Japanese Religion and Society: Paradigms of Structure and Change

Japanese Religion and Society: Paradigms of Structure and Change

Japanese Religion and Society: Paradigms of Structure and Change

Japanese Religion and Society: Paradigms of Structure and Change

Excerpt

It used to be said that, sooner or later, area specialists take on the characteristics of the countries they study. India experts become litigious, China specialists become bureaucratic, and old Japan hands isolate themselves in village cliques. Today this has all changed--at least in the Japan field. With journalists and students of other disciplines entering the field, scholarship on Japan is no longer an academic monopoly. The country itself is no longer the curio it once was. No longer is it merely a specimen in the orientalist's butterfly collection. Defying reduction to the conventional wisdom of the western academy, contemporary Japan poses an intellectual challenge rarely encountered in area studies. Neoclassical economists are nonplused by the country's economy, which seems to flourish the more it flouts the sacred laws of free trade. Political scientists are discomfited by Japanese democracy, a de facto one-party system dominated by the plutocratic Liberal Democrats and their unelected officials and bureaucrats. Western legal experts are dismayed at the Japanese legal system, a network of courts which routinely protects the powerful while convicting nearly all of those indicted by public prosecutors. And so on. Happily, these conundrums have resulted in a new vitality in Japanese studies. Not only academics, but also journalists and other literate travelers are asking anew: What is there about Japan that makes it so different? Why is it so dynamic? What really makes it tick? In this book, I hope to throw some light on these questions by looking at an array of specific problems in Japan's religious history from the Tokugawa period to the present.

While this book is about Japanese religion, my goal is to frame the discussion in such a way that when readers put the book down, they will have a deeper knowledge of Japanese society and culture in general, and possibly even deeper insight into the nature of religion itself. The book deals with the relationship between Japanese religion, culture, and values on the one hand, and society, social change, and economic development on the other. I have written some chapters as a sociologist of . . .

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