GLOCOM Platform
debates Media Reviews Tech Reviews Special Topics Books and Journals
Summary Page
Search with Google
Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:22 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #73: February 24, 2003

Social Science Japan Journal

Journal Name: Social Science Japan Journal: October 1998, Vol. 1, No. 2

Print ISSN: 1369-1465,  Online ISSN: 1468-2680


An introduction to this issues' special topic: Japanese society and 'community' (pp163-164)
A Suehiro

The critical limits of the national community: the Ryukyuan subject (pp165-179)
I Tomiyama (Faculty of Letters, Osaka University, Japan)
This paper re-examines the concept of 'the Japanese' as a national community by investigating the development of the thinking of native Okinawan anthropologist Ifa Fuyu in his lifelong attempt to answer the question 'Who are the Ryukyuans?' With the launching of anthropological field surveys as part and parcel of Japanese territorial expansion, which began in the late-nineteenth century, Japanese anthropologists began to engage in their task of emphasizing the uniformity or the comprehensibility of the concept, 'the Japanese'. Deeply sceptical about this trend, Ifa continued to search for the 'self-identity' of the Ryukyunans, while collaborating with the visiting anthropologist Torii Ruyuzo as his assistant/informant. The inquiry led Ifa to insist upon the 'uniqueness' of the Ryukyuans, on the one hand, while proposing, on the other, the concept of 'a common ancestor, a great nation', one that transcends academic typology about the commonalities or differences between the Japanese and Ryukyuans. Subsequently, in the 1910s, Ifa moved on to explicate the uniqueness of Ryukyuan history. In the wake of the sagoyashi (sago palm) crisis of the 1920s, however, Ifa switched to a standpoint that regards the Ryukyuans as the 'Southern Islanders', and based on this new perspective he began to assert, on the one hand, that the Ryukyuans are a branch line of Japanese descendants, while emphasizing, on the other, the exoticism, primitiveness, and 'Seiban' elements characteristic of the Ryukyuans as against the Japanese. What motivated these changes in Ifa's viewpoint? The paper probes for an answer by drawing insights from the controversy between Franz Fanon and Octave Mannoni on the psychological relations between the colonizer and the colonized, and, moreover, by trying to peer inside the pondering Ifa, a Ryukyuan, fixed on the psychologically puzzling question of 'Who am I?' And through these inquiries, the paper attempts to put the concept of 'the Japanese' as a national community in a fresh perspective.

The commercialization of the sacred: the structural evolution of religious communities in Japan (pp181-198)
S Shimazono (Department of Religious Studies, University of Tokyo, Japan)
The author's purpose in this paper is to elucidate changes in the activities of religious groups in contemporary Japan by examining new forms of oblation (monetary donations and volunteer labor), as well as new relationships between believers and the religious groups to which they belong. The paper begins with an overview of the prevailing views of religious activity as a manifestation of the relationship between an individual follower and a particular religious group, and then concretely traces the changing role played by oblation in the shamanistic folk religions of Japan, Tenrikyo, and 'new' new religions.
Religious activity in contemporary Japan has come to be characterized less and less by communal oblation, and increasingly by individually motivated oblation. Furthermore, the ties between new religions and their followers have increasingly taken on the character of commercial transactions, so that followers have become 'consumers' of religious resources, and the religious group a 'provider of information services'. The author calls this development the 'commercialization of the sacred', noting that new religions now focus on attracting donations in the form of membership fees and tuition, and using occupational task as the form of service to be rendered within the group.
In addition, the paper tries to make sense of religious groups in contemporary Japan by classifying these according to organizational type. It is no longer sufficient to look only at the evolution from the traditional 'household' model, to the 'parent-child' model, to the 'congregation-bureaucracy linkage' model peculiar to the new religions that emerged after World War II, including the Soka Gakkai. It is now imperative to also consider a model that succeeds the 'congregation-bureaucracy linkage' model and that can be called the 'occupational task-implementation system-consumer' model.

Community and efficiency in the Japanese firm (pp199-215)
H Tabata (Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo, Japan)
The Japanese firm is often regarded as a community of the employer and the employees, who are its constituents or stakeholders. However, a community is, generally speaking, a social organization that is not so dynamic in its economic performance. Why and how does the Japanese firm have both a community-like nature and a highly competitive nature at the same time? That is the main question I try to answer in this paper. There are opposing views on this point. Some attribute the high efficiency and competitiveness of the Japanese firm to the hard work of employees under the strong control of management, while others emphasize the role of long-term employment and common interests. After examining these alternatives, I propose a different approach. The Japanese firm, I argue, operates like a community, affording its employees job security and welfare, but the market forces it to be more and more efficient and competitive. Under the current market labour market structure, workers who enjoy employment security in their firm cannot but make efforts to sustain their company in market competition. What drives the Japanese firm, then, is not management power nor a coalition of workers and shareholders, but the process of capital accumulation by the company itself, which is necesary for inter-firm competition in the market. So-called Japanese employment practices are now undergoing considerable change, and the future of the firm-community is uncertain.

