Hall continues here in the vein he began mining in Cartels of the Mind. Hall has spent some thirty years in Japan. In that time, he has worked as a diplomat, journalist, and university professor. In Cartels, Hall argued that Japan was not playing fair in its treatment of foreign professionals. He looked specifically at the obstacles to foreign lawyers, journalists, businessmen, and academics working in Japan-versus the freedom their Japanese counterparts enjoyed in the US.
In the current text, Hall takes his scalpel to Japan's propaganda system, which he believes distorts the US-Japan relationship. Moreover, in particular, he dissects the effects of American myopia on the relationship, and the largesse Japanese companies and institutions bestow on American universities.
This excellent text is for the serious student of Japan, for those who engage Japan on a more than a superficial level, and for any students who seek to understand a non-Western culture.
In advance of Bamboozled's publication, the publisher asked me to contribute a comment for the cover. Here in full is what I wrote:
Written with rare wit and panache, this book is an intellectual box of chocolates for serious Japan watchers. Drawing on more than thirty years of on-the-spot Japan-watching experience as a diplomat and scholar, Ivan Hall expertly rips into the Tokyo-based propaganda czars who for decades have controlled what we think we know about Japanese economics and politics. Speared too are the naifs, dupes, and charlatans who now dominate Japan studies programs at American think-tanks and universities.
Precisely because this book makes an argument of historic importance, many people desperately do not want you to read it. Of course, they dare not engage in a serious, honest argument about the book's contents. To do so would merely underline how devoid of reason their criticisms are. Instead the critics try, by unsubstantiated and utterly mendacious ad hominem slurs, to persuade you not to buy the book in the first place. That way you will never know what an important book this is.
The essence of Hall's argument is that during the 1990s and even into the new century the Japanese establishment absurdly exaggerated Japan's economic distress in an effort to deflect American pressure on trade. That Hall has a point is obvious to every foreigner who visits Tokyo these days: despite 13 years of "slump," the Japanese people have somehow so improved their living standards that they now clearly rank among the world's richest consumers. Just the most obvious manifestation of their wealth is their life expectancy, now the world's highest and up 14 years since the late 1940s. As for Japan's burgeoning ability to project economic power abroad, just one statistic tells the story: Japan's net foreign assets have tripled since the "slump" began.
To understand the full significance of Hall's work it is important to know the field in which he works. Japan watching is suffused with Japanese money -- money that shapes what is taught in American universities, what is said in American forums, what is published in American books and newspapers. Virtually alone among America's Japan-watching scholars, Hall has spurned this money. Saying "No" to the inflated speaking fees and the generous academic subventions that Tokyo showers on those who serve its propaganda agenda, Hall has chosen a way of life that hardly leads to riches. But he possesses something much more precious -- and in Japan studies much rarer -- than riches: a reputation for uncompromising integrity.
More prosaically the practical Japan-watching credentials he brings to the subject are second to none. These include not only a Harvard doctorate in Japanese history but, what is even more useful, several decades of school-of-hard-knocks experience as a Tokyo-based Japan watcher.
A hint of how important this book is can be gleaned from who has been criticizing it. On the one hand many of Hall's detractors are the sort of brave fellows who hide between pseudonyms. Then there is the Tokyo establishment. Just how much the establishment hates this book became apparent earlier this year when the Tokyo Ministry of Foreign Affairs stepped into the discussion. In a private e-mail message to Japan Societies throughout the United States, a top MOFA official called for an organized effort to "fight back" against Hall. As these societies are heavily dependent on funding from Tokyo, the subtext of the MOFA's message was none too subtle: any Japan society that sponsored a talk by Hall might have to account for its actions the next time the paymasters in Tokyo reviewed their budgets.
Eamonn Fingleton, author of Unsustainable: Why Economic Dogma Is Destroying American Prosperity (Nation Books, 2003).
Ivan Hall's latest book should prove to be controversial for a number of important reasons, chief of which is his contention that Japan continues to outwit and outflank the United States on trade and other important economic matters. He further contends that Japanese society is constructed in such a manner that voices of dissent are stifled, that a large number of American academics, journalists and diplomats have been either bought, bought, beguiled or bamboozled by their Japanese counterparts into being proponents of Japanese neo-mercantilist policies. Hall is clearly not among that number.
Instead of accepting the prevailing orthodoxy that Japan is suffering from a prolonged recession, Hall believes that the Japanese economy is as buoyant as it ever was. Although he cites countless examples to show where Japanese industry continues to outpace her rivals, his main points are that a large coterie of journalists, academics and other commentators are deceived by Japanese spin doctors into believing that Japan is economically weak and that those deceived commentators assist Japan in continuing to accumulate vast trade surpluses with almost every other country in the world.
