Workshop: The Varieties-of-Capitalism Revisited – Japan and the United Kingdom since the 1990s

Supported by: The Japanese Embassy, London; The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, London; The White Rose East Asia Centre, Leeds & Sheffield.

Organized by: Dr. Harald Conrad, School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield

24.Feb.2011 - 25.Feb.2011 10.00 - 16.00
Tapestry Room, Firth Court - Sheffield
One of the central debates in the business literature centres on the issue of convergence or non-convergence of business and management practices across countries (Degg and Jackson 2007). According to the proponents of the convergence school, increasing global competition forces companies to adopt best practices that are universally valid and applicable. This development contributes to a cross-national convergence of practices, an erosion of institutional differences among different national economies, and a trend towards more market-oriented institutions (e.g., Lane 1995; Kerr et al. 1962). In contrast, proponents of the non-convergence school stress the embeddedness of national management practices in their cultural and institutional context, with the comparative capitalism (CC) literature elucidating the institutional foundations of diverse national 'varieties' of business organization. According to this school, existing complementarities among institutional elements of national economies tend to thwart international convergence (e.g., Degg and Jackson 2007; Hall and Soskice 2001; Whitely 1999; Hollingsworth and Boyer 1997). In the CC literature, Japan has been characterized as a coordinated market economy as opposed to liberal market economies such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

The CC literature has unquestionably advanced our understanding of the embeddedness of practices in their national contexts, but it has tended to focus on the stable relationships and complementarities between the various actors and institutions in their respective national business systems. However, both Japan and the United Kingdom have undergone major transformations since the 1990s. How we can explain the dynamics of these changes with reference to the CC literature will be the central focus of this workshop. Questions to be addressed include: How and why have inter-firm and employment relations changed? What explains recent reforms in corporate governance? How have discourse coalitions shaped outcomes? How have FDI or supranational and transnational factors influenced national business systems? Is it (still) appropriate to theorize primarily about national differences or do we need other models of explanation?

If you wish to attend please contact Harald Conrad (