Pop Master

Outside looking in
Author in Focus
Garbage Dissect Our Modern Age

Break on through
The elusive Murakami

The Postmodern in Murakamis Novels
Terrorism before WTC
Japanese writer probes souls dark kingdom
Big in Japan
The healer
Murakami shares his thougts with students
A Japanese Novelist in Search of Lost Ideals
Inner space
Haruki Murakami does Seattle
Overview of the hard-boiled fiction of hm
The other Speech
dancing as fast as he can
Tokyo Prose
A Voice from Postmodern Japan
The American Scene
Hi Mr Haruki Murakami
The Return from the Lost world
Presents from the dead

The Credit Revolution Through HM
  August 28, 2002

Murakami Haruki's Dance, Dance, Dance is significant for one reason: it is a systematic literary exploration on the concepts of modern advanced capitalism, unparalleled in modern literature. Comparing it to Das Kapital would be unfair, because Dance, Dance, Dance supersedes Karl Marx's seminal text in two respects. First, Murakami is speaking about a new, wholly different system from what Marx theorized in the late nineteenth century. Second, Murakami does it with a literary style that imparts his concepts just as effectively as Marx's stereotypically-Germanic logical agglutinations--perhaps even more effectively when posed to a modern cosmopolitan audience in the "advanced capitalist society" that Murakami so deftly critiques.

Murakami's own life story plays a major role in understanding the purpose of his writing. His first novel, Hear the Song of the Wind, was published in 1979, when he was only twenty-nine years old: it won the Gunzo Prize. In 1985, his novel Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World won the Tanizaki Prize. His true rise to stardom came in 1987 with the multi-million-best-seller Norwegian Wood, which generated such overwhelming popularity that Murakami was forced to flee the Japanese media spotlight for several years.

Clearly, the spectacle surrounding Norwegian Wood had a strong influence on Murakami's views of Japanese capitalism. The country he was writing from differed greatly from the wartime industrial nation of Mishima Yukio, or the fragmented postwar circus of Oe Kenzaburo. In fact, the world in general was moving along the same lines, and making the transition from a "modern" state to an ambiguous "post-modern" one.

While the connotations of "post-modernism" vary from discipline to discipline, the defining factor in the economic definition of "post-modern" is the abandonment of the gold standard in the regulation of national currencies, which occurred on a global scale during the 1970's. The more commonly accepted explanation of Japan's economic rise during the ensuing decades, at least in the realm of secondary education, is that Japanese companies burst forward with fuel-efficient cars during the oil shortages at the same time that they were developing the most advanced semiconductors in the world to run robotic factories and super-fast computers. However, as Doug Henwood argues in Wall Street: How It Works And For Whom, the abandonment of the gold standard played a far more important role in the economic juggernaut of the 1980's, and Murakami's own writing corroborates this idea in spades.


The gold standard, in effect, placed a cap on the amount of capital that could circulate in the world economy by tying the entire concept of capital down to the representation of a fixed commodity--specifically, gold. Marx notes that capital, if continuously reinvested at good returns to accumulate upon itself, has an almost unlimited potential for growth, and most investment planners would agree with him. However, the gold standard kept money--the physical representation of capital--relatively scarce.

Once the gold standard was abandoned, it became possible for money to exist without being in a tactile form, and therefore the modern notion of credit came into existence. Credit, as Henwood puts it, is money of the mind, and its existence today allows 90% of the world's money to exist in a virtual form--as ones and zeroes in financial computers (p. 224-9).

While America was undoubtedly revolutionized by this change, especially in the years between 1982 and 1989, the change in Japan was even more extraordinary. The Japanese embrace of technology, in league with many other factors, allowed its GDP per capita to surpass that of the United States by the mid-1980's, while Tokyo's land value equaled that of the state of California. Many American analysts, after the fall of the Soviet Union, were speaking in frightened tones about Japan's unparalleled economic power: at the close of the Gulf War, Dr. Chalmers Johnson of the University of California said that "the Cold War is over, and Japan won." (PBS Frontline, 19 Nov. 1991)

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