Work and Lifecourse in Japan

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

CHAPTER 5
Intertwined Careers in Medical Practice

SUSAN O. LONG

Research on Japanese salarymen has stressed the strong interrelationship of the work career with other aspects of the individual's life and self-definition. As he progresses through each level of company organization, his work colleagues and responsibilities greatly influence his family and social life ( Vogel 1971; Rohlen 1974). But how, if at all, does this conception of careers in Japan apply to professionals? A lawyer or an architect may or may not work in the type of institutional setting that produces a highly structured progression of work responsibilities. A Japanese physician has several practice- style alternatives, ranging from the hierarchically organized university department to private practice. Studies of physicians in Western societies have found that whether the doctor works independently or in an institutional setting will make important differences in how he organizes his professional and personal life ( Elliott 1972; Friedson 1960). Other research has suggested that aspects of his nonmedical life, such as family background, influence the decision as to which practice-style a physician will choose ( Hall 1948; Johnson 1971; Marshall , et al. 1978).

The notion of "lifetime commitment" that has dominated recent thinking about careers in Japan has been based on the assumption that workers remain in one institutional setting for all of their working lives. A physician may have a kind of lifetime commitment to his profession, but his career is not the orderly progression of the organizational model. To understand how he makes his work career decisions and the effects of these decisions on his personal life, a broader definition of "career," incorporating ideas of Roth ( 1963)

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