Although he is right to dismiss those who are beguiled by tea ceremonies, geisha girls and the other accoutrements of Japan's "soft diplomacy", he appears not to give some underlying socioeconomic imperatives their due weight. Prior to Perry's Black Ships, Japan was not invaded, solely because she was too strong to be invaded. When Perry forced the Japanese to engage with the world, the Japanese proved to be excellent students. When Japan's armies marched in to Korea, China and other countries to build, at bayonet point, markets for Japanese goods, the Japanese were merely copying the prevailing imperialist orthodoxies of the Dutch, British and Americans. Hall's book would have been considerably enhanced by acknowledging that Japanese imperialism was, in essence, no different from the prevailing European or American varieties.
When Japanese mercantilism ended in 1945, the Americans forged Japanese economic policies to serve America's own ends. The emergence of Communist China and the Korean war reinforced Japan's new, American inspired neo-mercantilist role: sheltering under the Pax Americana, Japan now exported its transistor radios and Honda motor bikes to the four corners of the globe. Japan is still doing that. Because the United States is the world's most important market, much of Japan's exports go to the United States and Japan, quite naturally, expends quite a lot of resources in "soft diplomacy" guaranteeing and solidifying those markets. The Japanese endow American universities and wine and dine journalists so that they will not bite the Japanese hand that gives them succor. Although Hall makes the important point that no other country does this to the same degree, Japan is the world's second largest economy: no other country could, in other words, afford to do so. And, of course, no other major country is as dependent
on export markets as Japan is.
If the old Japanese cliche that the nail that sticks up gets hammered down has any validity, Japanese society must be structured to marginalize dissent. This must prove particularly irksome for people like Ivan Hall, who so passionately espouse the key American principle of unfettered free speech. Hall is to be applauded for pointing out where Westerners have belittled, if not betrayed, that principle when dealing with Japan. He is also to be applauded for bringing attention to some of the less savory players in modern Japanese political life.
In showing how some key American commentators have sold their souls for a mess of Japanese pottage, Hall's book is to be welcomed as, in the long run, such invidious intellectual prostitution does not serve the interests of either country.
Postscript: When I invited Hall to speak to my students on this subject, a small coterie of my colleagues conspired to stop him speaking and branded him an anti American racist. An odd occurrence as The Tokyo American Chamber of Commerce threw their doors open to Hall, an American veteran. Hall's persecution merely proved his point: that a small band of pampered American under achievers do not want open or informed debate on Japan or anything else for that matter. I explore this issue in chapter 6 of my new book and tie it into the nutty censorship that is prevalent in America where academics like Ward Churchill can say the oddest, the most uninformed and the most needlessly hurtful of things. Hall's earlier book, Cartels of the Mind, also came in for intense criticism by the "usual suspects". But a moment's thought would show his basic hypothesis has substance: Japan, the land of cartels, should obviously be partial to cartels of the mind. Or cartels of the mindless if we include Hall's cowardly critics. When I invited Hall to speak, I remarked to an "old friend of Hall's" (very much a fairweather one as it happened), that I was in the spirit of Voltaire: not necessarily agreeing with Hall but defending his right to speak (just as the American Chamber of Commerce did). Others take a different tack and they oppose freedon of speech or informed debate because it threatens their pampered existence. Bamboozled is worth reading as, like Cartels, it extends the "Closing of the Mind" thesis done by these intellectual harlots from the US to Japan. Hall did a PhD on Japan at Harvard and those who sat in the same class as him do not want his voice heard or his points raised. That should be reason enough to see for yourself what it is they are so afraid of.
While much is overrated, Ivan Hallfs gBamboozled,h cannot be. Ivan Hallfs critical and compelling tome examines Americafs frequently misguided relationship with our greatest economic rival in the world today. gBamboozled,h is required reading for anyone seeking to understand Japan.
Regardless of whether one agrees with Hall's outlook on the current Japanese economic crisis, and the United State's handling of their crisis, Hall's book is a little over-the-top. The `proof' that backs his theories involves nothing that can be measured or verified - merely a poor combination of personal experiences and encounters. It draws too heavily on assumptions regarding Japanese attitudes and motives without adequately proving them. It comes across that Hall is of the opinion that everyone in Japan approaches the United States and their own country with a singular mindset, and continually refers to the Japanese government as "Tokyo", as if a city is capable of making decisions.