Leonard Schoppa

Len SchoppaMy research examines the politics and foreign relations of Japan, in comparative and regional context.  My latest research project examines how “exit options,” including the level of mobility afforded by housing markets, affects civic engagement at the local level in Japan and the United States. What explains why Japanese join the PTA at twice the rate of Americans and “volunteer” to maintain the safety of their communities (from traffic, crime, fire) at much higher levels? This project has resulted in the publication of an article in Comparative Political Studies (Sept 2013) under the title “Residential Mobility and Local Civic Engagement in Japan and the United States: Divergent Paths to School,” as well as the documentary film “Slow Way Home,” which was broadcast on many PBS stations in May and June of 2016. The trailer for the film can be found here: http://spinfilm.wix.com/slowwayhome.

My most recent book-length project was a volume I edited, titled The Evolution of Japanese Party Politics (Toronto, 2011). It explains how and why Japan has seen one of the two major parties in its party system shrink to fringe-party size and be replaced by a brand new party, the Democratic Party of Japan.  Such major changes in the typically “frozen” party systems of advanced industrialized democracies are rare, so Japan’s experience sheds light on the forces that can disrupt such established systems.

Three previous sole-authored books have focused on the forces shaping social and economic policy in Japan.  These include Race for the Exits: The Unraveling of Japan’s System of Social Protection, (Cornell University Press, 2006), analyzing why Japan has been slow to modify policies and structures that have caused manufacturers to “exit” Japan via foreign direct investment and women to “exit” via decisions not to have children or not to continue in careers; Bargaining With Japan: What American Pressure Can and Cannot Do (Columbia, 1997), which examines the role played by foreign pressure in Japanese economic policymaking; and Education Reform in Japan (Routledge, 1991). Refereed articles growing out of these projects have been published in International OrganizationComparative Political Studies, the Journal of European Social Policy and the Journal of Japanese Studies (1991).

I earned my DPhil in Politics from Oxford in 1989 and have been employed at the University of Virginia since 1990.


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D. Phil in Politics, Oxford University