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Blindside: Why Japan Is Still on Track to Overtake the U.S. By the Year 2000 Hardcover – March 20, 1995

15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Sometimes it seems as if Americans see Washington as the Vatican of world capitalism and Tokyo as merely another diocese," writes Fingleton, Asia editor of Euromoney magazine, but "for the Japanese a more appropriate metaphor is the secular one of corporate competition. Tokyo is playing Microsoft to Washington's IBM." And Fingleton, closely examining Japan's economic thrust and its cultural traditions, finds it the inevitable winner. He compares favorably Japan's managed economy with the U.S. drive for free trade; discusses the pragmatic Confucian attitudes toward hierarchy, both for individuals and nations, versus the "American rhetoric" about democracy; and asserts that not only has America been poorly served for decades by its economists, politicians, media and elite, but it has been "blindsided" by Japan's misleading habits of apparent deference and its own "semireligious" view of economics. Although Japan is not on an ideological crusade to take over the world economically, its power structure gives it a flexibility that can make it the next global leader, asserts the author. This provocative and informed analysis is an antidote to the recent flurry of critiques that see Japan's current economic troubles as the same old omens of decline.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Despite the title and the publisher's statement on the book jacket (describing this book as a "disturbing portrait of the economic juggernaut that is still on course to overtake America by the century's close"), this is not a work of paranoid Japan-bashing in the manner of T. Boone Pickens and others' The Second Pearl Harbor: Say No to Japan (LJ 2/1/92) or Michael Crichton's best-selling novel Rising Sun. Rather, it is a thoughtful and insightful analysis of the inner workings of the Japanese economy, with particular emphasis on how it differs from the U.S. economy in outlook and perception. While the work clearly displays the problems arising from America's failure to understand how the Japanese think and operate, the work contains little of the conspiratorial thinking and out-and-out racial stereotypes of the aforementioned works. This book, by a journalist and business writer who has lived in Japan since 1985, is instead well written and balanced and deserves careful reading by anyone interested in its subject.
Scott Wright, Univ. of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; 1st edition (March 20, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395633168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395633168
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,572,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Eamonn Fingleton is a former editor for the Financial Times in London and Forbes magazine in New York who is known for his early and outspoken identification of postindustrialism as a prime cause of American decline.

In Blindside in 1995 and In Praise of Hard Industries in 1999, he challenged the then consensus that a shift to an all-digital New Economy would propel the United States to a new, unchallengeably high level of competitiveness. He poured particular scorn on what he called financialism, a tendency for financial services to pre-empt an ever larger share of U.S. GDP and human talent. America's financial services industry, he argued, was "a cuckoo in the economy's nest." Writing from a base in Tokyo, where he lived for 27 years, he warned that if Washington failed to stop the erosion of manufacturing, America would rapidly lose competitiveness, incur increasing trade deficits, and sink ever deeper into debt to the manufacturing-based exporting economies of East Asia.

He calculated that, per unit of output, manufacturing businesses are nearly ten times stronger exporters on average than services. One reason is that manufactured products generally require little adaptation to sell abroad. By contrast such key postindustrial products as computer software have to be expensively adapted to meet different cultural needs in foreign markets and the costs are generally incurred abroad. In other cases, American postindustrial companies hire large numbers of foreign employees to provide direct services to foreign customers. Either way the net receipts transmitted back to the United States are minimal.

In Fingleton's view, those who have dismissed America's manufacturing base as the "Rust Belt" display deep ignorance of modern First World manufacturing. Advanced manufacturing these days is highly capital-intensive, which means that each worker's productivity is greatly leveraged by sophisticated production machinery. This creates ample scope for employers to pay high wages. Advanced manufacturers moreover require great accumulations of proprietary production knowhow - typically knowhow acquired over generations of "learning by doing" and often understood only by top engineers who incorporate them into secret machine settings - and this powerfully shields them from low-wage foreign competition.

Fingleton argues that American opinion leaders have been blinded by dogma in believing that when American factories close, this is dictated by the "wisdom of the market." In reality, American manufacturers are competing in a globalized marketplace that is comprehensively rigged against them. The fact is that almost as soon as American corporations invent new, more efficient production technologies, they come under pressure from foreign governments to transfer these out of the United States. If they don't do so, they face non-tariff barriers in the relevant foreign markets. By contrast by moving their best technologies to overseas operations, they improve their foreign market access while retaining their ability to sell into the American market. The net effect is that it is increasingly foreign workers, not American ones, who benefit from corporate America's innovation.

In his most recent book In the Jaws of the Dragon, published in 2008, he identified a policy of suppressing consumption as a main driver of China's rise. The policy - implemented through, for instance, ultra-tight zoning policies which have forced housing costs through the roof and created huge profits for landowners - generates a vast surplus of savings which Chinese leaders then direct, via a state-owned banking system, into equipping industry with ever more efficient production technologies.

