SCATHING REVIEW OF IVAN HALL'S
"CARTELS OF THE MIND"
(Comment from me follows review)
(Originally sent out to several mailing lists Fri, 29 Oct 1999, as well as
cced to the Journal of Japanese Studies)
JOURNAL OF JAPANESE STUDIES
VOL 25, NO 2, SUMMER 1999, pp 365-8
(retyped from subscription copy received three days ago)
_Cartels of the Mind: Japan's Intellectual Closed Shop_. By Ivan P. Hall.
W.W. Norton, New York, 1998. 208 pages. $25.00.
J. MARK RAMSEYER
Catchy title, this "cartels of the mind."
[Short sentence deleted to avoid future claims of copyright infringement. You'll
see why later.]
Japanese manage to ward off, it seems to imply, all thoughts that are foreign and
all sentiments alien. Not only do they close their markets to Harleys and Napa Chardonnay,
they close their minds to American ideas themselves. Most of us who read this journal
regularly can probably add our own anecdotes: about economics departments mired
in 1920's-vintage Marxism; about law departments
staffed with 30 professors sporting nearly identical educational vitae; about history
departments wedded to quaint chronological approaches; about anthropology departments--well,
what about anthropology departments?
We could go on endlessly, of course, but whom are we kidding? More insular than
American intellectuals? Shall we compare the number of translated books in Japanese
and American bookstores? Or the number of professors fluent in a foreign language?
What about the university syllabi with foreign-language materials? Japanese intellectuals
may be insular to be sure, but at least on that score we can match them measure for
Catchy title and occasional grand claims notwithstanding, this book is not about
"cartels of the mind" anyway. Despite its accusations of cultural and
nationalistic parochialism, it is a book about (in truth, a polemic against) the
putative trade barriers towards foreigners in a few relatively high-IQ service industries.
Thus, chapter 1 explores the plight of foreign lawyers in Japan, chapter 2 examines
the barriers foreign correspondents face, chapter 3 deals with foreign professors,
and chapter 4 discusses foreign researchers and students and access to scientific
On the foreign lawyers dispute (chap. 1), Hall is accurate enough. Unfortunately
for his grander claims, the basic barrier is not there to exclude foreign competitors
at all (as Hall himself acknowledges, p. 20). It is there to exclude all competitors--but
primarily domestic ones: it is
the bar-exam equivalent that flunks all but one to four per cent of all would-be
Japanese lawyers. For most of the postwar period, foreign lawyers have been a trivial
sideshow, if even that. Never mind, implies Hall. Only if (among other things)
Japan lets Wall Street lawyers circumvent that exam can we "hope to have a genuinely
open and effective dialogue with the Japanese people" (p. 18). It is, I confess,
the first time I have heard us lawyers accused of facilitating "open and effective
Hall's complaints on behalf of foreign correspondents (chap. 2) mostly concern access
to press briefings. In Japan, foreign correspondents regularly find themselves barred
from briefings. Hall suggests that this has something to do with their being foreign.
As in the legal services market, however, foreign competitors are not the only ones
prejudiced. Instead, the reporters for the weekly and monthly magazines routinely
find themselves in just the same spot (again as Hall rightly acknowledges, p. 50).
Hall could not plausibly argue that Japanese universities discriminate against foreign
researchers or students--and to his credit he does not much try. Instead, he primarily
complains about differential access to scientific information (chapter 4) and bases
his complaints on two facts. First, far more Japanese students and researchers come
to U.S. universities than Americans go to Japanese universities. Second, Japanese
scientific research disproportionately occurs in coroporate laboratories, while more
U.S. research occurs in universities. As corporate research is necessarily more
secretive everywhere, U.S. research is necessarily more open than Japanese research.
True enough, one might respond, but so what? For most of the century and maybe still,
U.S. science has outpaced Japanese science (as Hall notes, p. 132). Consequently,
one would not expect the bilateral flow of researchers to be anything but lopsided.
Furthermore, universities in the United States may be better funded (relative to
corporate labs) than in Japan, but no one (least of all Hall) has shown that this
is a good thing. Should scientists feed at the public trough? Almost ot a T we
academics praise government subsidies to universities. But given our self-interest
one should wonder. Dairy farmers and undertakers can argue passionately that subsidies
to cows and morturaries promote the common weal too.
What will most interest JJS readers are Hall's claims about foreign professors (chap.
