PhD thesis

I have been amiss not to post a link to my PhD dissertation, which has been published on the website of my former university, the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, about a year ago. The title is “Urban Space in Economic History: Tokyo as Asia’s First Megacity 1945-1970”. Find the summary after the break.

View from GRIPS, Roppongi

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Urban Space as a Factor of Production

The first of hopefully 3-4 articles drawn from my PhD finally got published with Social Science Journal Japan, a journal run by the University of Tokyo and distributed by OUP. It’s taken a little (!) longer than expected due to my day job as well as general COVID-induced turmoil in all our lives. Anyway, I will put up a proper post celebrating this moment. For now, you can read the abstract below and find the full article here.

Urban Space as a Factor of Production: Accounting for the Success of Small Factories in Postwar Tokyo

This paper demonstrates that small manufacturing firms in postwar Tokyo were exceptionally successful. Not only were they more productive than their national peers, they were also remarkably competitive vis-à-vis large factories in Tokyo. The existing explanations for this double outperformance do not take full account of the urban setting in which this process took place. Small factories compensated for higher labor costs by being more efficient users of urban space. They thrived thanks to Tokyo’s particular urban form, which included a preference for mixed use and often blurred the boundaries between living and workplace. Small factories also benefited from being embedded in the relatively egalitarian structure of postwar Tokyo, as the city avoided spatial stratification despite megacity growth. Although Tokyo’s small factories remain important, their competitive edge has eroded from the 1970s onward.

Manuscript ideas

Economic history has a long shelf-life when it comes to the data, but needs to be read in a changing context. Besides taking stock of my research, I want to interrogate myself what impact COVID-19 may have on a future monologue.

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The future of retail

The famous Tokyo Tower view

I was remiss not to post a link to a Morgan Stanleys Ideas podcast that I featured on. Head to the website to listen to the episode “Shopping for the Future”, in which the authors try to understand what modern retail can learn from Japan. I start to speak at around 7:00.

Urban governance

One of the chapters of my PhD deals with urban governance in postwar Tokyo. I argue that the intermediate layer of government, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, was an effective arbiter of the “developmental city”. A Guardian article from 2015 caught my eye.

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Fleshing out the papers

This is a strange time in one’s academic career I suppose. With the PhD just handed in, pending final approval by my university’s committee, I am beginning to think seriously about where and what to publish. Below some initial thoughts that will hopefully guide me in my next steps. Continue reading