Global Futures in East Asia: Youth, Nation, and the New Economy in Uncertain Times

Global Futures in East Asia: Youth, Nation, and the New Economy in Uncertain Times

Global Futures in East Asia: Youth, Nation, and the New Economy in Uncertain Times

Global Futures in East Asia: Youth, Nation, and the New Economy in Uncertain Times

Synopsis

The East Asian economic miracle of the twentieth century is now a fond memory. What does it mean to be living in post-miracle times? For the youth of China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea, the opportunities and challenges of the neoliberal age, deeply shaped by global forces in labor markets, powerfully frame their life prospects in ways that are barely recognizable to their parents.

Global Futures in East Asia gathers together ethnographic explorations of what its contributors call projects of "life-making." Here we see youth striving to understand themselves, their place in society, and their career opportunities in the nation, region, and world. While some express optimism, it is clear that many others dread their prospects in the competitive global system in which the failure to thrive is isolating, humiliating, and possibly even fatal.

Deeply engaged with some of the most significant theoretical debates in the social sciences in recent years, and rich with rare cross-national comparisons, this collection will be of great interest to all scholars and students interested in the formation of subjects and subjectivities under globalization and neoliberalism.

Excerpt

A Bus to Nowhere

In 2005, a television documentary followed a group of young Japanese youth in work uniforms as they climbed aboard a bus to travel to their worksite for the day. Each morning these young people were taken to a new location to work in unskilled assembly jobs. “We feel like robots” was how one young woman described her experience. When this film was first screened, Japan’s economic downturn—begun in the 1990s—was well into its second decade. Recovery had proved elusive. Spiraling rates of underemployment, especially for youth, had produced a new reserve army of low-waged labor with greatly reduced life prospects. Later, when showing a still photo of the scene on the bus to a Japanese youth, my colleague Andrea Arai was asked whether it had been taken “in China.”

This misrecognition of Japan for China is telling in terms of how people are experiencing the rapid remapping of economic relations in the region. By the mid-2000s, China was beginning to be talked about in ways that echoed how Japan had once been represented in the 1980s; while Japan, in turn, was becoming unrecognizable as the miracle modernizer it was once thought to be. The reasons for this turnabout cannot be fathomed within the limits of a study of Japan. They must be put into a wider context in which these . . .

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