3): put simply, that Japanese schools treat foreign teaching staff abysmally. What
triggered this attack, it seems, was a 1992 memorandum from the Ministry of Education
urging national universities to fire their senior-most foreign lecturers. These
foreigners earned higher salaries than their tenured Japanese professorial counterparts
(p. 92), and the ministry wanted them replaced with younger (and therefore cheaper)
instructors. At about the same time Hall's private university refused to renew his
year-to-year contract, and when it did he sued.
Hall calls this all "academic apartheid" (chap. 3), and to justify the
charge compares foreign instructors to tenured Japanese professors. What he never
explains is why that is the comparison that matters. Hall might have compared--but
did not--the foreigners to the Japanese adjuncts who similarly work on a year-to-year
basis. At least some of the law faculties I know, they teach a significant portion
of the curriculum. The Ministry of Education did not urge universities to fire them,
to be sure, but probably because they collected a pittance.
Hall might also have compared the foreigner [sic] instructors in Japan to the army
of lecturers teaching undergraduates. Similarly hired on temporary terms, they work
for miserly pay and often collect no benefits. Dave teaches at "Freeway U,"
explained the wife of a Los Angeles friend of mine on a recent Christmas card. For
several years now, my friend Dave has cobbled together part-time pay from a number
of southern California universities to make ends meet. At least when Hall sued his
Japanese university, it paid him a full year's salary to settle (p.35). Had my friend
sued one of his schools for not renewing a year-to-year contract, the university
general counsel would probably have told him to go ahead and make his (or her) day.
Or Hall might have compared the foreigners in Japan to the Japanese who teach language
courses in American universities. After all, many (if not most) Americans teaching
in Japanese universities probably teach U.S.-related courses--most commonly English.
Although foreign-language professors in the United States often do have tenure,
my impression (haphazard to be sure) is that research universities now increasingly
hire their lower-level language instructors on year-to-year contracts.
But no, not Hall. He would compare the foreign instructors discharged by the Japanese
universities to their tenured Japanese professional peers. Yet the tenured professors
in Japan are the stars: exceptions notwithstanding, they are the men and women with
the best qualifications. Alas, Hall gives us no systematic data showing that the
tenured Japanese and the discharged foreigners had comparable talents or qualifications.
The might have been comparable, or might not. Hall simply does not provide the
evidence. Before we call the firings "academic apartheid," however, we
need to know whether the universities treated the foreign instructors worse than
their Japanese counterparts--and we need to make that judgment on a systematic basis
after *holding constant* [emphasis in original] teaching ability, scientific publications,
and other indices of IQ, effort, and pedagogic and reasearch effectiveness.
Hall gives us none of that information. Instead, he gives us only anecdotes. At
that level, this degenerates into a my-anecdote's-better-than-your-anecdote free-for-all.
Most of us know several talented U.S. scholars at fine Japanese universities who
have few if any complaints. Most of us could also name some Americans at Japanese
schools who are not as talented as most of their Japanese peers. If the Ministry
of Education urged those universities to fire the latter, it might be mean--but it
would hardly be ethnic discrimination.
The problem (to be utterly tactless about it about it all) is that Hall never shows
us whether (as a group) the discharged foreign scholars were as good as their tenured
Japanese counterparts. Suppose, hypothetically, that the discharged foreigners were
generally not as good as the tenured Japanese, that the foreign salaries were higher
than the Japanese salaries, and that the existing foreigners could be replaced with
younger, cheaper foreigners who could teach the material as effectively. If all
this were true, then their termination was not "apartheid." It may have
been harsh. It may have been cruel. And many of us may find the use of a crude proxy
such as citizenship an offensive way to sort teachers. But all that said, their
termination would also have been prudent personnel management.
Seemingly anticiptaing [sic] reviews of this sort, Hall concludes by impliedly attacking
the reviewers in advance. Quoting another observer, he posits a "strange propensity
among American Japanologists to feel one-sidedly positive about Japan... [because]
if you're a foreigner who is too critiical about Japan, your sources of information,
funding, or friends dry up" (p. 169). Some of us who sometimes defend Japan,
it seems, do so simply to survive. "To perform his or her own work effectively,"
claims Hall, "the typical foreign Japanologist has to join and play the game
by Japanese rules that eschew 'unacceptable' areas or degrees of criticism"
(p. 169). And those of us who are not disingenuous, apparently, are perhaps just
to insulated to know better: the Japanese treat us well because "we enjoy the
independent leverage of a strong institutional affiliation" (p. 169), and that
treatment blinds us to the plight of our less fortunate countrymen.
