comparative politics Japan-related research

JPOSS #43: “Mechanisms of Resistance: Informal Institutional Impediments to Japanese Postal Privatization”

The forty-third session of the Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (JPOSS) took place on November 9, 2023. Amy Catalinac (New York University) chaired the seminar and moderated the Q&A session.

Patricia Maclachlan (University of Austin at Texas) presented her paper examining why postal privatization has largely stalled since the beginning of its implementation in 2007. Maclachlan revisits one of the hallmark pursuits of the Junichiro Koizumi government in the 2000s and examines why reforms that were initially expected to be transformational have shown lackluster outcomes. She advances a theory about informal institutions, specifically identifying three practices that continue to exert power in resisting a fulfillment of the privatization agenda. These practices are the private ownership of post offices by postmasters, a range of tacit re-employment arrangements involving public, private, and political positions collectively referred to as amakudari, and the use of employee quotas. Maclachlan shows how each of these practices have been left intact by the reforms and continue to exert power in resisting further reforms on the privatization agenda.

Daniel M. Brinks (University of Texas at Austin) and Steven Vogel (University of California, Berkeley) offered suggestions to clarify and expand the contributions of the paper. During the Q&A session, participants furthered discussions on alternative mechanisms and sources of empirical evidence.

The organizers would like to thank the presenters, discussants, and participants, as well as the staff at the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, who provided administrative support. We look forward to seeing you at the next session of JPOSS: