Between normality and uniqueness: Unwrapping the enigma of Japanese security policy decision-making

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To many observers Japanese decision-making is an enigma that defies conventional analysis. Neither the traditional rational actor model of decision-making, nor alternative pluralist models proposed for the analysis of Western democracies fit the Japanese case. As a result Japanese security policy decision-making is described as reactive or even non-existent. Likewise, the anomaly of Japanese decision-making is ultimately predicted to be resolved through a process of normalization whereby Japanese policy formation evolves into a form that does fit these models. However, this paper contends that the fact that Japan's security decision-making does not fit commonly-used models is due rather to the limitations of those models. Japan's security policy, like that of all states, is gradually evolving, but this does not mean that it is about to become just like the West. This paper addresses how a conjuncture of external factors and internal factors has stimulated important changes in Japanese security policy-making which are frequently missed or misinterpreted by observers. In order to understand Japanese security policy-making, and to chart its future course, a refined cybernetic approach is introduced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1313-1336
Number of pages24
JournalModern Asian Studies
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2010


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