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How Policies Change: The Japanese Government and the Aging Society.

As the title and subtitle suggest, Campbell's densely written book pursues several goals. Why the elderly have been dealt different hands from other "policy takers" in Japan constitutes the basic research framework. But while mapping that archipelago, he was overtaken by the notion that his scientific mission bore a parallel to that which carried Darwin on his famous journey to the Galapagos Islands. While the hegira of the wizened Orientals might not reveal the master clue to societal evolution, it just might hold the key to a more general theory of policy change.

His imagination was triggered by recognition that the extension of state support for the Japanese elderly was difficult to explain in terms of prevailing Western policy paradigms, be they of the Bismarck or the New Deal variety. Particularly inscrutable were the timing of income support and health care policy changes. Similar problems have been tackled for other Japanese policy areas by Calder in terms of orthodox political concepts, but Campbell felt it necessary to tackle issues on a more general plane.

No slave to pseudobiological paradigms, Campbell turned to physics for inspiration. His scientific mentor was less Bagehot than that other coiner of immortal policy tags, Richard Rose, whose notion of inertia as the dominant explanandum of policy, propelled his theoretical scan. If neither social, nor demographic, nor economic variables would suffice, perhaps the basic concept of energy needed to be employed. Just as subterranean stirrings set the timing of Japanese volcano eruptions, so the propulsion of terrestial "garbage cans" of energy could have triggered the timing through in which policy spigots were turned off and on in the 1970s and 1980s.

Where other welfare state theorists developed explanatory models that relate ideas to demographic, political, and social variables, Campbell presents a more economical model. While not attempting as precise a formula as Einstein, his conceptual formulation is also reducible to just two terms: one for energy and another for ideas. When so many energy-laden "garbage cans" mix with so many idea-laden "heclos," watch out for that unleashed bullet-train, sweeping policy change down the fast track.

When the elderly-arena policy train moves down what is called the artifactual mode, it does so concurrently with other Japanese policy trains on other tracks. In his own survey, the medical policy train, distinguished by organized interests and overt policy rivalry, runs on tracks similar to those taken by health-policy trains in other countries.

The artifactual mode is conceptually anchored in randomness, and hardly any characteristic seems less appropriate to the Japanese modus vivendi. Hence, the notion that a relatively pure specimen of the artifactual type was identified in Nipponese waters is particularly provocative in terms of Westerners' views of Japanese policy culture. But while the notion of Japanese bureaucrats taking random policy walks seems mind-boggling, Campbell's highly detailed and sophisticated analysis encourages us to entertain the notion that beneath all the camouflage, this is basically what occurred. If we can entertain this interpretation, then it is only while noting the unique inability of the Japanese elderly to produce even the tamest of grey tigers.

Turning from the innovative to the mundane aspects of goals, it may be said that Campbell presents a superbly detailed and finely crafted descriptive analysis of several decades of development in the several policy areas bearing on elderly policy. The analysis seems as inclusive as it could possibly get and, for the first time, opens up the internal dynamics of Japanese social policymaking to the non-Japanologist. In its scope, the work goes beyond the framework of masterly American studies like that by Derthick and is perhaps most similar in structure to Nipperdey's comprehensive and data-rich study of post-war German social policy.

It was a feat of great dedication and persistence that produced not only the bold theoretical endeavor but also the detailed analyses of stages of policymaking and -remaking in a way that must elicit the highest respect of the specialist, even while proving accessible to the novice new to the landscape of Japanese social policy.

ARNOLD J. HEIDENHEIMER Washington University
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Author:Heidenheimer, Arnold J.
Publication:American Political Science Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1993
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