Eastern horizons of the art and science of governing

Japanese Journal of Political Science
October 24, 2003

The Japanese Journal of Political Science is in its fourth year. An evaluation of its goals and of how well it is fulfilling them is timely.

The journal is backed by eminent editors from all areas of political science, but experts on the politics of Japan are particularly well represented. The international advisory board, which ranges from Suzanne Berger and Sidney Verba to Wang Gungwu, is a rollcall of the great and good of comparative political science.

This breadth of interest is echoed in the constitution of the journal, which "welcomes contributions in all fields of the discipline, especially where these have a conceptual thrust, including political theory, comparative politics, political behaviour, political institutions, public policy, and international relations". The journal also seeks to provide comparative articles on Japan and East Asia.

Although the balance between Japan-related and non-Japan related research articles is varied, roughly half have some Japanese content and of these, many deal with voting patterns and the electoral system. The geographic focus of the remaining articles embraces Korea, China, Thailand and Vietnam, but also includes an evaluation of democracy that takes as its proximate subject post-unification Germany. There is a preponderance of comparative, cross-country research. Some of this examines the impact of political culture on the functioning of institutions in Japan and other countries, for example, France.

Jean Blondel and Takashi Inoguchi use an East-West comparative study of non-elite actors to argue the case for the importance of political culture and the persistence of cultural differences in relationships between citizens, states and the processes of globalisation.

Lucien Pye contrasts the impact on political culture in China and Russia of a loosening of totalitarian controls. The scope is broad, but this breadth is not achieved at the cost of depth or topicality. The interests of topicality are served particularly well by semi-regular features on executive turnover, elections and the legislative programme in Japan.

The second major divide is between articles based on empirical research and those based on quantitative studies and rational-choice analysis. Since proponents of both approaches are represented on the editorial and advisory boards, the journal can be expected to continue to provide succour to both sides of the politics-as-art versus politics-as-science debate. For academics on either side, the mix is likely to be acceptable. In the case of the general reader, the maxim expounded by Stephen Hawking's publisher on the negative correlation between the presence of equations in the text and sales is likely to hold true.

There is a short, up-to-date review section that, in the choice of monographs, reflects a similar geographical balance to the main body of the journal. The inclusion of recent Japanese literature for review is especially useful to western scholars monitoring the cutting edge of Japanese research. Okiyoshi Takeda's review of Kentaro Fukumoto's Politics in the Japanese Diet , for example, sets out the academic controversy over the role of the legislature in Japan.

The journal has developed a distinctive style of comparative political analysis that is discipline and area-based. Almost without exception, empirical and quantitative research articles are of the highest standard.

Recent volumes have addressed the problem of a sporadic inclusion of an abstract for each article, but a short biography of the authors would be welcome. The promise of a forum for comments has not materialised. Such a section would be useful to readers, who might include anyone with an interest in Japan and East Asia, and political scientists who seek to expand their comparative horizons.

Lesley Connors is former lecturer, University of London, and a writer on Japanese politics.

Japanese Journal of Political Science

Editor - Takashi Inoguchi et al
Publisher - Cambridge University Press, biannual
Pages - -
Price - Institutions £77.00 (Online £67.00) Individuals £21.00
ISSN - 1468 1099 (Online ISSN 1474 0060)

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