Neoliberalism with Japanese Characteristics

Photo by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash

The shift to the right in the world’s political and economic landscape in the 1980s was premised on a deep tension. If neoliberal policies called for global integration through free trade and mechanisms of world governance, neoconservative arguments championed traditional cultural and economic values centered on the nation. This presentation focuses on the two doyens of Japanese neoliberalism — the banker and policy advisor Kiuchi Nobutane and the academic Nishiyama Chiaki — to examine how they attempted to resolve this conflict by drawing on Japan’s model of development.

At the heart of the problem was how to reconcile the neoliberal universalism of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman with a conservative concern for the specificities of national context, local custom, and native ways of life. Western thinkers within the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS), the noted neoliberal thought collective founded by Hayek, argued that their models, grounded in objective knowledge of the market, constituted the best guide for the expansion of global capitalism. But neoconservative Japanese members of MPS, buoyed by Japan’s postwar economic growth, countered that national culture was a crucial element for the development of the world economy. The significance of Kiuchi and Nishiyama’s intervention is that they attempted a culturalist revision of neoliberal theories. Thus this paper argues that Japan became an active reformer of the global conservative movement by attempting to reconcile cultural conservatism with economic globalism.

Reto Hofmann is Senior Lecturer in History at Curtin University and Visiting Fellow at the ANU College of Asian and the Pacific.  He specializes in Japanese and international history and is currently writing a book on the history of Japanese conservatism, 1920-1980. He is the author of The Fascist Effect: Japan and Italy, 1915-1952 (Cornell University Press, 2015), and editor, with Max Ward, of Transwar Asia (Bloomsbury, 2021). His work has appeared in the Journal of Contemporary History, Journal of Global History, Japan Forum, and Journal of Asian Studies. He received his BA (Hons) from UWA and PhD from Columbia University.

Working across the disciplines of political economy and science and technology studies, Jeremy Walker's research focuses on the history of neoliberal economic theory and government in relation to energy transition and climate justice. His recent monograph "More Heat than Life: the Tangled Roots of Ecology, Energy and Economics" (2020, Palgrave) presents a panoramic history of the development of neoliberal economic theory and of ecosystems ecology, and the relation of both 'twin sciences' to the emergence of fossil-fuelled thermo-industrial capitalism, modern energy physics (thermodynamics) and the Earth system sciences. The book provides a prehistory of the confrontation between neoliberalism and the environmental movement, which from the 1970s into the present of the climate emergency has increasingly come to determine our collective existence - and indeed the future of species life on Earth. His present research looks at the role of the oil industry in fostering the neoliberal counter-revolution against democracy and climate policy via the global Atlas Network (est. 1981), which now includes  over 500 ‘think-tanks’ in 100 nations.

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Meeting ID: 875 6802 2832 Password: 859863

Date & time

Wed 29 Mar 2023, 4.15–5.30pm


RSSS Lectorial 1, Ground Floor (Level 1), RSSS Building, ANU, 146 Ellery Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601, and Online


Reto Hofmann
Jeremy Walker


School of History


Filip Slaveski


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