Managing Women: Disciplining Labor in Modern Japan

Managing Women: Disciplining Labor in Modern Japan

Managing Women: Disciplining Labor in Modern Japan

Managing Women: Disciplining Labor in Modern Japan

Synopsis

At the turn of the twentieth century, Japan embarked on a mission to modernize its society and industry. For the first time, young Japanese women were persuaded to leave their families and enter the factory. Managing Women focuses on Japan's interwar textile industry, examining how factory managers, social reformers, and the state created visions of a specifically Japanese femininity. Faison finds that female factory workers were constructed as "women" rather than as "workers" and that this womanly ideal was used to develop labor-management practices, inculcate moral and civic values, and develop a strategy for containing union activities and strikes. In an integrated analysis of gender ideology and ideologies of nationalism and ethnicity, Faison shows how this discourse on women's wage work both produced and reflected anxieties about women's social roles in modern Japan.

Excerpt

“What is bringing about the destruction of the family system is the growth of industry together with the expansion of spheres of women’s professional work.” This remark by social commentator Kawada Shirō in 1924 indicates some of the anxieties produced by increases in women’s wage work in Japan since the turn of the twentieth century. At a time when industrial labor was regarded as potentially the most volatile of Japan’s “social problems,” female labor in particular threatened to undermine a newly imagined national moral order based on the family system.

This book examines the labor-management practices that grew out of these gendered expectations and how workers reacted to them, especially in the cotton-spinning factories of interwar Japan. Central to this project is an integrated analysis of gender ideology and ideologies of nationalism and ethnicity, which were used by industry and the state to discipline and control both a labor force and state subjects; in other words, creating workers went hand in hand with creating gendered imperial subjects. For this reason, the cultural meaning of labor-management practices and workers’ responses to them must be evaluated in light of contemporary socially and culturally contested meanings of womanhood, Japanese and various colonial ethnicities, and the development of working-class subjectivities among women.

Industry managers actively constructed female factory workers as “women,” rather than as “workers,” inculcating moral and civic values . . .

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