Social Class in Contemporary Japan: Structures, Sorting and Strategies, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Social Class in Contemporary Japan

Structures, Sorting and Strategies, 1st Edition

Edited by Hiroshi Ishida, David H. Slater


264 pages | 23 B/W Illus.

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Post-war Japan was often held up as the model example of the first mature industrial societies outside the Western economy, and the first examples of "middle-mass" society. Today, and since the bursting of the economic bubble in the 1990’s, the promises of Japan, Inc., seem far away.

Social Class in Contemporary Japan is the first single volume that traces the dynamics of social structure, institutional socialization and class culture through this turbulent period, all the way into the contemporary neoliberal moment. In an innovative multi-disciplinary approach that include top scholars working on quantitative class structure, policy development, and ethnographic analysis, this volume highlights the centrality of class formation to our understanding of the many levels of Japanese society. The chapters each address a different aspect of class formation and transformation which stand on their own. Taken together, they document the advantages of putting Japan in the broad comparative framework of class analysis and the enduring importance of social class to the analysis of industrial and post-industrial societies.

Written by a team of contributors from Japan, the US and Europe this book will be invaluable to students and scholars of Japanese society and culture, as well as those interested in cultural anthropology and social class alike.


"The chapters suggest indirectly why there is little class consciousness in Japan, because sorting through educational performance legitimizes differential outcomes and obscures the underlying mechanisms of class. Yet, the book’s broad analytical framework demonstrates that there is much more to class analysis and much more still to be done. Any edited volume can be raided for individual chapters to assign to a class, but some edited volumes such as Social Class in Contemporary Japan offer truly collaborative research that advances the field. This book can and should be read as a coherent whole. It demonstrates the importance of asking social class questions about Japan and provides an array of good models to show young scholars how to do it effectively." - Patricia G. Steinhoff, University of Hawai’i

"In a climate in which both academic and popular attention is focused upon social stratification and disparity, this timely book presents a collection of innovative studies conducted by several of the foremost scholars in class analysis from Japan, the United States, and Europe, all of whom had been advocating the importance of class research long before it came into vogue in recent years. The current volume is groundbreaking… This landmark study is recommended not only to students of Japan but to all scholars who wish to gain critical insight into the dynamics of class and stratification in general." - Yoshio Sugimoto, La Trobe University, Emeritus; Journal of Japanese Studies, 37:2 (2011)

"This volume is a must-read for any scholar of contemporary Japan. It is highly recommendable as a class reader in seminars on Japanese society. The introductory chapter not only gives a comprehensive account of how the analysis of social structure in Japan has shifted in focus; it is also an excellent illustration of how to place an analysis within a clearly defined theoretical frame. The single articles are well-structured and profound in content as well as research method. This not only makes them an informative read but also good examples of academic analysis valuable to students (and researchers) in the fields of social sciences and ethnography." - Carola Hommerich, Pacific Affairs: Volume 83, No. 4 – December 2010

"Combining quantitative and qualitative analysis, this book should be of interest to students of contemporary Japan, especially as it offers a major corrective to the cultural studies paradigm which appears to have colonized Japan studies in recent years… Deservedly it should take its place in any library." - Geoffrey C. Gunn, Faculty of Economics, Nagasaki University, Japan; Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 41 No.2 (2011)

"The contributors to this welcome addition to the scholarly literature on Japanese society hail from the disciplines of sociology and anthropology and thus are able to address the issue of social class from both qualitative and quantitative perspectives…This long-needed book is an outstanding contribution to Japan studies…Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above." - J. W. Traphagan, CHOICE (June 2010)

Table of Contents

1. Social Class Analysis as a Research Program Hiroshi Ishida and David H. Slater Part I: Class Structure 2. Does Class Matter in Japan? Demographics of Class Structure and Class Mobility from a Comparative Perspective Hiroshi Ishida 3. Marriage as an Association of Social Classes in a Low Fertility Rate Society: Towards a New Theory of Social Stratification Sawako Shirahase Part II: Class Sorting 4. From Credential Society to "Learning Capital" Society: A Rearticulation of Class Formation in Japanese Education and Society Takehiko Kariya 5. Social Class and Economic Life Chances in Post-Industrial Japan: The "Lost Generation" Mary C. Brinton Part III: Class Socialization 6. The "New Working Class" of Urban Japan: Socialization and Contradiction from Middle School to the Labor Market David H. Slater 7. What Color is Your Parachute? The Post-Pedigree Society Amy Borovoy Part IV: Class Strategies 8. Motherhood and Class: Gender, Class, and Reproductive Practices among Japanese Single Mothers Aya Ezawa 9. How Ethnic Minorities Experience Social Mobility in Japan: An Ethnographic Study of Peruvian Migrants Ayumi Takenaka

About the Editors

Hiroshi Ishida is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Tokyo, Japan.

David H. Slater is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Japanese Studies at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and the Graduate School of Global Studies, Sophia University, Japan.

About the Series

Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Social Classes
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies