Christian Sautter

France Reflected in Japan Growth or Decline Publication date : April 1, 1996

To a Western world that has been caught up in economic crisis for more than 20 years now, there exists a veritable "Japanese mystery": where does the formidable Japanese resistance to unemployment come from? How can their persistence be explained when Japan, like all developed countries, is faced with robotization, technological revolutions and, more recently, competition in the form of young populations in neighboring countries? This should give France pause for thought: as starkly contrasted as these two cultures may seem, France and Japan are sister countries. Both societies are democratic, built on efficient capitalistic economies that have preserved, up to the present time, strong social policies, a high level of education and a real pride in identity. Both are market economies, and both systems grant the State an important role as "developer". Finally, France and Japan share the hopes and fears presented by large scale integration, the former from the heart of the European Union, the latter from the top of the Asiatic pyramid. It is therefore advantageous to foster a dialogue between the two nations, from which France stands to draw a good lesson. As Christian Sautter proves in his precise exploration of the implicit societal contract between businesses and society in Japan, unemployment if not a matter of historic fatalism. Thus reflected in the mirror of Japan, France discovers that its decline need not be fatal, and that it is up to France to break with a decrepit conservatism and embrace growth.

Christian Sautter is the director of studies at the Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales (EHESS). From 1981 1982, he was the deputy secretary of the French Republic under Francois Mitterrand, as well as prefect of the Ile de France region.