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Democracy, Governance and Human Rights Programme Paper 9: A Declining Technocratic Regime: Bureaucracy, Political Parties and Interest Groups in Japan, 1950-2000

4 Feb 2003

  • Author(s): Toshihiro Nakamura

The 1950s and 1960s were decades of rapid economic growth for Japan, when technocratic policy making predominated. Today, in the present era of rapid globalization, Japan is at a turning point. The technocratic approach to making policy is changing. And, at the beginning of the new millennium, the present paper contends that Japan is moving toward pluralism.

This paper provides an overview of how bureaucracy, political parties and interest groups have developed. It deals with the interaction and power relations between these three actors. The paper also covers the changes that these actors have been undergoing since the late 1970s, and discusses the emergence of a new pluralistic regime in the early 2000s.

Although the paper emphasizes that the Japanese bureaucracy is not in complete decline, it asserts that an irreversible force is empowering political parties and interest groups and changing the Japanese political system.

Toshihiro Nakamura is a former Research Assistant for the UNRISD project on Technocratic Policy Making and Democratization. He is now Programme Officer in the Governance Unit of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in East Timor.

Order PPDGHR 9 from UNRISD ($8.00 for readers in industrialized countries and $4.00 for readers in developing and transitional countries and for students).