Maybe. Lord knows Japan (and especially the Ministry of Education) can be insular
and parochial. But that some Japanese are sometimes xenophobic does not mean every
case of bad treatment against a foreigner reflects xenophobia--any more than a case
of rudeness in a U.S. restaurant against an African-American refects racism. Just
as U.S. waitresses can ignore hungry white professors, Japanese organizations can
shaft Japanese professionals too. Hall shows us several sets of foreigners who may
have been treated rottenly in Japan. Yet many Japanese professionals are treated
rottenly as well, and the foreigners Hall cites may or may not have been equal to
their Japanese colleagues. As a result, Hall never really shows us that the foreigners
were treated that way *because* [emphasis in original] they were foreign.
J. MARK RAMSEYER is the Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Legal Studies at
Harvard University. He is coauthor of _Japanese Law_ (Chicago, 1998) and author
of _Odd Markets in Japanese History_ (Cambridge, 1996). He is currently working
on empirical studies of judicial independence in Japan. (Courtesy JJS Notes on
COMMENT FROM DAVE ALDWINCKLE:
I talked to Dr Hall about this two nights ago, and we agree that for an academic
journal this piece shows a surprising lack of academic tone, "systematic data",
or even sufficient substantiation (citing "law faculties I know" without
giving names, the reviewer's own "haphazard" impressions, Christmas cards
from "Dave"?). This will not do when addressing an issue this hot. Hence
it reads like a screed, as if the reviewer set out do a hatchet job on this book,
and even in places deliberately distorts the point.
One example of this is where Professor Ramseyer writes:
Hall calls this all "academic apartheid" (chap. 3), and to justify
charge compares foreign instructors to tenured Japanese professors. What he
never explains is why that is the comparison that matters. Hall might have
compared--but did not--the foreigners to the Japanese adjuncts who similarly
work on a year-to-year basis. At least some of the law faculties I know,
they teach a significant portion of the curriculum. The Ministry of
Education did not urge universities to fire them, to be sure, but probably
because they collected a pittance.
The comparison Dr Hall makes is in fact approprate. One must compare *full-time*
(joukin) foreign faculty to *full-time* (joukin) Japanese faculty. This is because
full-time foreigners have been, and even today generally still are, hired effectively
as part-timers, with contracts exclusively designed and reserved for foreigners in
both function and title: "gaikokujin kyoushi" and "gaikokujin kyouin"
by definition do not apply to Japanese, and these titles offer demonstrably inferior
working conditions. On the other hand, full-time Japanese faculty have been, and
even today almost always still are, hired from day one with tenure, i.e. without
contracts. Professor Ramseyer's suggestion that full-time foreigners be compared
to, say, adjunct part-time (hijoukin) Japanese (who, by definition, are on contract
as they are term-limited) is inappropriate, not to mention offensive, as it buys
completely into the assumption that foreign academics are, or ought to be, temporary.
Dr Hall made this distinction between part- and full-time conditions quite plain
in his book, and for a reviewer to leave that so egregiously unclear, even unmentioned,
in an academic journal suggests to me at least sloppy and untoward research, at worst
What really can be called a low blow is the conclusion to that paragraph about "pittance"s.
The reviewer makes it sound as though the dismissed foreigners, because they were
receiving a higher wage than their tenured Japanese counterparts (not always true--because
contracted foreigners often receive no bonus, cutting their salaries per annum by
a third), had it coming. Because the foreigner dared to earn a comparable wage that
would let them buy a home, raise a family, and enjoy the job security that other
full-time Japanese academics do and should enjoy, the Ministry and the universities
apparently are "hypothetically" justified in "prudent personnel management".
I would like to see Professor Ramseyer come over here and try to make a living,
like my contracted and frequently-dismissed foreign academic friends do, under these
For the reviewer to conclude that Dr Hall "never really shows us that the foreigners
were treated that way *because* they were foreign" reminds me of students I
have to nudge when they doze in class. Hall in fact makes a very lucid critique
that other reviewers have had no trouble understanding (for a second opinion, see
Richard Samuels' review in The Far Eastern Economic Review, March 12, 1998, reprinted
in JALT's Journal of Professional Issues and viewable at http://www.voicenet.co.jp/~davald/PALE898.html#ivanreview).
For Professor Ramseyer to assert in essence that, say, the titles "gaikokujin
kyoushi/kyouin" have never indicated a different job status by nationality is
just horribly wrong.
