional/pragmatic willingness to put work and the workplace ahead of religious, bureaucratic, scholarship or other abstract goals - the so-called 'Protestant' ethic that Harrison had mistakenly seen as religion-based.   We were attracted to manufacturing, and saw it as superior to other economic activities. The prevalence of names identical with one's employment is one proof - Baker, Smith, Shoemaker, Thatcher etc   In Japan's case, monozukuri, or 'making things', remains enshrined as an important value.   Travel in the countryside with its wealth of still surviving small-scale industries and you will realize how firmly monozukuri is a byproduct of the Tokugawa feudal era where regional autonomy encouraged local manufacture and a craft-based emphasis on making things of quality.   There was the same communal ethic of honesty. Until recently we Anglo-saxons shared the Japanese instinctive reluctance to short-change or shoplift.   Today we are amazed by the way the Japanese go out of their way to return lost property. But those of us brought up in the Anglo-saxon societies of the fourties and fifties remember similar days.   (While at university in Oxford in the fifties I and a few friends - mainly the Dan Cooperites mentioned in an earlier chapter - used to drive taxis for a side income.   (Few of our passengers ever bothered to check their change. As in Japan, they took it for granted we were as honest as they were, which we were not.   (Initially we were supposed to rely mainly on tips for our income. We soon realized that we could make much more by short-changing and other 'fiddles' imposed on those trusting, unsuspecting customers.   (And since the rationalistic aim of our taking this employment was to make money, our values told us we would have been fools to pass up the chances.   (Today, taxi cheating is small beer compared with the many others that have since arisen - house breaking, muggings, blatant shop-lifting etc.   (All were unknown back in the good old days. A New York Times book reviewer once admitted amazement over how New York housewives back in the forties would leave doors open so the milk money could be taken from the tops of their refrigerators   (We were the advance guard of a new rationalistic generation which said the only reason we were doing this kind of work was to make money, by hook or crook. It is nothing to be proud of.   But our communalism had also had its bad sides.   Propensity to emotional booms was one (Japan's irrational land booms of the seventies and eighties had their parallel in the land, tulip and other booms of 18th and 19th century Anglo-saxon societies.)   (The Japanese take it to extremes with their propensity to buy in at the top and sell out at the bottom.   Reason and logic impinge weakly on the communalistic desire to imitate and follow what others are doing.   A propensity to savage militarism, helped by a manufacturing superiority allowed us to develop superior weapons, was another similarity.   Matching it was a propensity for unprincipled diplomacy. Perfidious Albion has had its clone in recent Japanese diplomacy.   Enterprise Management   Familial management systems were another point of similarity. As some have noted, the so-called 'excellent' management of Japan in the 1980's resembled greatly the more familial management style used in companies like General Motors, IBM, Texas Instruments etc during the 60's and 70's.   At the time, Japanese management was seen as the 'unique' product of Confucianism, Buddhism, homogenity and rice growing - aspects not widely seen in the US of the 60's and 70's.   In fact both were the legacy of a strong communal ethic - one that in the US also owed much to the war years and an earlier tradition of frontier development.   The ease with which Japanese management techniques transplanted to the southern states of the US and to Wales and Scotland in the UK was of especial significance to me at the time.   (One UK researcher puzzled by the popularity of Japanese management in Wales and Scotland concluded that Celtic and Welsh culture must have originated in northern Asia! )   Differences   True, Japan lying to the left of the apex still had some way to go to reach the 50-50 ideal. Its structures and attitudes still suffered from some excess of 'particularism'.   Until very recently at least it was too strong in manufacturing and too weak in services - one reason for the manufacturing export surpluses and trade frictions of the past. (No, it was not a plot to take over the world, as many of the critics used to suggest).   Indeed, the 50-50 apex ideal of my curve represented the ideal for a manufacturing based society.   But increasingly, ideal economic progress would begin to demand more skills in the information, finance, and some other service industries.   All these skills were favored under the rationalistic ethic.   Indeed, to the extent these skills are increasingly important in an industrial society, and manufacturing is less important, one could even imagine the apex of the curve moving to the right.   (In the past when agriculture was more important, it would have been more to the left.)   Even so, and despite its very severe weaknesses in the finance, information and service industries, Japan still seemed to be on a rising curve - a very reasonable assumption at the time and which would have continued but for its recent embrace of mistaken economic policies.   We in the Western North lying to the right of the apex had gone beyond the 50/50 ideal. Our elite were overly biased in the rationalistic direction.   Excessive legalism, dislike of manufacturing, preference for financial manipulation and speculation were some of the less fortunate results.   But the distance between us and the Japanese was still quite close. We still retained some communalistic values. What's more, until quite recently we had been close to where Japan stood.   It was only recently that we had shifted to the rationalistic side of the graph.   To many all that may seem an unlikely scenario. But then again the theory of plate tectonics also used to seem very unlikely.     