Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

"Cyberpunk is largely an expression of fears about an Asian (Japanese more often than not) 'takeover' of Western society."

I would argue that this has largely already happened. There is sort of a battle between liberal jewish culture and fundamentalist christian culture for being the official US mythology, but on a day to day basis Japanese culture and values are largely what have filled the power void. I would argue that most of our mainstream institutions, from schools to jobs to pop culture, have become and are increasingly becoming largely Japanese in nature.

While there are definitely Japanese influences in American culture, I don't see that as a "Japanification", certainly not to the extent that was feared in the 80s (cyberpunk had megacorporations, etc).

One of the reasons for the endurance of English-speaking cultures (in particular) is the ability for both the language and the culture (which are distinct yet related) to absorb other languages and cultures.

Take as a counterexample France. There is a Ministry dedicated to keeping the French language "pure". There is plenty of lip service paid to the preservation of French culture. Basically France is acting like its language and culture is under siege... because it is. There are many examples like this.

English as a language seems to have no issue with absorbing the concepts and words of other languages. Once that have been here for centuries have long since been anglicized but more recent adoptees often preserve the original pronunciation.

So what you see as Japanification I see as English-speaking culturue and language simply absorbing another language and culture. This changes the language and culture but both remain firmly "English".

One could even characterize this as "cultural hegemony". It's not really any different to Romanization that took place 1500-2500 years ago.

I would even argue that as much as you might think of this as Japanification that Japan is probably becoming more American/English than we have become Japanese. Japan is still obviously a very different place to the US but many things have changed. There is less of the "job for life" thing that was very popular only decades ago, just as one example.

I would have called bullshit on this until America imported reality shows.

But even then, everything imported is bastardized in some way. For example, Japanese reality shows are about cooperating to achieve a difficult goal (and sometimes failing in that task). The sympathetic emotional content as you vicariously experience their trials and challenges is the appeal.

American reality shows are about fucking each other over in order to be king of the hill. The drama of intrigue, revenge, and defeating enemies to reign supreme is the appeal.

I'm very interested in this idea; I don't think I've ever heard it before. Can you explain further?

Can you offer some examples? I was surprised by this statement.

So I think the fundamentalist christian thing is pretty self explanatory if you've been paying attention. In terms of Jewish culture, it's not really a secret that most of Hollywood, the media, and much of progressivism and culture in general is organized around liberal jewish values.

I'm not really an expert on why this is, but from what I can see protestantism sort of hit its high water mark shortly after WWII. Around this time we had an enormous rise in summer camps, spiritual retreats, folk music, sort of a pre-environmental movement, etc. that was all basically a reaction to the atomic bomb. Not to mention the birth of rock & roll, which came out of protestantism as well. All of this eventually led to the counter culture, which protestantism sort of pulled back from. These loosely affiliated movements were then basically embraced by liberal judaism. So today even though judaism proper is in the background, many of its values have still shaped those of the progressive movement to the point where liberal jewish values and progressivism are largely intertwined.

In terms of Japanification, one pretty clear example in schools is high stakes testing. In the workplace it's characterized by how bureaucratic large companies have become, and the way the people at the bottom are treated. I think it's in the movie The High Cost of Low Prices that there are videos of Wal-Mart employees doing their morning dance or whatever that corporate makes them do every day when they open the store, stuff like that is straight out of Japanese business culture. In general you see an increasing amount of abstract ideas being productized so that they can be sold as part of new fads, whether we're talking about rock band, credit default swaps, politicians, etc. It's essentially a glorification of surface appearances.

From everything I can see, the U.S. is basically becoming like Japan except without the ideas surround honor and the other spiritual norms, and without enough money to facilitate the same level of pop culture fads. Again I'm not a historian so if you want to call bullshit on me then go for it, I'm just calling it as I see it.

While an interesting thesis, and I would never claim Japan has completely failed to influence the US, none of your examples strike me as evidence of Japan -> US influence rather than either convergent evolution, or things that just flat out come from different sources. High stakes testing is a result of the bureaucracy; the bureaucracy requires something to test and measure, and it will create it even if it's impossible, damn the consequences. The US is adopting it due to an increase in sclerotic bureaucracy, many Eastern cultures has histories of sclerotic bureaucracies longer than Western culture itself. Team building exercises and the term itself predate any conceivable Japanese influence. If "productizing abstract ideas", or perhaps rather, "productizing culture" flowed in any direction, it was from US -> Japan, not vice versa! See also the concept of "soft power".

