She has published in major journals and edited volumes and a number of articles on the Japanese sentence-final particles, honorifics, and style shift from a constructivist perspective. Book Preview. Email a friend. Back Results list. Keiretsu —groups of companies that are closely linked through overlapping stock ownership, preferential supply relationships, coordination of economic activities, and extensive subcontracting relationships—play a central role in the economy. The flagships of such groups are heavy industrial firms, banks, and general trading companies, and the largest keiretsu control dozens of firms in sectors that range from mining to mass media.
Since World War II, business and government have maintained extremely close ties. Government agencies set both broad economic policies and measures targeted at specific sectors, and business generally cooperates with government planning. The business establishment has been a major backer of the Liberal Democratic Party, and its successors.
Classes and Castes. Japanese society has been portrayed as being essentially classless or as having a class structure in which very tiny elite groups and underclasses bracket an enormous number of middle-class people. However, there are significant social differences among rural and urban residents, including family composition, educational attainment, and labor force participation. Within the urban population, social differentiation exists between the white-collar, salaried "new middle class," blue-collar industrial workers, and the self-employed petty entrepreneurial classes of shopkeepers and artisans.
The neo-Confucian class system was abolished in the s, but remnants of it continue to influence cultural attitudes toward social position, including the entitlement of elite groups to lead society and ideas about conformity to social expectations. Other legacies of premodern stratification include the continued existence of "outcaste" populations. This "untouchable" status results A farmhouse in Hokkaido.
Only a small portion of Japan's work force is employed in agriculture. The status is hereditary, but the people so stigmatized are indistinguishable from other residents in terms of language, ethnic background, or physical appearance. Other marginalized urban social categories include a large floating population of day laborers and migrant laborers, who have been joined by an increasing number of illegal and quasi-legal immigrants from China, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Symbols of Social Stratification.
One of the most important determinants of social stratification is educational attainment. Japanese people refer to a "credential" society, and educational credentials have often been regarded as the most important criteria for employment and marriage, particularly among the urban middle classes. Japan has been a constitutional monarchy since the Meiji constitution of In , a new constitution was drafted by advisers to the Allied occupation forces and adopted by the parliament.
This constitution guarantees equality of the sexes, extends suffrage to all adult citizens, underscores the emperor's postwar renunciation of claims to divine status, and assigns the emperor a symbolic role as head of state. Japan's parliament, known as the Diet, consists of the House of Councilors and the House of Representatives. Upper House members are elected from national and local constituencies; Lower House member are elected from local constituencies.
The political power of the Lower House is much greater than that of the Upper House; prime ministers are elected from the Lower House, and most cabinet positions are also filled from the membership of that chamber. At the local level, each prefecture has an elected governor and an elected assembly. Prefectures have limited authority over taxation and legal codes and act primarily as agents of the national government. Cities, towns, and villages have elected chief executives and assemblies.
Municipalities also have limited autonomous powers and are primarily providers of daily services. Education, police, and fire protection are organized around municipal units but are controlled or standardized at the national level. Administratively, the country is divided into forty-seven prefectures that vary in terms of their political structures. There are forty-three ordinary prefectures, three metropolitan prefectures with special administrative powers, and one administrative region for the northernmost island.
Lower levels of local government and administration include counties and municipalities that are classified by population size: cities, towns, and villages.
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Leadership and Political Officials. Throughout most of the postwar period, the Liberal Democratic Party LDP , a conservative party with close ties to business and the national bureaucracy, dominated national politics. The LDP was in effect a coalition among leaders of semiautonomous factions, and its hallmark was intricate compromises and backroom deals.
In , the LDP split apart, and many of its factions have become independent political parties. At the national level, government ministries wield enormous power. Since the late nineteenth century, the elite levels of the national bureaucracy have been accorded enormous respect. In many areas, ministries set policy and politicians ratify the opinions of the bureaucrats.
The prestige and respect accorded to government ministries have plunged since the s in response to the economic downturn and widely publicized incidents of corruption and incompetence. Military Activity. The constitution of renounced the use of military force and forbids the state from maintaining armed forces. However, Japan maintains a "self-defense force" with substantial personnel and weaponry, supported by a growing budget.
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There is a long-standing ethos of support for education, public safety, and public health, which have been government priorities since the nineteenth century. However, many aspects of social welfare continue to be the responsibility of families, communities, and other social groups. Traditionally, villages were organized around mutual assistance, and cultural norms still encourage social groups to take care of the needs of their individual members. Care for the elderly was traditionally a family responsibility, but it has become an enormous public issue because of Japan's rapidly aging population and the decline in multi-generational households.
