Work and Lifecourse in Japan

By Samuel Coleman; Theodore F. Cook Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

trajectories" of family formation and skill development in households that produce folkcraft ceramics. Drawing a contrast among three successive cohorts of potters, she illustrates the fine- tuning that can be made between household duties and craft assignments, delicately adjusting the system to external changes in market demand for pottery and in options for other employment, while struggling to uphold internal ideals of household continuity.


Coda

A handful of case studies cannot be extrapolated to make up a new theoretical model for analyzing the adult lifecourse in Japan -- although we hope that they point to major features of such a model. Nor can these few studies capture the empirical diversity of working careers and career dilemmas in a society of 115 million people -- though we think that we are able to bring out some key dimensions in that diversity.

Ours is not a campaign of iconoclasm, wanting to crush the clichés of groupism and lifetime employment. Like all stereotypes, these have their elements of truth. But we want to help our reader see them in proportion. Normal adults in Japan, as anywhere else, maintain a healthy detachment -- clichés to the contary -- and a subjective stance towards their careers. This does not transform them into rugged individualists, on the lines of the image that the Euro-American lies to believe he sees in his mirror. The truth, as usual, is somewhere in between the notions of "independent individual" and "submerged self" that we use to bracket it.

Claims that work behavior in Japan is excessively group-based or structurally dominated, however, need to be backed by evidence that subjectivity is in fact weak. Nowhere in our field studies does it appear so. And the idea that the subjective side of Japanese life is weak will seem as a general proposition implausible to anybody familiar with the expressive richness of Japanese literature and art.


References

Doi Takeo 1973 The Anatomy of Dependence. John Bestor, trans. Tokyo: Kodansha International.

-12-

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