Most institutional theories of the diversity of capitalism (at least implicitly) assume the existence of a representative firm in each type of capitalism. Based on a case study of Japan during the Lost Decade (1992-2005), this paper aims at showing that this assumption introduces severe drawbacks in the analysis of Japanese capitalism in crisis. We first assess the increasing heterogeneity of Japanese firms since the beginning of the 1990s in terms of performances and models and provide some explanations of this phenomenon. We then propose the lack of coordination of an increasing heterogeneity as an alternative interpretation of this crisis. We finally offer a new analysis of the essence of Japanese capitalism.
Sebastien Lechevalier (PhD in economics) is associate professor at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, Paris). He is a specialist on the Japanese economy. His current research interests focus on the diversity of capitalism and heterogeneity of firms, the emergence of new industries, the determinants of the performance of firms, and the political economy of rising inequalities in Japan. He is also the founder and the president of "Fondation France-Japon de l'EHESS" whose aim is to promote intellectual exchange between Japan and France.