In This Review

The Political Economy of the Abe Government and Abenomics Reforms
The Political Economy of the Abe Government and Abenomics Reforms
Edited by Takeo Hoshi and Phillip Y. Lipscy
Cambridge University Press, 2021, 500 pp.

The 25 expert contributors to this book analyze how Shinzo Abe managed not only to stay in office for eight years, from 2012 to 2020—the longest term of any Japanese prime minister—but to carry out a series of major institutional reforms and stimulate the economy. Having learned the lessons of his failed first term as prime minister (2006–7), Abe actively managed public opinion, used strategically timed elections to discipline factions in his ruling party, and increased staffing in the Cabinet Secretariat and the prime minister’s office to control the bureaucracy. His economic policies, known as “Abenomics,” accelerated existing programs to promote innovation, upgrade working conditions, boost female workforce participation, and reduce the power of the national association of agricultural cooperatives over farmers’ business decisions, among other gains. But several chapters puzzle over why monetary easing and fiscal stimulus under Abe drove smaller-than-desired increases in inflation and economic growth. Many chapters are technical, but the book’s core leader-centered analysis gains credibility from the fact that Abe’s successor, Yoshihide Suga, had the same tools as Abe but was less successful. Abe would doubtless pick up his agenda again if he were to return to office for a third term.