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Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle

The Rules of Scandal in Japan and the United States

A leader of a global superpower is betrayed by his mistress, who makes public the sordid details of their secret affair. His wife stands by as he denies the charges. Debates over definitions of moral leadership ensue. Sound familiar? If you guessed Clinton and Lewinsky, try again. This incident involved former Japanese prime minister Sosuke Uno and a geisha.

In Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle, Mark D. West organizes the seemingly random worlds of Japanese and American scandal—from corporate fraud to baseball cheaters, political corruption to celebrity sexcapades—to explore well-ingrained similarities and contrasts in law and society. In Japan and the United States, legal and organizational rules tell us what kind of behavior is considered scandalous. When Japanese and American scandal stories differ, those rules—rules that define what’s public and what’s private, rules that protect injuries to dignity and honor, and rules about sex, to name a few—often help explain the differences. In the cases of Clinton and Uno, the rules help explain why the media didn’t cover Uno’s affair, why Uno’s wife apologized on her husband’s behalf, and why Uno—and not Clinton—resigned.

Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle offers a novel approach to viewing the phenomenon of scandal—one that will be applauded by anyone who has obsessed over (or ridiculed) these public episodes.

368 pages | 2 line drawings, 9 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2006

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Asian Studies: East Asia

Gender and Sexuality

Law and Legal Studies: International Law, Law and Economics, Law and Society, Legal History

Media Studies

Political Science: American Government and Politics, Comparative Politics, Political and Social Theory


“This is a wonderful, original, erudite, interesting, creative, and insightful book. Making equal use of quantitative methods and television kitsch, Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle examines the mixture of legal and social norms that play a role in the emergence and resolution of scandals in the U.S. and Japan. Some passages are laugh-out loud funny, others head-scratchingly profound. It will create stir, become the subject of debate, be imitated and admired, subject to careful criticism and bountiful praise.”

Eric Feldman, University of Pennsylvania Law School

“An insider’s knowledge and an outsider’s ironic detachment: this book has it all. Mark West has written a book that is both fun to read and a fundamental contribution to our understanding of law and society in Japan. Not just for Japanologists, Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle is a model of how to understand the underside of modern societies.”--James Q. Whitman, Yale Law School

James Q. Whitman

“This original comparative study of national scandals in Japan and the United States highlights the dynamic relationships that exist between the law, news media, and cultural values in these two countries. West brushes aside many of the usual ‘cultural’ arguments about Japan and the United States, thereby avoiding the tired clichés of  ’Japaneseness’ so many writers put at the center of studies of cultural difference. What emerges instead is an important and pathbreaking examination of the players who create scandal, the institutions that make up the playing ground, and the rules that control the various scandal ‘games.’”--William Johnston, Wesleyan University

William Johnston

"Secret, Sex, and Spectacle stands out by its lively style, lucidity, and erudition. It should appeal to anyone interested in scandal, Japan, or the interaction of society, culture, and law in norm enforcement. In West’s engaging book, scandal both reveals the inner logic of Japanese society and plays a central role in its public life."

Ari Adut | Law & Society Review

"West is . . . encyclopedic in his knowledge of popular culture in both countries and clearly enjoys sharing the juicy parts. . . . [The book] provides intriguing if idiosyncratic portraits of Japanese and American behavior by combining analytic perspectives that are rarely related to each other."

Frank K. Upham | Journal of Japanese Studies

"This contribution to the comparative study of law in everyday life is richly detailed, entertaining, and insightful."

Mark D. Jacobs | American Journal of Sociology

Table of Contents

Author’s Note
1. Introduction
The Geisha and the Intern
The Argument
2. Players
The Media
Scandal Professionals
3. Privacy and Honor
Informational Privacy
The Right to Privacy
4. Groups
Self-Governing Groups
Corporate Scandal
5. Individuals
Entertainment Celebrities
Sports Stars
Politicians and Bureaucrats
6. Sex
Gender and Family
Sex Scandals
7. Apology - The Rules
The Cases
8. Afterword

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