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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Japanese Aquisitions and Masaki Yuki's Research

Japanese Aquisitions and Masaki Yuki's Research by timtak
Japanese Aquisitions and Masaki Yuki's Research, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Due to the strength of the yen and the shrinking Japanese domestic market, there were more mergers and aquistions of Western companies by Japanese companies this year, than at any other time in history, or at least the past twenty two years. I wonder how Japanese companies, such as Dentsu (電通), the largest Japanese advertising company, will manage Western companies, such as the Aegis Group.

I guess that it will depend upon the industry. In manufacturing and hard (as in hardware) industries the Japanese will bring with them praxis that is successful and will be respected by their Western workforce. But in industries whose products are formal (read linguistic) constructions, such as finance, (non-game) software and to a significant extent, advertising, importing Japanese workways may be more fraught.

If the Japanese managers read up on the cultural differences between Westerners and Japanese they may be persuaded that their new British employees need to be taught to be more harmonious, to work better in teams. If they reach this conclusion then I think that they will have been, in my humble opinion, misguided.

I want to recommend to the management at Dentsu the only mainstream research that espouses a qualitative rather than quantitative difference between Western and Japanese ways of thinking: the excellent research by Masaki Yuki (2003).

For the most part Japanese are argued to be more sensitive to the group (Hofsteded, 1991) or more sensitive to context and more information (the varied and also excellent research of Nisbett and Masuda). The mainstream rhetoric regarding the differences between Western and Japanese culture, is quantitative: one of more rather than less.

Masaki Yuki however, argued that the difference between Japanese and Western social behaviour is a qualitative one. Westerners are not more individual or more collective but they interact with groups in different ways to Westerners. Indeed in their group behaviour, it is Westerners that are more inclined to loose their individuality since they identify with their groups, differentiating ingroup (e.g. my company) from outgroup (e.g. competitor company). Japanese on the other hand, in their group behaviour, pay little attention to other groups (other companies) but instead focus on the relationships with other ingroup members, and indeed upon the individuality of other ingroup members. The Japanese managers might therefore even encourage their new British employees to be more individual, to give each other more room for creative freedom and being themselves, as -- according to Yuki's theory -- occurs within Japanese groups.

Masaki Yuki (2003) argues that while Westerner groups have a tendency to focus upon shared group traits and ideals, and identifying with these lose a sense of who they are as individuals, Japanese groups have a tendency to focus upon the symbioses within the group: the fact that the group is made up of a network of many different individuals with different traits and skills.

Jacques Lacan argued that if one *imagines* ones interpersonal relationships then one *see* them as diadic, one-to-one, interpersonal relationships. What he failed to realised - or implicitly rejected - is that one can visualise a group as a whole, as a network, since he believed that it is only in language that one can simulate generalised third person viewpoint (ear-point, superaddressee, impartial auditor) or in his terminology, the "Other". Can one imagine a group? Sure one can, especially if one takes group photographs, as was recommended by recent research on the promotion of group efficiency.

Back in 2003, when I was still almost a researcher, Professor Yuki had me make English correction suggestions on his paper. I was honoured and excited. I recommended to him the connection with Lacan's theory of "diadic relationships" in the imaginaire (world of imaginable representations) but, of course, he did not take it up. Indeed, perhaps due to the extremely controversial nature of his paper, he has undertaken relatively little research in that paper's direction, despite the fact that it was great.

Yuki, M. (2003). Intergroup comparison versus intragroup relationships: A cross-cultural examination of social identity theory in North American and East Asian cultural contexts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 166–183.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.