A global electronic community: from the fifth-generation computer to the internet (pp217-232)
T Nishigaki (Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo, Japan)
The rapid development of computer-based communication technologies, typified by the advent of the Internet, is said to be giving rise to a novel form of community. The paper considers, primarily in reference to the Japanese context, whether such an electronic community can really claim universality, allowing individuals to communicate with each other across the existing boundaries of nation-states, corporations, and the family and how it will affect the existing socio-political structure. One focus of discussion is a government-funded Japanese project, the 'Fifth Generation Computer System Project' (FGCSP), which was carried out over a decade beginning in 1982. A critical assessment of the project bears out that its failure should not be ascribed, as is often done, to its having concentrated on developing hardware technologies with limited applicability, but rather to a serious flaw in its basic design, namely its misperception about 'universal language'. In the electronic community as it exists now, English is essentially accorded the status of the 'universal language', the one indispensable for access to the Internet. It is argued here, however that such a state of things, if allowed to continue, is bound to hinder fruitful communications among various societies with diverse natural languages and social and cultural values peculiar to them, and to create, for the non-English world, a problem of 'language discrimination' by driving a wedge between the elite few proficient in English and the non-English-speaking majority.

Japan's taxing bureaucrats: fiscal sociology and the property-tax revolt (pp 233-246)
N Jinno (Department of Economics, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo Japan) and A DeWit (Corresponding author at: Department of Economics, Shimonoseki City University, Japan)
This paper examines Japan's 1990s property-tax revolt using Schumpeter's fiscal sociology, or what in contemporary terms could be referred to as an historical institutionalist perspective on fiscal politics. We argue that the revolt was rooted in the wartime fiscal system, whose legacy includes bureaucratic turf wars over taxes on income, consumption and assets. In recent years, this conflict over access to revenues has been aggravated by a fiscal crisis and major shifts in Japan's national and subnational tax systems. In our view, the activism of Japan's fiscal bureaucrats tends to be dismissed by rational choice institutionalism, especially tis principal-agent variant. By contrast, we show that bureaucratic agencies are important, autonomous actors in Japanese fiscal politics, and argue that identifying and explaining their organizational agendas requires more eclectic methods.
The public finances are one of the best starting points for an investigation of society, especially though not exclusively of its political life. The full fruitfulness of this approach is seen particularly at those turning points or better epochs, during which existing forms begin to die off and to change into something new, and which always involve a crisis of the old fiscal methods.

'Japanization' of a performance appraisal system: a historical comparison of the American and Japanese systems (pp247-262)
K Endo (Meiji University, School of Business Administration, Japan)
The Japanese performance appraisal system, which plays an important part in employment practices here, was initially introduced in the 1920s and 1930s, modeled after a system that was gaining wider use in the USA. But after undergoing different histories of development, the two systems in their present form cut a stark contrast. The system now in use in Japan is characterized above all else by the fact that is has kept intact, as its cornerstone, what used to be the defining features of the American system until the early 1930s (e.g. its application to production workers and non-disclosure of rating results to employees), and has incorporated minor additions of Japanese origin (e.g. an emphasis on ability-based factors), while it has refused to emulate most of the significant changes in the American system since the 1930s. One telling difference between the two systems today can be found in the fact that the Japanese system is frequently (and even intentionally and openly) used as a means of discriminating against 'undesirable' employees. Yet legal, remedial measures for victimized employees remain far from appropriate, whereas in the USA use of the performance appraisal system as a tool of employment discrimination is strictly prohibited by the Civil Rights Act.

Political women in Japan: a case study of the Seikatsusha network movement (pp263-279)
J Gelb (Center for the Study of Women and Society, Graduate Center and City College, USA) and M Estevez-Abe (Corresponding author at: Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota, USA)
This article describes and analyzes the activities and impact of the Seikatsu Club movement in Japan, a social and political movement of Japanese women. Based on our analysis, we attempt to demonstrate the following conclusions: 1. The Seikatsu movement has been remarkable as a vehicle for recruiting and mobilizing women locally both in community activities and electoral politics.
2. For many women, participating in the public, political sphere is transformational and for a smaller minority, values and goals have been redefined and they have gained a new sense of empowerment. For the latter group of 'New Women', greater gender consciousness appears to be developing.
3. While the movement's goals and those of many individuals within it are challenging to prevailing Japanese politics and economics, there are contradictions. Organizationally, hierarchy and paternalistic male leadership have been dominant, despite the formally democratic structure. And aspects of the movement's ideology (e.g. linkage to domestic producers, non-professional housewives seeking electoral office) are profoundly conservative.
4. The movement has demonstrated considerable success at the ballot box in local areas in recent years, although its geographic scope and numerical depth remains limited. Still, it is among the few non-party groups of independents to attain increased representation at the local level. However, commitment to electoral rotation and income sharing may limit the growth of female professional politicians arising from the Seikatsu movement.
5. Seikatsu-elected proxies have achieved incremental policy impact on a number of issues at the local level and movement groups have become active as service providers and policy implementers as well through new administrative partnerships with sympathetic mayors and bureaucrats.

Social Science Japan Journal (1998)
Copyright ©1998 Oxford University Press

(This journal is available online at:
Posted with permission from the publisher.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications