A Japanese company in crisis


This book is an anthropological investigation into the demise of one of Japan leading life insurance companies. What was it actually like to work at this venerable institution as it slid towards bankruptcy? How did employees react when 800 lay-offs were announced? How did they, and the company itself, cope with rapidly-changing economic and cultural circumstances? This books seeks to answer these questions, and use them as a springboard to examine the issues of strategising. What do people want out of life, and what do they do to get it? How aware are they of other peoples strategies and their own? At a time of rapid change and intense uncertainty, these issues come to the fore. C-Life was one of the eight major life insurance companies in Japan and an investment power-house in the days of Japan’s economic bubble”in the late 1980s. At this time, the life insurance industry was one of the most prestigious in which to work. But in late 1999, hit hard by the near-ten-year recession that followed the stock market crash of 1990, C-Life had a crumbling asset base, diminishing returns and new insurance policy sales were dwindling. It was teetering on the brink of failure, shortly to become Japan’s largest bankruptcy since the war. Looking at the lives of C-Life`s employees during its last days, surrounded by conflicting information, uncertain values, and insecurity, provides a fascinating case study of life in a traditional white-collar Japanese company in distress. But it also sheds insight into how individuals and groups strategise in different ways to maintain or improve their position.