Kids These Days!

archive5

For the last week, Tokyo’s ultra-toxic levels of pollen have destroyed my stamina and health, and I can do little more than sit around my room, reading a somewhat new book called Japan’s Changing Generations: Are Young People Creating a New Society? (Ed. Gordon Mathews and Bruce White) between sneezes. The problem with most academic works on youth culture is that the writers are essentially two or three decades removed from whatever they’re writing about. They may perceive their own mistakes about Glay members as trivial, but I start cribbing score and by the end I’m pretty sure they basically have no idea what they are talking about. Who wants to read a book about the Rolling Stones written by the WWII generation?

But enough of my ageism: There’s a pretty interesting essay by Kotani Satoshi in the book with the cranky title: “Why are Japanese youth today so passive?” He brings up some very interesting points about why the counterculture failed to change Japanese society like it did in the West:

1) The Japanese Left in the 1960s chose Marxism rather than Liberal Democracy as its rallying philosophy, which left little room for real adaptation into society. When revolution didn’t happen in an increasingly rich Japan, they either could do a 180˚ back into the workforce or drop out completely (or equally likely, be lynched by their own comrades.)

2) The Japanese economy’s unprecedented growth of the ’70s and ’80s further perpetuated traditional gender roles instead of leading to a critique. Men were able to supply enough income to their families so that women could very easily stay full-time housewives. There’s a deeper message here: The “conservative” Japanese system could easily show great proof of success through rising incomes all the way until the early ’90s. How could the counterculture convince people with fatter paychecks to change horses in mid-stream?

A Correction: In the past I’ve written that Japanese student protesters mostly went straight back into society, but that was only true for the ’60s Ampo-era protesters. The more violent late ’60s variety were summarily blacklisted from major companies — a practice that the Supreme Court legally upheld in 1973.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

5 Responses

  1. porandojin Says:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0099283360/qid=1109852359/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl/026-0530180-5930016

    try his stuff you rich american boy ;]

  2. marxy Says:

    Yes, I’m so rich that I get all my books for free… from the library.

  3. Graham Says:

    I’ve got the same book out from my local university library. It’s one of the generation texts I was telling you about before. The selling price on Amazon is a little off-putting. -g

  4. Dave Says:

    With regards to gender roles, do you think that economic development was truly the driving factor behind a growing women’s rights movement? I would have thought that there was more to it than simply household economics.

    Incidentally of course the ‘tradition’ in the traditional gender roles should almost entirely be an invented one – my understanding of daily life in pre-WWII Japan certainly included the vast majority of women working with full-time jobs (often on the family farm, but in cities roughly similar to today.) Wasn’t the idea of being a full time housewife actually something that was *aspired* to by many women in the 50s and 60s? (Because it was freedom from the requirement to work -) Then later on there was a realisation by some women that life as a housewife, while materially comfortable, was less than totally fulfilling.

    I’m sure I could bring up a few literary references, but sadly the notes I have are an ocean away…

  5. marxy Says:

    With regards to gender roles, do you think that economic development was truly the driving factor behind a growing women’s rights movement? I would have thought that there was more to it than simply household economics.

    I don’t think it’s so simple either, although the “dream of being a housewife” was realized in the States almost two decades before it was in Japan.