Dear Sir,

The Japanese Miracle interview seemed to be very confusing both factually as well as in its tenor. GN.Krishnan asks a question to Prof. Takeshi Hayashi about their (Japanese) refusal to invest substantially in R and D. I do not know where from he got this information. Let me refer to one area about which I have some knowledge namely 'Advanced Ceramics'. A study was undertaken (1985) to compare the R and D efforts in this area by Japan, Western Europe, and U.S.A. Japan spent nearly $ 50 million / year compared to $ 35-40 million / year by U.S.A. and much less by Western Europe. SONY spends 6% of its turnover on R and D which for a company of SONY'S size is very big money if we compare globally. Japanese got the Nobel prize in Physics in recognition of the work he did in the R and D division of SONY. All this is not Rand D in the typical Western style.

The question put by the interviewer to Prof.Hayashi on Japanese Iron and Steel industry as also the answer gives a very wrong impression. Japan, at present (assuming CIS to be one country) - is the third highest producer of steel in the world over 100 million tones. The production varies, according to the demand but this is the maximum that they can produce. Nippon Steel has a steel plant which is nearly two decades old and can produce up to 9 million tons of steel per year. The plant in any one shift is run by less than 100 persons. I mention this to slow the extent of 'modernization' in the 'Western' sense of the word. Japanese now a day’s boast of the most stringent specification for their steel products. For the production of these grades you need all kinds 'modern' units. There is a debate whether we need such stringent specification for large variety of applications. To sum up - the traditional sector in iron and steel industry plays a very insignificant role both quantitatively and qualitatively. Does one get this impression by reading the interview? The title given to the interview was The 'Japanese Miracle and it is a miracle in the 'Western' sense. There were oxygen booths on the footpaths of Tokyo for people to breathe; the city had such terrible pollution. As the interview progresses it seem the interviewers carefully avoided the 'Western' characteristics of the 'miracle'. We all try to look for data for supporting our view points. But too many omissions make the purpose self-defeating.

Barundeb Muldterjee Calcutta.

(We have forwarded the letter of Sri Barundeb Mukherjee to Prof.Hayashi for his response. The response of the two interviewers C.N.Krishnan and A.V.Balasubramanian is published below - Editor).

Your interview with Prof.Takeshi Hayashi in the Issue No: 22 (March 1992) of the PPST Bulletin has elicited some amount of response from our readers. Some of the responses have been appreciative and laudatory many others have been quite sharp, disapproving and even outright condemning. Most of these have been communicated orally the only written comment expressing very serious disapproval has been from Shri.Barun Deb Mukerjee of Calcutta. As Sri Barun's letter alone does not cover all points of disagreement expressed by many of the readers, we are taking the liberty of summarizing below, in our own words, the main points brought out against the interview:

  1. Some statements are factually wrong and misleading. For example, Sri Barun Deb Mukerjee challenges the statement that Japan had not been investing in R and D as much as some other Western countries. Japan has actually done the same thing in this regard as the West and nothing different or original according to him.

  2. It is a myth to claim that any significant amount of industrial production in Japan today is being done by the 'traditional' techniques as against the 'western' techniques. The discussion of steel industry gives a very misleading impression in this regard. There is nothing 'Japanese' as distinct from 'western' in any of their industrial organization.

  3. The interviewers have carefully and consciously avoided any reference to the 'seamier' side of the 'Miracle' story the social, psychological, emotional ecological cost at which the 'Miracle' has been made possible. No reference at all to the widespread practice of drinking, widespread prostitution and poor status of women, high levels of psychological disorders and suicide rates, high levels of political corruption, lack of democratic and working class consciousness and movements, high levels of pollution and environmental degradation, unscrupulous and exploitative trade and commercial practices with other nations (particularly of the Third world), etc. The entire interview was an effort to whitewash the true story of how Japan achieved power and wealth, and hold it out as an example for others to follow.

  4. The interviewers have tried to conjure up a myth that what Japan has done is not 'westernization', but that they have evolved a 'Japanese path' to modernization quite distinct from that of the west. And also that the 'Miracle' has been achieved with the Japanese soul intact! The mischief here is in the suggestion that we can also become 'modem' keeping our Indian’s intact.

  5. The interview is a clear pointer that the PPST is now saying things quite different from what it was doing earlier. (To quote Sri.Barun again, 'we all try to look for data for supporting our viewpoints. But too many omissions make the purpose self-defeating). To want to promote Japan (the crassly imitative Westernizer, if ever there was one) as a model for development is indeed as far as one can possibly get from the days of uncompromising anti-modernism and anti-westernism.

Now, that indeed is quite a bit we would like to respond to them as best as we can within the constraints of space available to us:

  1. While the factual inaccuracies, if any, have to be corrected, we have largely gone
    by the opinion of Prof.Hayashi on many matters pertaining to Japan. It is our understanding that the concept and organization of industrial R and D in Japan is not a mere imitation of the western model, and that the Japanese have evolved an approach that is original and unique to them. Greater expert analysis and deliberations on this theme would be most welcome.

  2. It has not been the idea of the interviewers at all to suggest that Japan is still running its industry using its traditional technologies. What was coming out of the discussion with Prof.Hayashi was that

    1. The modem industry in Japan did not imply a complete break or discontinuity with their traditional industries (as it did in our case) it absorbed much of the resources, skills and tools from the traditional after modifying them suitably.

