Work and Lifecourse in Japan

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

Some readers, especially those well-informed about contemporary Japan, may regard our efforts in Part One as a harping on the obvious. I have two reasons for including these reports. First, the stereotype of lifetime employment is widely held in the United States (and for that matter, in Japan too, as a symbol of Japanese uniqueness). When I give public lectures, people in the audience often ask about it. Not only that, when Levine offered a synopsis of his chapter to a national meeting of Asian Studies specialists, some listeners expressed surprise on hearing that lifetime employment is not more widely in effect. It is important that the reader see evidence that places the stereotype in its factual context.

The second reason has to do with the sense of problem that underlies this whole book. Studies of contemporary Japan most often start by assuming that Japanese society and culture are inherently different from those in the rest of the world. The goal of such a study, then, is to discover and document the differences. But we start from the view that Japanese confront the same lifecourse problem that we do: how to adapt one's personal trajectory and tempo of biographical events to the contours and rhythms of the postindustrial world order. I think it important for the reader to be aware of these rhythms on the wider scene before he turns to the little worlds protrayed in the case study chapters that make up the rest of the book.

The authors in this part, SOLOMON B. LEVINE. and KAREN C. HOLDEN, are both at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Levine is Professor of Economics and Business Administration; Holden is Research Associate in Economics and is affiliated with the Center for Demography and Ecology.


References

Harold W. Wilensky
1968 Orderly Careers and Social Participation: the Impact of Work History on Social Integration in the Middle Mass. In Middle Age and Aging, Bernice L. Neugarten, ed., pp. 321-340. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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