Patricia L. Maclachlan received her PhD in comparative politics from Columbia University and is now Professor of
Government and the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
Her publications include Consumer Politics in Postwar Japan: The Institutional Boundaries of Citiz en Activism
(Columbia University Press, 2002), The Ambivalent Consumer: Questioning Consumption in East Asia and the West
(Cornell University Press, 2006), which she co- edited with Sheldon Garon, and The People’s Post Office: The
History and Politics of the Japanese Postal System, 1871- 2010 (Harvard University East Asia Center, 2011). Her
current research focuses on the political economy of Japanese agriculture and the reform of the agricultural
cooperative system. Dr. Maclachlan serves on the Japan- U.S. Friendship Commission and the United States- Japan
Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON), the American Advisory Committee of the Japan
Foundation, and the editorial board and board of trustees of the Journal of Japanese Studies.
Why has Japan lagged so far behind Britain and other European countries in reforming its postal savings system? Conventional wisdom has it that an "iron triangle" consisting of the commissioned postmasters, conservative politicians, and bureaucrats in the former Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has effectively shielded the system from reform. I, on the other hand, contend that ordinary citizens have also played a role in preserving the status quo. The purpose of this project is to explore the nature of this triangular relationship, its linkages to the citizenry, and its impact on current efforts to reform the postal savings system, as well as on the political system more generally. I will approach this subject from a historical perspective and, where applicable, with reference to Britain. By illustrating how ordinary Japanese can serve as agents of political change and continuity, this study should be of interest to students of Japanese civil society and elites, interest groups, policy-making, and political and economic reform.