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Book Reviews
How Policies Change: The Japanese Government and the Aging Society.
By John Creighton Campbell. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University
Press, 1992. Pp. xi+418. $39.50.
Fred C. Pampel
University of Colorado
In a study of Japanese old-age policy we would expect to find that,
despite the rapid aging of the population in recent decades, the aged are
more dependent on support from family and community than from the
generous national programs. We would also expect to see a consensusbuilding, smoothly functioning, and powerful bureaucracy that produces
rational policies oriented toward collective goals. These expectations are
not completely mistaken, but John Creighton Campbell, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, demonstrates that the reality is more
complex than the conventional wisdom. How Policies Change represents
15 years of research on the trajectory aging policies have taken since the
U.S. occupation ended in 1952. Campbell relies not only on archival
records but also on interviews with key participants in policy-making.
He describes the processes of decision making and agenda setting that
led to past and current policies and highlights the personalities, unusual
events, and unique combination of motives underlying the policy-making
processes in postwar Japan.
This study is an ambitious project that provides a detailed and readable narrative of how and why decisions were made. Although the focus
is on pension policy, health-care benefits, old-age employment, and small
programs for purposes as varied as recreation, fishermen's welfare, and
telephone aid form parts of the larger picture. The study is thorough,
not only in its narrative detail about policy formation, but also in the
scope of the programs studied. Opening the black box that intervenes
between societal inputs and policy outputs provides fascinating detail. It
also produces numerous theoretical puzzles, as the generalizations common in aggregate studies of policy outcomes do not easily fit the wealth
of narrative detail.
Campbell shows that traditional reliance on family and community
support is not all that important to the economic well-being of the aged.
Political leaders' conceptions of a Japanese-style welfare state is less comprehensive and interventionist than the Scandinavian models influenced
policy during the 1980s (as did similarly conservative conceptions in the
United States and Great Britain). Yet, Campbell argues, similarities to
the West overshadow any differences. Family and community economic
support of the elderly is modest, the traditional ideology is disappearing,
and future benefits will be generous by international standards. Despite
forces of Japanese exceptionalism, major policy expansion has occurred
in Japan in recent decades.
Campbell also shows that, for a nation whose bureaucrats are both
powerful and self-interested, public policies on aging are surprisingly
517
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American Journal of Sociology
fragmented and confused. In fact, the Social Security Administration in
the United States from 1950 to 1970 provides a better model of bureaucratic rationality and power than do the Japanese ministries. According
to Campbell, the initial programs that emerged in the 1950s were financially unsound, difficult to administer, and confused in process and goals.
The legacy of fragmented policy has constrained and complicated all
policy-making since then.
Explaining the numerous, diverse, and fragmented policies, and the
complex processes behind them, presents a major challenge. Campbell
provides a nuanced and intricate theory to interpret the complexities.
Instead of a single explanatory model, Campbell relies on four perspectives, all of which find support. Three perspectives are based on the more
well-known explanations of inertial or automatic responses to structural
changes in the economy and population, cognitive strategies of state officials to devise rational reforms to policy defects, and political conflict
between progressive and conservative interests. A fourth perspective,
based on artifactual decision making, views policy outcomes as the result
of energy's being focused on interests and conflicts other than aging policy
and proves surprisingly important. Since each explanation fits some policies and time periods better than others, Campbell carefully gives each
its due. If there is a theme common to all policy changes, whether the
changes fit the inertial, cognitive, political, or artifactual theories, it is
the importance of policy sponsorship. The key to change is the ability of
the sponsor to be able to take hold of the process and define the mode
of action.
Despite its sometimes overwhelming detail, this book is well-enough
written to interest those beyond the community of Japanese scholars.
The gerontological and demographic issues are less crucial to the study
than issues of policy- and decision-making in advanced industrial nations. Those interested in comparative welfare policy and political sociology will find the book most useful.
It is hard to fault Campbell's thoroughness, narrative skills, and exceedingly fair evaluation of competing arguments. The multitheory
framework is broad and inclusive and subsumes a huge amount of information. The less the data simplify reality, the harder it is to represent
them by a single factor theory. Still, efforts to specify more formally the
social, economic, and political conditions under which each theory proves
most effective would be useful. Those less interested in Japan than in
the wider theoretical implications of the study will question how the
models might apply more generally to other nations. Nonetheless, they
will better understand how the theories apply to the concrete circumstances of one nation and will learn much from the fascinating detail in
this book.
518
This content downloaded from 205.208.116.024 on November 12, 2017 14:52:52 PM
All use subject to University of Chicago Press Terms and Conditions (http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/t-and-c).
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