Work and Lifecourse in Japan

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

Part Three
PATHS AND
PRIORITIES

Career development issues look pretty straightforward for the typical Organization Man. If the ladder of positions is simple, and alternative routes are few -- as we saw at Shiranai Station -- about all that a worker can influence is his speed of promotion. But the issues quickly become complicated the moment we turn from the fixed channels of one organization and look at the wavering currents of a whole occupational flow. Continuity across the years of labor no longer is anchored in a particular institution; it resides instead in the worker's ability to find and fill an array of different positions. He may be simultaneously pursuing part-time career lines in two or more institutions. With each line he adds, his problems of managing the direction and speed of his working life will multiply. In the next three chapters we explore three facets of this many-faceted process.

In place of lifetime employment we might call this "lifetime involvement". A person's own life goals, his sense of mission, come to the foreground; the organization and its purposes recede. Institutions are seen more as present vehicles in which to realize his more distant mission -- whether as healer or leader or defender of the motherland. "Professionalism" is the buzz word now for this sense of moral purpose, as "calling" was in an earlier era. And the three reports in this section all happen to deal with professionals in the everyday meaning of the word. But if the mission is more evident, better articulated, in some lines of work, I assume it will be present, if shadowy, in all.

As in other parts of the book, so in this one I have grouped these three chapters because of what they add to one another. Each by

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