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Globalisation, labour migration and state transformation in Japan: the language barrier and resilience of the Japanese state in the 1990s

By Tomonori Taki


This study aims to ask whether the Japanese state was capable of responding to a challenge from international labour migration as a force of globalisation. and to consider the significance of the subsequent change in the relation between state transformation and the realisation of social justice within the context of globalisation. The focal point of the study is Japan's criminal justice system in the 1990s, with particular attention to the `language barrier', namely legal and political problems that affect foreigners and state officials. The study analyses how the language barrier emerged in Japan, how it influenced the state, and how state and civil society actors reacted to address the problem. This theoretical and empirical study in International Relations and International Political Economy takes an interdisciplinary approach, drawing insights from Sociology and Gender Studies concerning international labour migration. Documentary research on secondary and tertiary documents of Japan's state and civil society actors has been complemented by sixteen semi-structured interviews with those who were involved in the process of tackling the language barrier. The study argues that, by introducing judicial interpreters over the decade and with inputs from civil society actors, the Japanese state was able to reduce the extent of constraints posed by the language barrier on its ability to control crime. This indicates that an internal sector of the Japanese state that is in charge of political matters, namely law enforcement, has been able to largely solve the challenge of the language barrier, which is a manifestation of international economic force. This study thus counters the claim of the Hyperglobalist thesis of globalisation concerning loss or decline in capability of the state, and extends the plausibility of the Transformationalist thesis in terms of geographical area and the issues analysed

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  1. (1988). the 154th Session, Secretariat, House of Representatives. Minutes No. 11, Legal Affairs Committee (LAC), House of Representatives, the 109th Session,

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