8. THE FEUDAL CONNECTION     I suggest they can be traced back to our shared feudal heritage.   Like the Japanese, we northern Europeans had long histories of slow village and then feudal development during which to mature our collectivist, communalistic values.   And by feudal I mean full feudalism, and not the semi-feudalism, warlordism and tribalised clannisness found in collapsed and formerly over-centralised rationalistic societies.   Full feudalism is the intermediate stage in the organic growth of a society moving from its original clan/village basis to creating stronger regional units before then moving on to create strong central governments.   At this intermediate stage, the government lacks the bureaucracies and the attachments to powerful ideologies needed to impose its stamp of authority nation-wide (though as with Tokugawa Japan,  attempts may be made to do this with borrowed ideologies.)   People in the regions and villages retain strong autonomy. From this emerge the values that emphasise practical commonsense, natural cooperation and craft manufacturing skills that in turn provide the basis for the subsequent move to modern industrialization.   The distractions and distortions imposed by strong ideologies and bureaucracies are avoided.   But at the same time, in order to progress these feudalistic societies also needed to be able to begin to absorb the ideas and ideologies of more rationalistic societies .   Tokugawa Japan was a good example of this process in action. Many now accept that its sophisticated and well-organised society provided much of the basis for Japan's subsequent modernization, even though its final shift to where it is today depended very much on being able to import the systems and ideas of us more rationalistic Westerners   North Europe went through a similar process, importing systems and ideas from the more rationalistic and advanced South Europeans while retaining much of use from its original feudalistic society.   The many similarities between Japan's bushido ethic and the chivalry ethic of Western Europe are relevant.  Both developed autonomously in response to the need for a code of ethics to organize a feudal society.   The fact that both developed in such a similar way, even though at opposite sides of the globe, helps prove the similarities of their feudal development.   (Later I was to discover that one of the very few to realize this feudalistic connection between Japan and northern Europe was none other than Edwin Reischauer (Feudalism In History, Coulborn Rushton ed. Princeton University, 1956).   (In his final memoirs, his introduction has a brief note in which he regrets having failed to follow up on this insight.)    (But while belated, his insight helped to confirm me in my own thinking.)   (Reischauer's delay in making this connection could owe much to his long association with the mistaken convergence theory mentioned above.)   Feudal is Beautiful?   Both in Japan and the West we have been educated to see feudalism and modernism as mutually contradictory.   But that is like arguing that adolesence and adulthood are mutually contradictory. The former is an essential pre-condition for the latter.   Our shared history of village-based feudalism could also, as some others have hinted, be the reason why the social contract and the democratic ethic have taken root in Japan and north Europe more firmly than elsewhere.   With typical self-admiration, many of our intellectuals have pronounced democracy to be the final stage in man's political development.   In fact, far from being 'the end of history' as some have proclaimed, it is very much the middle of history - a golden moment when collectivist and rationalistic values can combine.   But that golden moment does not last long.   Collectivist/communalistic and rationalistic values are often mutually contradictory.    Merit promotion does not mesh easily with seniority promotion. Adversarial legalism soon kills conciliation as a basis for settling disputes. And so on.   Similarly with democracy. As we see only too clearly in our allegedly advanced Western democracies, it is not long before rationalistic values kill the advanced communalistic basis of democracy.   After all, if winner can take all, then elections have to be won by fair means or foul. To hell with the social contract.   Societies are deliberately divided, with the majority dragged to one's own side by any means available.   Other instinctive moralities also begin to fall apart. Or else they are exploited by those who realize the ease with which they can be turned to their own personal advantage, such as me and my taxi driving friends.   Societies begin to turn to religious, legalistic and other ideologies to hold themselves together. Governments become more dictatorial. Bureaucrats become more arrogant.   We begin the long slide down the right hand side of the progress curve.   Other Theories to Explain Progress   On the face of things the curve seemed to provide me with an answer to the major puzzle in the first half of the last century -  why one society progressed while others remained in stagnation,  the rise and fall of civilizations.   Toynbee had given us his explanation. Others had their theories.   For a while the climate theory was popular. So if Japan and north Europe had done well, that was supposed to be because their climate was cold enough to encourage hard work but warm enough to allow agriculture and other outside activity.   But that failed to explain the former civilizations of tropical Asia and Central America.   Besides, commonsense would say that if climate was a factor, then the more temperate climates of the Mediterranean and south Eurasia would be more favorable to progress.   Education was, and remains a favorite, theory. But as Sri Lanka and to some extent the Latin societies show, a thirst for education is meaningless and even harmful if the economic basis to absorb educated people does not exist.   