研究ブログ

Book review for Prof Shimizu’s new work: 'Infectious diseases and corporate management before world war II'

  A timely book published at a difficult time. Professor Takashi Shimizu of the University of Tokyo has published an extract from his new work. The main theme of this book is that corporate management was under the ‘shadow of death’ before World War II, when the average life expectancy was short. The book analyzes how employees, shareholders, managers, and customers behave when they "may die" and what impact this had and indeed, continues to have on corporate management.

  Since there is a resemblance between pre-war Japanese society and post-COVID19 society in terms of the familiarity with death, such a viewpoint can help us finding deeper insights. The book goes on to discuss individual issues such as labor management in Chapters 1 and 2. A symbolic case study of corporate sports at the time describes the changes in labor management and reveals how employees gained a societal sense of pride in their jobs.

  In Chapter 3, the author presents a case study of the retail industry and distribution system, and shows that reputation and network mechanisms in the formation of customer and business communities have been formed since prewar times.

  In the next chapter unravels the relationship between shareholders and managers before the war. It turns out that pre-war Japanese companies, as they grew in size and complexity, increasingly empowered professional managers, and the mechanism of checks and balances by outside directors. This is quite different from the general image of Japanese companies after World War II, a period of rapid economic growth.

  In Chapter 5, the author discusses the significance of the long-term survival of companies, analyzing the opening and closing rates of Japanese companies over the very long term.

  In chapter 6, he uses the case of the pre-war "salaryman" to discuss the phenomenon of stable and continuous interdependence between organizations and individuals in Japanese companies.

  The implications for ‘post-COVID19 pandemic’ organizational management are presented at the end of each chapter, and the final chapter provides further thought and analysis on the future of management in post-Covid19 Japanese society.

  The cause of the strong ‘shadow of death’ mindset in pre-war Japanese society was not only infectious diseases, but also the effects of the tragic war of imperialist competition. The formation of a corporate system that locked in individuals and organizations was also probably the result of a combination of other complex factors. The rich description of movies, poetry, and novels from that time period helps readers to follow the less well known context of the prewar period of Japanese society.

  The author represents a lively voice to those in business history and management studies who been insufficiently connected and written about. He has a rich source of imagination to connect the past, the present, and the possible future, as we suffer from the ongoing "social disease" created by infectious diseases. A problem that is unconnected to their ability to kill, but by people's state of mind in awe of their surroundings. We are all wondering why the corporate presence in Japanese society has taken on the form that it has today, and what will become of us in the future. This book gives us the grounding we need for a dialogue about the uncertainty of this age.