SOAS University of London

Professor Ronald P. Dore Obituary

15 November 2018
Ronald Dore

Professor Ronald P. Dore, CBE FBA died on Tuesday 13 November 2018 in Italy, at the age of 93.

Ron was a British sociologist specialising in the Japanese economy and society and the comparative study of types of capitalism. He was a fellow of the British Academy, the Japan Academy, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The citation for his eminent scholar award from the Academy of International Business described him as "an outstanding scholar whose deep understanding of the empirical phenomena he studies and ability to build on it to develop theoretical contributions are highly respected not only by sociologists but also by economists, anthropologists, historians, and comparative business systems scholars".

Ron Dore was one of the “Dulwich Boys” chosen to study Japanese language at SOAS. In 1942 the Board of Education, at the behest of the War Office, established a scholarship scheme for boys from secondary and public schools aged 17 and 18 to study languages critical to the war effort. Accommodated at Dulwich College, the “Dulwich Boys” as they came to call themselves, attended language courses at SOAS every morning, and returned to the college each afternoon to study the regular Dulwich curriculum. On completing their 18 months of language training, each student was inducted into the military or intelligence services. After injuring himself before he could take part in active service, Ron returned to the UK to teach Japanese, and complete his external degree. His first trip to Japan was in 1950. His academic career began at SOAS, but he subsequently held positions at the University of British Columbia, the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, the Technical Change Centre at Sussex, the Institute for Economic growth in Delhi, Imperial College, Harvard University, and MIT.

In the 1980s, when Japanese firms were changing the nature of competition in international business, Ron’s research was an invaluable resource for scholars seeking to understand Japanese business firms and the environment from which they were expanding. Dore’s pioneering comparative study of employment relations and factory organisation in British Factory Japanese Factory (1973) provided a solid base for understanding the patterns adopted by the Japanese in setting up production facilities abroad. His 1986 book, Flexible Rigidities, further explored the relationships across firms and between firms and governments in a comparative context. The challenges and processes of learning across borders were themes of his work from his classic book on Land Reform in Japan (1959) through to his 2000 book, Stock Market Capitalism, Welfare Capitalism: Japan and Germany versus the Anglo-Saxons.

In February 2016, the JRC was honoured to have Ron as a panellist for our event:
Dulwich Boys and Beyond: 100 Years of Japanese Studies at SOAS. Ron was the last surviving “Dulwich Boy”.

Throughout his life, Ronald made an extremely valuable contribution furthering the understanding of Japan in the UK, and JRC members extend their deepest condolences to his family.