    2. The modern industry in Japan was not hoisted on an artificial and non-existent social base it was largely mapped on to the traditionally existing industrial social base, in some essential continuity with it; this resulting in evolution of managerial and administrative principles and practices quite distinct from those of the west.

    It is thus that while the modern steel mills of Japan have little resemblance to their traditional iron and steel works, the modern and the traditional Japanese industry are not the works of two different (and disjoint) sets of minds there is an essential connectedness and evolution from the latter to the former.

  3. The purpose of our interview was not to bring out (to 'expose') what all is wrong in the Japanese 'model' it was not even to give a 'balanced' picture of Japan, with all its 'pros' and 'cons' in place. The purpose of the exercise was to understand and identify the essential sources of strength of modern Japan; to understand how it could acquire so much strength and power in spite of so many obvious disadvantages and disabilities. The luxury of dwelling upon the 'seamier' side of Japan is probably not permitted to us the privileged and the elite of this nation that even after forty five years of independence, has no clues as to how to feed, clothe and shelter half of its population.

  4. It is a fact that there is very little Indian learning, scholarship and interpretation of the Japanese society and nation; our image of Japan is largely what is picked up from the western media and their interpretation. It is thus undoubtedly not easy to conclude emphatically as to what exactly has been the nature of transformation that Japan has been undergoing. It is however not correct to conclude that Japan has merely copied everything from the west just because their dresses, cars, highways and cities do not look much different from those of the west. It does appear that certain core aspects of their society, language, education, family, social norms and customs, forms and modes of organization, public life and polity - have retained their uniquely Japanese character with the result that the modem Japanese person and society are quite distinct from their western (or any other) counterparts. The issue here is not one of whether such a thing is good/bad, desirable/undesirable etc it is not even one of whether this is a lasting phenomenon. The Japanese case only seems to suggest that the choice is 'not necessarily limited to either staying totally traditional or totally westernizing. Put more explicitly, it is not obvious from the Japanese example that our attachment to many of our civilization norms and values is what is stopping us from becoming strong in the modern context.

  5. Now: to the 'charge' that the interviewers where implying things quite contrary to what the PPST has been saying for long. To put things in perspective, the main thrust of the PPST's efforts so far have been to show the following:

    1. The need for us to evolve our own understanding and evaluation of the west ' and not accept the claims of the west about itself and its role in the world during the last 500 or so years. We should not lose sight of the hard core of power, control, intolerance, violence and domination that lie behind the 'soft exterior of 1 the west decorated with words like 'enlightenment', 'democracy and equality', 'development and progress', 'pursuit of knowledge and truths', etc.

    2. The need for us to evolve our own understanding and assessment of our civilization core, and not blindly accept the interpretations about ourselves offered by the West or anyone else. While there is need for us to weed out whatever weaknesses and short comings that exist, there has to be an understanding and appreciation of the essential soundness of our civilization core.

    3. The essential reason for the large scale failures in all our post-independence efforts at social reconstruction and nation building has been that we were following models, concepts, tools and techniques blindly borrowed from the West, and quite unsuited to us. For us to achieve success in our efforts, they will have to be based upon and consistent with, the living core of our own tradition and civilization and any borrowing of tools and techniques from outside has to be done with great discretion and discrimination.

Having spent about ten years trying to establish the above viewpoint, the PPST has been of late attempting to work out some details of what follows from it. To the interviewers of Prof.Hayashi, it is clear that the prime task before us all is one of nation-building. The task initiated during our independence movement of putting together a nation that is strong, sound and viable in this modern context, has to be carried forward to completion in as short a time as possible. To those who feel this is a dilution of the lofty civilization concerns displayed earlier, it should be said that the tallest personality that our civilization had produced in a few centuries, viz. Mahatma Gandhi himself had deemed it fit, to spend much of his life in putting a nation together. (He is called the Father of the Nation). While we believe as strongly as ever that there is much that our civilization can contribute to the world, none of that is possible as long as we, as a nation, are a picture of poverty, weakness, strife, disarray, subjugation, disharmony and discord. With all our undoubted wisdom and insight, we indeed cut such a sorry figure in today's world. In fact it is as though that the world is slowly passing us by while we stay caught in a hole as it were; we as a nation are slowly acquiring the status of the largest slum in the world It is indeed the 'Indian Miracle' that we could manage to bring about such a situation despite so many favorable and positive things going for us - a bountiful and benevolent nature, a highly cultured and skillful people, and a great tradition of glorious attainments in all domains of life.

Our talk with Prof.Hayashi had the prime objectives of comprehending how that country went about the task of nation building and effecting the transformation from tradition to modernity - its version of modernity. We were interested in the Japanese Miracle' as we have to put an end to the. Indian Miracle at the earliest. Having said that, it should also be added that perhaps there is not much that one can learn from others experiences. Probably the most important thing that one can learn from the 'success-stories' of others is that none of it can be duplicated by anyone else, and that each nation has to evolve its own unique path according to its own tradition, history and genius.

We are told that 8.5 percent of a motor car is made here, but the other 15 percent is the most important. Unless we can make a cent percent motor car, I prefer to go back to the Ox-cart age, rather than go in an imported car.

Author: Mohini Mullick

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