Work and Lifecourse in Japan

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

Part Two
BUT AM I GETTING ANYWHERE?

I suppose that every normal adult thinks, now and then, about the broad currents of employment that flow around him. Thinks, too, about how history and demography channel those currents and about his own location within them. But more often he will gauge his progress, or lack of it, directly against the career phases that are standard in his own line of work, and against the career fates of co- workers around him. In the next two chapers, Kenneth A. Skinner and Paul H. Noguchi guide us from the wider scene into the micro- climates of an executive office and a blue-collar work site in Japan. They show us how tenured employees at different levels in large organizations answer for themselves the constant career question: "Am I movin' on or only standing still?"

Read in tandem, these two reports complement one another and add up to a worker's-eye view of life in that crystal palace of modern employment, the large-scale corporation with its well-marked routes for personnel passage and with what sometimes is too-generously referred to as an escalator system of promotions.

To be more precise, I should say that these reports provide a male worker's perspective on lifetime employment. If you want a more complete view of the corporation as a career setting, I suggest that along with these two chapters you read Chapter Eight. There you will find the much more truncated career perspectives of young "office ladies," who are put under pressure to resign within a few years and give their energies instead to homemaking.

As Skinner and Noguchi portray him, the Japanese Organization Man is no sociological fool. He knows that few job histories will ever

-47-

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