Born in Ireland in 1948, he is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin. He is working on a new book entitled Sandcastle Empire: American Decline and the Crisis of Individualism.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is truly looking at Japan through sakura-colored glasses. Nothing close to this fluff has been published since Herman Kahn in the 1970's. Somehow we're supposed to believe that Japan, in its worst economic crisis in FIFTY years, is supposed to economically overrun the U.S. in less than TWO. Well, if you're "persuaded" by that, I have some nice beach-front property in Arizona to sell you cheap. It's ironic that the media praising this book to the skies have never lived in Japan, don't work for a Japanese company, can't speak the language, and know little of the Japanese system.
Mr. Fingleton attacks western economists as all myopic dolts (he doesn't say much though about the Japanese economists who largely agree with them though). All of the Japan's miseries above are all just part of a Master Plan to fool the West before Japan races ahead of the world. He puts forth lots of facts and statistics, yet constantly draws the wrong conclusions. He says more Japanese buy diamonds than Americans, a fact in a vacuum that may be true. But to conclude by such that Japanese are now more affluent is absurd--it ignores consumer preferences--such as Americans would prefer to buy something else. Most of his other arguments have already been debunked by other authors.
If this book has any value at all, it's not to count the Japanese out--even if they're not going to own the world. I've worked in Japan for 11 years now and I can tell you that Fingleton's rosy predictions aren't going to come true any time soon, if ever.
But don't take my word for it--ask those in the Dead Fukuzawa Society, an e-mail discussion group of western and Japanese economists, financial experts, and ex-pats in Japanese corporations (and Fingleton himself is a member).
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In the late 1980s and early 1990s a number of journalistic books appeared which purported to explain how Japan was eating our lunch. "Blindside" is typical of the genre.
These books tended to be based on simplistic anecdote-based economics. Their starting point was Japan's strong postwar economic growth (exagerrated by Japan's asset price bubble of the late 1980s). They uncritically ascribed this to Japan's unique economic institutions or "the Japan model" and then extrapolated forward.
The subtitle of the book "why Japan is still on track to overtake the U.S. by the year 2000" hints that by the time this book was published in 1995 that something was going wrong. Indeed, by 1995, it was apparent to close watchers of the Japanese economy that something was seriously amiss, putting cheerleaders like author Eamonn Fingleton on the defensive. This one was past its "sell by" date the day it was published.
The intervening years have not treated Japan or this book gently. Rather than overtaking the U.S., Japan's economic performance between 1990-2000 was the worst decanal performance exhibited by any industrial country in the postwar period.
This book provides only inadvertant insight into why things went right in Japan for an extended period of time and then began going horribly wrong beginning around 1990.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Writing in The New York Times Book Review in 1995, "Adam Smith" refers to Blindside as an "alarum." He is far too generous. That this unbalanced collection of anecdotal reasoning, historical inaccuracies, and revisionist tripe managed to capture the imaginations of so many respectable thinkers wishing to keep the "economic juggernaut" flames alive in the Nineties speaks volumes as to the extent of the ideological problems within Japan Studies.
Thankfully, with 92 days remaining until the end of Mr. Fingleton's punditry career, protectionists, mercantilists and AFL-CIO members will have to look elsewhere for indirect justification of their own political views. Despite Mr. Fingleton's assertion to the contrary, Japan will not be "overtaking the U.S. by the year 2,000"...if ever. Reality beckons.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ignore the negative reviewers, who are devotees of the laissez-faire economics that has gotten America into the mess it's currently in. This is a superb book, whose unfortunate title was foisted upon the author by the publisher. Its basic thesis, which has stood the test of time since it was written, is that Japan is neither a capitalist nor a communist country, but something else. That something else may not be perfect, but it performs exceptionally well (even though Japan fakes underperformance to keep America off its back). This is supposed to be theoretically impossible, according to the economics usually taught in the U.S. Anyone interested in how the world really works, in its economics at least, will find this book fascinating. Mr. Fingleton has lived in Japan for 20 years, he knows his stuff, and he's a journalist by trade, so he can write well. A cult classic among serious economic dissidents worldwide. Read this book if you want to know things other people don't.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 21, 1997
Format: Hardcover
From Tokyo Journal Magazine - [...]

By Robert Guest

Inside the Puppet Kingdom

Blindside by Eamonn Fingleton

The stockmarket is sinking into Tokyo Bay, like
a yakuza in concrete geta. GNP is growing like rice planted in a desert. Honda's stopped hiring, bad debts are menacing several medium-sized banks, and analysts are whispering that the entire financial system might be on the verge of collapse. Inside the Puppet Kingdom

This is probably not the best time to be publishing a book about the invincibility of the Japanese economic
model. But that is exactly what Eamonn Fingleton,
former Tokyo correspondent of Euro Money, has done.
Blindside is turning out to be this summer's beach
reading for bright young Japanologists everywhere. At
elite private seminars, and on the Internet, young men
with joint Japanese/Economics degrees and prominent
Adam's apples are excitedly picking over Fingleton's
thesis: that Japan is poised to overtake the United States
as the world's largest economy by the year 2000.

This is what's politely called a "brave" argument. In
other words, almost no one agrees with Fingleton.
"Japan seen sliding into second recession," ran a recent
headline in the Financial Times; "Crisis Among the
Rabbit Hutches," observed the Sunday Telegraph. But
Fingleton tackles the doom-merchants head on, with
some perceptive observations about their over-reliance
on Western securities analysts (who tend to be
conventional free marketeers), and ignorance of
Japanese economic history.
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