The New Japanese Mythology

May 1 1998 3:30 AM

The New Japanese Mythology

By forgetting what we've learned from Toyota and Sony in the past, we may be overestimating our strength for the future.

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Insofar as the best Japanese corporations are not the global hegemons we once thought they would be, it may be because everyone else has learned from them, which is of course exactly how competitive markets are supposed to work. In this moment of American triumphalism, it's hard to resist the temptation to rewrite recent history as the narrative of America's self-reliant, inevitable rise, and to see the future as the story of America's continued ascent into the higher reaches of the New Economy. Recognizing that Japanese business is not down for the count--and remembering the role it played in getting us to where we are--is a necessary step toward a saner appraisal of where this economy might be going.

James Surowiecki writes for the Motley Fool. He can be e-mailed at surowiecki@aol.com.

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