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The Wages of Affluence

The Wages of Affluence

Labor and Management in Postwar Japan

Andrew Gordon

ISBN 9780674007062

Publication date: 11/15/2001

Andrew Gordon goes to the core of the Japanese enterprise system, the workplace, and reveals a complex history of contest and confrontation. The Japanese model produced a dynamic economy which owed as much to coercion as to happy consensus. Managerial hegemony was achieved only after a bitter struggle that undermined the democratic potential of postwar society. The book draws on examples across Japanese industry, but focuses in depth on iron and steel. This industry was at the center of the country's economic recovery and high-speed growth, a primary site of corporate managerial strategy and important labor union initiatives.

Beginning with the Occupation reforms and their influence on the workplace, Gordon traces worker activism and protest in the 1950s and '60s, and how they gave way to management victory in the 1960s and '70s. He shows how working people had to compromise institutions of self-determination in pursuit of economic affluence. He illuminates the Japanese system with frequent references to other capitalist nations whose workplaces assumed very different shape, and looks to Japan's future, rebutting hasty predictions that Japanese industrial relations are about to be dramatically transformed in the American free-market image. Gordon argues that it is more likely that Japan will only modestly adjust the status quo that emerged through the turbulent postwar decades he chronicles here.


  • The Wages of Affluence establishes, convincingly, that Japanese workers and managers are very human. This is a major achievement, and confirms Andrew Gordon's place as a truly outstanding scholar of Japanese labour history...The overwhelming richness of the written and interview material marshalled to discuss these questions makes compelling reading. Industrial relations history is deftly interwoven with the broader social and political context of the time. Indeed, the control for the workplace spilled over into the home, the streets, the courts and even the arena of international relations. Those wishing to understand the post-war remaking of Japan's political economy and society will find much of value in this book...This is a major contribution to our understanding of Japanese industrial relations, business and social history, which will justifiably find its way on to many course lists and bibliographies.

    —D. H. Whittaker, Business History


  • Andrew Gordon is Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History, Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 288 pages
  • 5-11/16 x 8-15/16 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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