Thus, in Japan, there are neither tradition-oriented old people adhering to transcendental values nor inner-oriented adults who have internalized their values; instead, the nearly purely relative (or relativistic) competition exhibited by other-oriented children provides the powerful driving force for capitalism. Let’s call this infantile capitalism…In the manufacturing sector, for example, we may be able to say that Japanese engineers are cleverly maneuvered into displaying a childlike passion whereby they are easily obsessed with machines. Further, in such a postindustrial area as advertising, people become carried away by word play, parody, and all the other childlike games of differentiation.
Is this utopian capitalism?—is this the goal of the global trajectory of capitalism that broke down territorial boundaries as it stretched from the Mediterranean Sea up north across Europe out to the ocean, crossed the Atlantic, cross the United States, and finally traversed the Pacific?…Of course, it can never be anything like that: but this very negation must be uttered with a burst of laughter. And, we might add, after laughing, that it is a playful utopia and at the same time a terrible “dystopia.”
In fact, children can play “freely” only when there is some kind of protection…And this protected area is precisely the core of the Japanese ideological mechanism–however thinly diffused a core. (275-276)
— Asada Akira “Infantile Capitalism”
Postmodernism and Japan, 1989.
Ed. Miyoshi and Harootunian