"either convergent evolution, or things that just flat out come from different sources"

I more or less agree with this. At the same time, when you look at Japan everything just looks better -- even though it isn't. So while I think much of it is convergent evolution or things that come from different sources, just having Japan being the way it is vaguely over there seems to be giving US leaders more self confidence to make these sorts of reforms.

Part of it also though is that Japan has a history of taking ideas from other cultures and then perfecting them. E.g. germany invents scientific management, Henry Ford popularizes and commercializes it, and then 60 years later it's getting shipped back to us as TQM and Kanban. So yeah it's definitely all tangled up, all I'm saying is that we're becoming more like Japan currently is, regardless of why we're becoming that way or why Japan is that way.

Part of it also though is that Japan has a history of taking ideas from other cultures and then perfecting them.

As one example, a lot of the "japanese management techniques" stuff can trace its roots back to an American, W. Edwards Deming.


Deming made a significant contribution to Japan's later reputation for innovative high-quality products and its economic power. He is regarded as having had more impact upon Japanese manufacturing and business than any other individual not of Japanese heritage. Despite being considered something of a hero in Japan, he was only just beginning to win widespread recognition in the U.S. at the time of his death.

It doesn't necessarily matter what the culture of the person who had the idea is. It matters who has the courage to do it. Execution trumps idea.

In fact, many things about modern Japanese society - including scientific management and high-stakes testing - were originally copied from Europe. In that sense, it's not really accurate to say we copied Japan; much of the world currently has high stakes testing. For example, the Japanese educational system was actually based on the Prussian model.

  it's not really a secret that most of Hollywood, the media,
  and much of progressivism and culture in general is
  organized around liberal jewish values.
Cross 'jewish' and that line make sense. There is nothing specifically 'jewish' about those values. If anything, they're Greek. We don't owe a lot to the pre-Socratic societies, apart from them inspiring the Greeks to their greatness. In Western civilization, everything after that was inspired by what the Greeks made of what came before them.

I think that what's uniquely jewish is the implicit model of spiritual development that's glorified in so much of modern culture.

That is, in judaism spiritual development comes from fully engaging with the physical and secular world, and immersing yourself in all of its problems and opportunities. In protestantism, spiritual development comes from contemplative experiences (e.g. thoreau) that are set apart from everyday life, that hopefully allow you to connect more fully with both the secular world and your religious values once you get back to mainstream society. And in fundamentalist christianity, spiritual development comes from the active and purposeful rejection of secular society.

I think the reason we have so many extremists in the GOP right now is as a reaction to the existential arrogance of modern liberalism. E.g. not only do fundamentalists see things like Starbucks and Michael Cera / Seth Rogan movies as endorsing an implicit set of values and model of spiritual development, but they see also them as basically purposely shitting all over their way of life just to rub it in. That's partly why we're increasingly getting politicians like michele bachmann and rick perry.

Most traditional religions treated the spiritual sphere as part and parcel of life in the physical world, rather than something to be segregated and distinguished from it. Only a handful of religions, mostly under the influence of Platonic philosophy, have deviated from this. But the concept is no more specific to Judiasm than it is to Catholicism, Hinduism, or Roman Paganism.

The opposing trend, which you might say treats religion as a form of escapism, is something that's really found only in certain strains of Protestantism, Islam, and Buddhism.

True, but in addition to not being especially influential in the US, catholicism and hinduism aren't exactly socially liberal either. E.g. hinduism may not be isolationist, but what you can do in terms of your social life and your career and family is still very firmly prescribed. Plus if all the Hollywood financiers were catholic do you really think we'd be getting movies like Superbad? I feel like even the most liberal catholics like Steven Colbert wouldn't have been responsible for creating that sort of culture had they been in charge.

I think this is rather accurate, and wanted to say so after attacking you yesterday in another topic.

Can you please be more specific about which "liberal jewish values" you are talking about? Similarly can you give specific examples of Japanese cultural values that have taken hold in the US?

I was responding to the Japanification statement as I hadn't thought about it before. I'm not calling BS, just wanted to see what you meant.

I think some of those examples are interesting points although the SF mentioned early seemed to predict an even stronger Japanese influence than what we see today.

"I think some of those examples are interesting points although the SF mentioned early seemed to predict an even stronger Japanese influence than what we see today."

Definitely true, though I think we may see increasing Japanification over the next 30 - 40 years as the education and health of the average American decrease.

With the exception of Hollywood action movies, which are dominated by the Hong Kong action genre.

I'm sorry but I don't think judaism has anything to do with this at all. None of the things you are talking about has anything more to do with judaism than it does with christianity or any other religion.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact