New AJCS book sheds light on administrative bureaucracy and the mechanisms of political administration in Japan

2 November 2020

Al Jazeera Centre for Studies released an e-book on Sunday, 1 November 2020, under the title, Administrative Bureaucracy and the Mechanisms of Political Administration in Japan, by Iraqi researcher and academic Emad Rzaik Omar.

In his book, the author sheds light on the role Japanese bureaucracy plays in the process of the country’s development. He does this by analysing the history of bureaucracy – whether during the Meiji era (1868-1912), known as the first stage of the modern state, or in the period that followed US occupation (1945-1952) to the present day – and its relationship with politicians, the parliament, political parties and the private sector.

In this context, the author discusses this relationship and dissects its positive and negative aspects, clarifying the mechanism of policy- and decision-making at the levels of legislation and the ministerial council and how these policies and decisions must be carried out in prior agreement with senior bureaucrats in ministries and government institutions and interests to be successful; otherwise, they will be met with obstacles and politicians will find themselves making decisions they cannot execute.

The book also presents the relationship between bureaucracy and partisan life in Japan through its three forms: the dominating party, the coalition regime and bipartisanship. It treats the question of the implicit relationship between bureaucracy and the private sector, the nature of mutual relations between them, and the impact of that on the existence or lack of corruption.

Finally, the book discusses political reform in Japan and touches on the main motives behind it; the most important projects that affected bureaucracy; the attempts made to restructure power for the interest of politicians; and how bureaucracy resisted these reforms through whatever means it has available, capitalising on the depth of its relationship with the private sector and its independence in its ministries and finally coming to a state of agreement between them.

The book concludes its seven chapters by affirming that the role and influence of bureaucracy in Japan will remain due to cultural and social reasons; the nature of the state’s formation; the geographic environment and the probability of natural disasters, which require that the state’s public sectors remain active in order to overcome them and rebuild destroyed infrastructure and so on; and the liberal nature prevailing in Japan that is built on the collective spirit and requires participatory ties and regular communication between bureaucrats and politicians.

What distinguishes this book, as per its introduction, is that it offers readers an opportunity to become acquainted with Japan from within state institutions responsible for decision- and policy-making. Rather than delving into the political and administrative systems, the author chose to examine the uniqueness of the Japanese administrative model as an example of bureaucracy used as a tool for planning and a factor of change. He also sheds light on its relationship with politicians through discussion and dialogue, reaching the point of overlap with public interest. Furthermore, the book presents a new view of the Japanese administrative elite and the process of its selection, training and interaction within institutions until it has developed and is qualified to take on responsibility and lead. From this perspective, the book is an outlet for those who specialise in the technical aspect of development, and provides bureaucrats with a greater understanding of the nature of their work and readers an alternative perspective of bureaucracy.