One other point that must be addressed is the insinuation about the lack of qualification
in foreign academics, where for hypothetical administrative mental calculus the reviewer
assumes that "the discharged foreigners were generally not as good as the tenured
Japanese". This is an odious presumption. For example, JALT, Japan's foremost
organization of language teachers, has just lost her leading presidential candidate,
Dr Jill Robbins. She has a PhD in Applied Linguistics from Georgetown University
(and more--see The Language Teacher, Sept 1999, p.50), which made her as qualified,
if not more, than the tenured Japanese professors who apparently are, in Professor
Ramseyer's words, "the stars". Nevertheless, Dr Robbins told me she had
her contract terminated two weeks ago, "on flimsy grounds", and consequently
will have to leave JALT and Japan entirely. This may be dismissed by Professor Ramseyer
as another one of these "anecdotes", but enough anecdotes eventually complete
a pattern. For she is not an isolated case. Visit any academic conference in Japan
and you will find graduates of some of the world's foremost overseas universities.
A simple question to a roomful of those foreign academics, about having frequent
dismissal experiences due to contracts, will produce a show of hands in the majority.
If this still not credible, I submit the following web pages (most of which have
been documented after Dr. Hall's seminal work) as further substantiation of the situation
1) Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT)'s publication The PALE Journal
of Professional Issues, devoted to documenting cases of academic discrimination.
All issues since 1997 are up at:
2) On the Gwen Gallagher/Asahikawa Daigaku case (mentioned in Dr .Hall's book)
3) List of Japanese universities which discriminate by nationality in job hiring
status, with full substantiation:
4) On the Prefectural University of Kumamoto (two special issues, where the university
created an unprecedently low job status for foreign academics in Japan--on the level
of custodial staff)
and, more insightfully,
5) On the Timothy J. Korst case at the University of the Ryukyus
6) Also two germane articles on working conditions in JALT's "The Language Teacher"
a) Aldwinckle, "Ten Plus Questions for Your Next
University Employer", July, 1999
b) Fox, Shiozawa, and Aldwinckle, "A New System
of University Tenure: Remedy or Disease?", August, 1999.
The final point I would like to make is that Professor Ramseyer should get out more.
If he thinks that America and Japan can be matched "measure for measure"
in their degree of insularity, he ought to read the article, excerpted below, from
the Economist (London) weekly newsmagazine, issue dated 21 August 1999, which talks
about the huge number of foreign researchers in American academia. Can one seriously
make a case that foreign academics would reach numbers and levels like these in America
if they didn't have job security? More importantly, does Japan even remotely have
an up-or-out system for foreigners--the only full-timers excluded from receiving
tenure at entry level in Japan--to receive tenure? And has America ever had a Ministry
of Education effectively create a nationwide policy for their prestigious institutions
to fire their academics merely because they are foreign and too well-paid? None
of these factors hold in America (or any other OECD country, for that matter), and
none should be so easily dismissed by any academic who has done any substantial research,
either about or in the Japanese university system, especially in a review of a book
that very seriously tries to address decades of institutionalized discrimination.
THE ECONOMIST NEWSMAGAZINE
Alien scientists take over USA!
GIVE her your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to do
post-docs and patent drugs galore; the wretched refuse of your teeming labs
shall find funding on this golden shore. Since the 1970s, a lot of the
immigrants coming to the United States have arrived with PhD s burning holes
in their pockets. As a study published in this week's Science magazine
shows, America has incorporated this influx of talent so well that the top
ranks of its scientific establishment are now replete with foreign-born
Sharon Levin of the University of Missouri and Paula Stephan of Georgia
State University took a look at more than 4,500 top-rate scientists and
engineers who practise their craft in the United States. After checking how
many of these had been born or educated abroad, they reckon that the most
accomplished scientists in America are disproportionately foreign.
The two economists began by consulting the membership rolls of the National
Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering--America's top
scientific and technological clubs--for the past 20 years. They also
included the authors of the papers and patents cited most frequently in
scientific literature. Lastly, they culled lists of scientists from the
boards of selected American biotechnology firms.
This dream team of researchers is one that befits a nation of immigrants. In
almost all of the above categories, across almost all disciplines, the
proportion of foreigners is greater than it should be considering their
proportion of the scientific community as a whole. For instance, in 1980
only about a fifth of the scientists in America (those with doctorates, at
any rate) had been born abroad. Over the subsequent decade, 60% of the
American-based authors of the most-cited papers in the physical sciences
were foreign-born, as were nearly 30% of the authors of the most-cited
life-science papers. Almost a quarter of the founders or chairmen of the
biotechnology companies that went public in the early 1990s also came
originally from outside the country. (rest of article snipped)
REPLY TO RAMSEYER REVIEW ENDS
(go on to the next essay in this
where the Journal of Japanese Studies cautions me in public and private about copyright