Japanese religious traditions have not emphasized charity or philanthropy. Since the nineteenth century, however, Japanese Christians have been leaders in social reform movements, and many educational, medical, and other institutions have been sponsored by Christian groups.
The growth of social movements has been limited because of deferential attitudes toward the state's role in public affairs. Throughout the twentieth century, the government harnessed or supervised the activities of many nominally independent social groups and organizations. During the s and s, citizen movements that confronted the government became common, particularly in response to environmental issues. Since the early s, there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers and range of activities of nonprofit organizations, stimulated in part by skepticism over the efficiency of government, the failure of government agencies to respond to major public issues and emergencies, and the desire to create institutions that will give more autonomy to citizens in shaping social policy.
Division of Labor by Gender.
Women were not permitted to enter certain sacred spaces, and in some communities were forbidden to board fishing vessels or enter mines or tunnels. Most of these prohibitions have vanished, but in some ritual contexts they continue. Neo-Confucianism defined all social roles in terms of hierarchical relationships; including the domination of husband over wife and of father over children.
In the late nineteenth century, when new legal codes institutionalized family norms, the control of husband over wife was codified.
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In virtually all legal, political, and social contexts outside the home, women were subordinate to the male household head. The Relative Status of Women and Men.
Authority and autonomy for women traditionally were confined to domestic matters. A male household head represented the family to the outside world and controlled its public affairs; within the home, his wife might exercise great control in managing the day-to-day life of the family. Changes in family structure since the end of World War II have eroded the patriarchal domination of households. The constitution of made equality of the sexes an established principle, and the legal framework of the traditional family structure has been dismantled.
However, the practical impact of legal changes on women's status has been gradual. Despite Downtown Hiroshima and the memorial of the atomic bomb. Women's social participation also reflects various gendered divides. The Japanese language includes sharply divergent styles of speech for men and women. Women often are expected to use a more polite and formal style of speech that implies deference and observance of the established hierarchy. Marriage is generally based on mutual attraction between individuals; this is known as a "love marriage" in contrast to the traditional "arranged marriage" in which a go-between negotiated a match in a process that might give parental opinions more weight than those of the prospective bride and groom.
Some vestiges of arranged marriage continue and many couples rely on matchmakers to find mates. Background checks on a prospective spouse and his or her family are routine. Weddings are almost always held in hotels or wedding halls, with a lavish banquet for several dozen guests.
Weddings are elaborately staged, and the bride and groom typically go through several changes of costume. Domestic Unit. Most families, especially in urban areas, are nuclear, consisting of the parents and their children. Slightly extended families, such as an elderly parent living with a married couple and their children, are not uncommon, but in general extended kin groups no longer play a major role in people's daily lives. The primary imperative of the family as a social institution was to survive across the generations.
The household head's role ideally was to be steward for a family's intergenerational fortunes, honoring the memories of ancestors who had established the family's position and ensuring that family assets, traditions, and social standing would be passed on intact to an unbroken line of future heirs. In traditional agrarian life, land was almost never divided, because to do so might imperil the next generation's ability to survive.
So in most cases, inheritance was by a single child, usually the eldest son. In the case of an extremely prosperous family, they might be able to establish other children in newly independent family lines, which would remain forever subservient to the original line. Various kinds of fictive kinship modeled on patterns of adoption and relationships between family banches have been used to sustain other kinds of social relationships. Patron-client relationships sometimes are referred to as parent-child ties, and may involve elaborate formal rituals of bonding.
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Traditional artistic life is structured around master-apprentice relationships that involve adoption and the establishment of lineages. Kin Groups. The kinship system before World War II was based on upper-class family patterns established during the late Tokugawa period. In the late nineteenth century, the Meiji government put in place legal norms and standards that defined an ideal family structure. It established clear rules about membership, inheritance patterns, and the authority of the household head over assets and Women in costume at the Needle Festival in Tokyo.
This legal structure was radically altered after World War II, by reducing patriarchal authority, increasing the legal rights of women, and requiring that estates be shared among children and widows.
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Patterns of traditional kinship still shape the social conventions of family life. The traditional family system was organized around a multigenerational household with a single central authority: the male household head. Inheritance of a family's estate and succession to a family's occupation, social position, and obligations devolved to a single child. In most regions, this involved inheritance and succession by the oldest son. All other children were expected to leave the natal household and become members of another family system through marriage or adoption.
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