The Transnational Capitalist Class, the Trilateral Commission and the Case of Japan: Rhetorics and Realities


  • Hisanao Takase



Although the Japanese elite are now part of neoliberal globalization, this elite's rise within the transnational capitalist fraction has escaped the attention of social scientists outside Japan, with some exceptions including Stephen Gill’s (1990)’s work on the Trilateral Commission (TC) and Leslie Sklair’s (2001) book on multinational corporations and banks. The paper addresses this relatively underwritten case, by describing the transformations represented by transnationalisation of production and ownership and the historical and international context of Japanese capitalism. In addition, it examines the important role of the TC in supporting the creation of a transnational capitalist class. Throughout, I highlight the rhetorics used by the TC that emphasize the importance and benefits of neoliberal forms of economic transnationalization. In addition, I trace Japanese elite support for neoliberal forms of transnational integration in a series of Japanese economic Reports written in the 1990s. And, I examine quantitative evidence, as well as suggestive qualitative evidence around network ties of increasing transnationalization involving Japan. The article concludes that Japan’s elite is rhetorically and economically align with Western transnational capital fractions and increasingly acting as a transnational capitalist bloc, including through participation in the TC.