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Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle: The Rules of Scandal in Japan and the United States Hardcover – January 15, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0226894089 ISBN-10: 0226894088

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (January 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226894088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226894089
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,128,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“This is a wonderful, original, erudite, interesting, creative, and insightful book. Making equal use of quantitative methods and television kitsch, Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle examines the mixture of legal and social norms that play a role in the emergence and resolution of scandals in the U.S. and Japan. Some passages are laugh-out loud funny, others head-scratchingly profound. It will create stir, become the subject of debate, be imitated and admired, subject to careful criticism and bountiful praise.”

(Eric Feldman, University of Pennsylvania Law School 2006-03-15)

“An insider’s knowledge and an outsider’s ironic detachment: this book has it all. Mark West has written a book that is both fun to read and a fundamental contribution to our understanding of law and society in Japan. Not just for Japanologists, Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle is a model of how to understand the underside of modern societies.”--James Q. Whitman, Yale Law School

(James Q. Whitman 2006-09-15)

“This original comparative study of national scandals in Japan and the United States highlights the dynamic relationships that exist between the law, news media, and cultural values in these two countries. West brushes aside many of the usual ‘cultural’ arguments about Japan and the United States, thereby avoiding the tired clichés of  'Japaneseness' so many writers put at the center of studies of cultural difference. What emerges instead is an important and pathbreaking examination of the players who create scandal, the institutions that make up the playing ground, and the rules that control the various scandal ‘games.’”--William Johnston, Wesleyan University


(William Johnston 2006-09-15)

"Secret, Sex, and Spectacle stands out by its lively style, lucidity, and erudition. It should appeal to anyone interested in scandal, Japan, or the interaction of society, culture, and law in norm enforcement. In West's engaging book, scandal both reveals the inner logic of Japanese society and plays a central role in its public life."
(Ari Adut Law & Society Review)

"West is . . . encyclopedic in his knowledge of popular culture in both countries and clearly enjoys sharing the juicy parts. . . . [The book] provides intriguing if idiosyncratic portraits of Japanese and American behavior by combining analytic perspectives that are rarely related to each other."
(Frank K. Upham Journal of Japanese Studies)

"This contribution to the comparative study of law in everyday life is richly detailed, entertaining, and insightful."
(Mark D. Jacobs American Journal of Sociology)

From the Inside Flap

A leader of a global superpower is betrayed by his mistress, who makes public the sordid details of their secret affair. His wife stands by as he denies the charges. Debates over definitions of moral leadership ensue. Sound familiar? If you guessed Clinton and Lewinsky, try again. This incident involved former Japanese prime minister Sosuke Uno and a geisha.

In Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle, Mark D. West organizes the seemingly random worlds of Japanese and American scandal—from corporate fraud to baseball cheaters, political corruption to celebrity sexcapades—to explore well-ingrained similarities and contrasts in law and society. In Japan and the United States, legal and organizational rules tell us what kind of behavior is considered scandalous. When Japanese and American scandal stories differ, those rules—rules that define what’s public and what’s private, rules that protect injuries to dignity and honor, and rules about sex, to name a few—often help explain the differences. In the cases of Clinton and Uno, the rules help explain why the media didn’t cover Uno’s affair, why Uno’s wife apologized on her husband’s behalf, and why Uno—and not Clinton—resigned.

Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle offers a novel approach to viewing the phenomenon of scandal—one that will be applauded by anyone who has obsessed over (or ridiculed) these public episodes.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Sutter on May 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The cover of this book is a bit of a tease. What lies within is not a breezy bit of titillation, but a footnote-rich book about comparative law. It's not a fast read -- quite the opposite (unless your sensibility has been warped by the grotesque literary standards of American legal scholarship, in which case this book reads like a romance novel). In case you're wondering, the "sex" chapter takes up only about 15% of the main text, and includes the relatively humdrum topic of divorce. So cool down.

Within the parameters the author has chosen for the book -- a comparison of Japanese and US attitudes towards what constitutes a scandal, what types of social and legal redress (group discipline, defamation law, etc.) are avaliable against an allegation of a scandal, how protagonists are punished (or not), and how to apologize -- it is terrific. The emphasis is on Japan, with US mainly as a foil to highlight the Japanese point of view. And that point of view can be quite surprising for a Westerner. E.g., West compares the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal with a 1989 scandal involving then-Prime Minister Uno Sousuke and a mistress. The public turned against Uno, who was forced to resign. But it wasn't because he had an affair. Rather, the trouble came after the mistress revealved that Uno gave her only $3,000/month support (much of which he consumed by eating meals at her house most nights) -- Uno was too cheap.

The book describes literally dozens of scandals involving corporations, entertainers, athletes, politicians and ordinary citizens. The emphasis is on the past 20 years or so (Heisei Emperor's era); in fact many of the scandals are from 2000-2005.
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