Work and Lifecourse in Japan

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

Part Four
WORK, FAMILY AND
THE HANDS OF TIME

One of the great archetypes of our industrial age is that of the commuter, shuttling daily from home to workplace and back again. A fair number of adults may not fit the image, at least during part of their lives: many housewives do not, nor will the considerable number of people who are self-employed or are engaged in cottage industry (e.g., the Tachikui potters we meet in Chapter Ten). But most people, for much of their adult lives, move in the daily orbit of commutation. And whatever else the routine may do to us, perhaps it provides the benefits of segregation -- by holding them apart, it allows us to manage the dissonant tempos of life imposed on us by family and by occupation.

For it is not just that home and office are two radically different social structures, they are radically different structures for the scheduling of lifecourse events. How people go along synchronizing these schedules, how they reconcile family plans with occupational ambitions, is a central issue in the study of adult human development. (On the academic scene, however, the issue tends to be obscured by a tug-of-war between family sociologists and industrial sociologists). It is a central theme in each of the next three chapters.

Each of these reports examines the issues of scheduling during a different phase of the domestic cycle. For James McLendon in Chapter Eight, it is the phase of mate-search, as he saw it in the lives of young "Office Ladies" in the corporation headquarters where he himself was employed. For Samuel Coleman in Chapter Nine, it is the phase of family formation, characterized by tough, intimate decisions about the timing and spacing of childbirths. For Jill

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