1st Edition

Japanese Propriety, Past and Present Disciplined Liberalism

By Florian Coulmas Copyright 2023
    166 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book offers a fresh view on Japanese society focussing on the role of comportment for group cohesiveness. It explores the stereotype that Japan is the world’s most polite country, examining how proper conduct is acquired and expressed; and how the apparent conflict with some of the concepts considered essential for Western modernity, such as society, freedom and the individual, are balanced with Japan’s great emphasis on courtesy, politeness and civility. By comparing the present situation in Japan with behavioural standards of former periods as well as with other cultural traditions, the book explains some of the distinctive features of present-day Japanese society. Overall, the book argues that Japan is a prime example of multiple modernities concerning individuals, collectives and relationships between state and society.


    1. Face Masks and Liberty

    2. Theoretical foundations: Max Weber, Norbert Elias and Michel Foucault

    3. Conceptual Analysis: Coming to terms in modernizing Japan

    4. Formal Perfection: The Tokugawa State

    5. Becoming a Civilized Country: Modernization in Meiji Japan

    6. Continuity and Change: Social disciplining after World War II

    7. Lessons learned: Social disciplining, culture and politics


    Florian Coulmas is Senior Professor for Japanese Society, IN-EAST Institute of East Asian Studies, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.