Frustrations can easily erupt into anti-social activity.   And what encourages education in the first place? In the case of Japan with its tera goya (temple schools teaching basic math and writing often said to be the reason for Japan’s rapid post-feudal progress) the desire to have such schools was the grassroots practicality of a society seeking practical progress.   For a while the theories emphasised strong centralized government. But the problems of excessive bureaucracy and central control should have killed that idea.   And more recently we have seen flawed attempts to use religion to explain economic performance differences.   The Advantage of Being Backward   But if we accept the feudalism argument, there is a simple answer to all the theories, namely that the key to being ahead today lies in being backward in the past.   When China, India, the Middle East and South Europe were at their civilization peaks, we north Europeans and the Japanese were still struggling with backward village existences.   We suffered lousy climates (as anyone who has lived in England should know), which hampered our agriculture. We had to spend too much time and resources protecting ourselves from the cold. Our education systems were primitive. Organised religion was non-existent.   The proud Roman general sneering at the Germanic tribes living in mud huts had a point.   But while even as those proud civilizations were boasting their superiority, they were beginning to lose the communal and practical bases on which they had been built originally.   They would move too far away from their village-feudal grassroots. They would begin to suffer from excessive emphasis on bureaucracy, scholarship, ideology and central government   Meanwhile those backward north European peoples in their mud hut villages were developing cooperative, practical value systems.   That combination would eventually allow them to defeat or outstrip those proud civilizations.   So if they are dominant today, that precisely is because they were so backward and feudalistic for so long.   Their turn to move up the curve of progress was fortuitously delayed, giving time for the more rationalistic civilizations at the top to go into decline..   But the moments of glory for the people near the apex may not last forever. As their communalistic values weaken, they too could move into decline, like the proud civilizations before them.   They have another problem.    Today, changes in global economics and information make it much easier than before for rationalistic societies such as China, India, Taiwan and Korea to develop the skills and markets needed for rapid economic progress.   As we see today, they are moving rapidly up the curve of progress. They are already strong competitors.    But they are moving up from the right. And they have to do this deliberately, often by borrowing skills and systems from others.    Where the north European societies and Japan deserve praise was in their ability autonomously to develop the skills and markets needed for manufacturing growth. And ironically they were able to do this thanks to their delayed progress in the past.   Being in the Right Place at the Right Time   Geography was the crucial factor.   Look at a map of the world and you will see clearly what Japan and northern Europe have in common.   Both were fairly isolated areas (Japan and Britain especially, with their island isolation) at the eastern and western extremities of the Eurasian continents.   That isolation left them fairly free from excessive domination by more powerful rationalistic civilizations. They were allowed a long period of village and feudal gestation. They were under no pressure to move quickly to rationalistic values.   But they were close enough to the main centers of civilization to be able to bring in rationalistic values, skills and systems needed for progress - from China in the case of Japan, and from South Europe and the Middle East in the case of north Europe.   They were able to combine the best of both worlds - the communal, practical values of the village and then feudal society with the more rationalistic. scientific values of the advanced civilizations.   On this basis they were able to progress, but at their own time and pace.   Progress Differences   Even so, there were important differences in the rate of progress. Once again geography was a key factor.   Japan went further than the others in developing feudal values because of its greater isolation and because it was fortunate enough to have a fairly non-aggressive rationalistic neighbor - China – nearby from which it could borrow easily the rationalistic systems needed for feudal progress.    (Korea was a slightly different case. Contiguity meant it could easily be dominated by Chinese civilization, which explains the many similarities today between the Koreans and the Chinese. )   Western Europe came much more heavily under the influence of southern European civilization, which explains why it was able earlier than Japan to move away from feudalism and towards democracy and modernisation.   However, Germany's feudal period lasted much longer, which explains the many similarities with Japan - strong manufacturing ethic, communal bank-enterprise relations, emotionalism, propensity to mad militarism, obsession with orderliness and punctuality etc..   Scandinavia and Holland come somewhere in between.   France, located between north and south Europe,is an interesting amalgam of village values and highly rationalistic values, with the elite biased strongly to the rationalistic.   Spain and Italy owed their Renaissance peaks to an even stronger mix of the communal ethic developed in the Dark Ages and the lingering influences of Roman and Greek civilization. Later they were to be somewhat influenced by the feudal ethic developed in North Europe.   9. THE REST OF THE WORLD   In short, the ability to proceed from collectivist village values to feudal values and then to strong centralized states with strong binding ideologies is something common to all of us.   