Social Structure and Mobility in Economic Development

By Neil J. Smelser; Seymour Martin Lipset | Go to book overview

9
A CASE STUDY IN CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL MOBILITY: JAPAN AND THE PROTESTANT ETHIC

REINHARD BENDIX, University of California, Berkeley

"CULTURAL-EDUCATIONAL Mobility and development" -- the topic assigned to me in this Conference -- suggests that education and mobility are positively related to economic development. This positive relationship exists only, I believe, where the value of economic development is already accepted as a sine qua non of individual and national advance. It is true that this ideology is widespread in the many countries which since World War II have been transformed by a turn of phrase (and often by little else), from "underdeveloped" into "developing nations. But in what general sense is it meaningful to link culture with mobility and economic development? To speak of development is to imply that at one time a given society was not developing or was "underdeveloped." With regard to that contrast culture typically maintains the established social structure; education helps to transmit and uphold the received tradition. Accordingly, the extensive literature on development contrasts -- at least implicitly -- tradition and modernity, and much of it is focused on the problem of how a non-industrial society can give rise to an industrial society. Each type has cultural and educational attributes of its own. It is, therefore, necessary to distinguish between the cultural preconditions of development and the cultural and educational changes that occur once development is under way, difficult as it may be to pinpoint this distinction. In the present case the question will be how cultural patterns supporting tradition can give rise to cultural patterns supporting modernity. I am concerned with the cultural preconditions of development.

Japan, in contrast with England and France, experienced rapid economic growth, especially in the industrial sector, only after 1868. She borrowed heavily from abroad in a conscious effort to benefit from the advanced technology and the political institutions of other countries.

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