For the Keizai Doyukai Newsletter

Self Esteem and the Information Age

For the Keizai Doyukai Newsletter

Translated From Japan (v1.0) 2/28/99

by Joichi Ito

In "Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity", Francis Fukuyama explains that Japan, Germany and the US each had method of forming large organizations based on trust. Germany had its guilds, the US had secular, non-state controlled religion and Japan had non-blood based family structure or "iemoto". Each of these systems allowed people to group into communities and organizations basing their trust beyond the family, but not relying on the state.

These systems of trust allowed large firms to develop and become the core of capitalism, market economics and the manufacturing and distribution based global economy. Today, the economy is shifting quickly from a manufacturing economy to an information economy. In this change, the US is taking global leadership. It appears that organizations must be resilient to change and very fast. An important element in causing change and being fast is for people to question authority, think for themselves and act. In the information age, only new or different information adds value and what is required is creativity, not obedience.

For people to behave this way, they need to trust not the organizations, but themselves. This trust comes from self esteem. California State Senator, John Vaconscellos, calls for a government that governs through educating and causing people to act responsibly because of self esteem rather than a government that governs by causing obedience through shame and guilt. The self esteem idea is has developed as a movement and is spreading. Unfortunately, such a movement has not begun in Japan. Obviously education is an important part of self esteem, but social capital and culture are also important in supporting self esteem.

In order for Japan to enter the Information Age new structures and a new way of thinking is necessary. Japanese must change their mind set and the cultural capital must be manage and developed. Simply mimicking the superficial aspects of the US systems in not enough. After the war, the Keizai Doyukai helped build a powerful country by supporting the development of communities and organizations in business, politics and bureaucracy. For the Information Age, what is required is not market oriented organizations, but communities based on people with self esteem supported by culture, art and nonprofit organizations.

1 Comment

I would be a little shy about emulating the US self-esteem movement... after all, sociopaths can have high self-esteem...

You should check out the Positive Psychology literature and Martin Seligman's "Authentic Happiness" book.

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