We saw it in South America with the Mayan, Aztec and Inca societies. We saw it in Africa, with some input from Islam.   Freed from outside invasion but open to outside contacts it is quite likely these proto-civilizations could have matured into advanced civilizations.   But none were strong enough at the time to resist Western Europe's conquistadors.   Southeast Asia was similar to Japan in that, initially at least, it could develop largely in isolation and with some input from the advanced civilizations of China, India and the Middle East.   The many similarities between Japanese values and those of Indonesia, Thai and the Philippines is one result.   Quite sophisticated feudalistic societies emerged, in Indonesia especially and to some extent Thailand. In the Philippines we saw an advanced village (barrio) culture emerge.   Sadly they were to be largely destroyed by Western invasion and penetration, though in Bali, the last region to be invaded by the Dutch, isolation had helped create an advanced feudal ethic very similar to that of Tokugawa Japan.   (It is tempting to speculate that but for that Western intervention, Indonesia if left to itself could have developed into an industrial giant similar to Japan today.)   The harm done by colonization and other Western interventions into these culturally developing societies is little realised.   Societies must be allowed do develop organically, at their own time and pace. Chop into that organic development and it is almost impossible to recover.   The squalor and poverty of the Inca campesinos in Peru, eking out a miserable living next to the extraordinary monuments left by an earlier Inca empire, is mute testimony.   The idea that a superior civilization can somehow be imposed from outside is wrong, often criminally wrong.   Japan, with its successful efforts to prevent such imposition during the aggressive phase of Western colonization, is standing proof.   And once again, it was saved by geography.   Of all the offshore Asian nations it was the one closest to a relatively peaceful China. This meant it was able to gain the full benefits of Chinese civilization absorbed at its own time and pace over the centuries.   But of all the non-Western nations it was furthest removed from the aggressive West, and therefore best able to avoid the harm of colonization.   True, Japan gained enormously from being able to absorb key elements in Western civilization. Others given the same opportunity did not do so well.   One reason why Japan could be so receptive was that its feudal development had so closely matched that of Western Europe. Others were not so fortunate.   (Back in the 1990's the progressive-minded British Japanologist, Ronald Dore, had an interesting explanation for Japan's seemingly superior progress at the time.   (As he saw it, societies moved through three stages - feudalism, competitive capitalism, cooperative capitalism.   (We in the West - Anglo societies especially - were still stuck at the competitive capitalism stage.   (Japan had graduated to cooperative capitalism.   (If Dore had said that Japan had gone from feudalism to cooperative capitalism - as had happened in the West to some extent - and had yet to embrace the faults of competitive capitalism, he would have been closer to the mark.   10 CONCLUSIONS   We used to assume that north European/American industrialisation represented the peak of rationalistic human development.   In fact, the north European values of hard work, diligence, honesty, trust, practicality and groupist cooperation all emerged from Japanese-style, village/feudal societies.   While the south European and other continental peoples were creating great civilisations, we north Europeans - Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Scandanavia - were passing through a long history of village isolation maturing gradually into feudalism.   But we had also been able to bring in civilization from outside - in our case from southern Europe and the Middle east - and combine it with our village-feudal values.   As with Japan, we were able to combine the communalistic with the rationalistic. On this basis we had developed the modern industrial societies of today.   The only real difference was that our move to rationalistic values had preceded that of Japan. That was because we were closer to more rationalistic civilizations nearby, and more easily dominated by them.   So rationalistic values had become more deeply embedded, especially among our elite.   But as in Japan, they had never been able to eradicate the lingering strength of village/feudal values. They were simply stronger, which had meant that our social and economic progress had come earlier, with the Japanese borrowing heavily from our experience.   Rationalistic Recovery?   Meanwhile what happens with the Chinese, Indians etc.? They had slipped into rationalistic-based decline over the centuries. But this did not rule out recovery.   As I said and wrote at the time, their ideologies could be toned down. Their bureaucrats could be forced to reform and their scholars to be more realistic - particularly as they had to stomach their rationalistic pride and explain why Japan and the West had made such progress and they had not.   Nor did it rule out their ability to gain industrial progress by other means. China's emergence as a manufacturing powerhouse, and India's sudden emergence as an IT giant was no accident.   Their entrepreneurs are smart people - a lot smarter than many Japanese and Western entrepreneurs. They also had the advantage of cheap labor.   Besides, there had always been a way for the Chinese, the Indians etc to break out of their hitherto crippling bias to non-economic activities.   Today, it is even simpler than before.   Ironically, it relates to the topic of my university research back in the 1960's - the role of foreign direct investment.   I will explain later.   Finally   So having explained the world, all I had to do was get my theories out into the public arena.   But that was to prove a lot harder than I had imagined. Next