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Japanese Society (Center for Japanese Studies, UC Berkeley) Paperback – February 1, 1972

ISBN-13: 978-0520021549 ISBN-10: 0520021541 Edition: 1st Paperback Ed
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Japanese (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"A brilliant wedding of 'national character' studies and analyses of small societies through the structural approach of British anthropology. One is of course reminded of Ruth Benedict's Chrysanthemum and the Sword which deals also with Japanese national culture. Studies by Margaret Mead and Geoffrey Gorer deal with other national cultures; however, all of these studies take off from national psychology. Professor Nakane comes to explanation of the behavior of Japanese through analysis rather of historical social structure of Japanese society, beginning with the way any two Japanese perceive each other, and following through to the nature of the Japanese corporation and the whole society. Nakane's remarkable achievement, which has already given new insight about themselves to the Japanese, promises to open up a new field of large-society comparative social anthropology which is long overdue."—Sol Tax
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Product Details

  • Series: Center for Japanese Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1st Paperback Ed edition (February 1, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520021541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520021549
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,022,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Bond on September 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
Chie Nakane's Japanese Society, is a structural analysis of what makes contemporary Japanese society Japanese. With this work, Nakane wishes to find out what the fundamental elements of society are in modern Japan. In the preface, she tells us that although some of the ideas she presents may not be entirely new, her "interpretations are different and the way in which [she] synthesize[s] these aspects" (viii) are. On the other hand, because this book was written in 1970, I cannot help but feel that some of the interpretations presented are outdated.

Since Nakane is Japanese, I have the tendency, and I think she does as well, to believe that she knows what she is talking about as far as Japanese society is concerned. However, she really only bases her arguments on whatever fits her structural pattern. She even says, "I have also refrained from quoting...precise data directly obtained from field surveys" and admits to having "drawn evidence almost at random" (vii). What Nakane actually does, rather than provide a structural analysis of Japanese society, is use certain aspects of Japanese society to validate structuralism

Nakane begins by saying that the Japanese form social groups depending on their "frame," or their place of work, and not by "attributes," or what one's occupation in a company is (1). What makes these groups uniquely Japanese is that the co-workers, perhaps the boss as well, often go out drinking after work - forming very intimate relationships. Nakane believes this to be the foundation of Japanese society. Here I believe she is absolutely correct - 30 years ago. For instance, the well-being of the company is synonymous with the well-being of the group.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ruth Pennington Paget on June 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Nakane's description of hierarchy where workers in the same company from the vice-president down to assembly men have more in common than with their counterparts in other companies was extremely useful to me in writing my own book on Japan. Her descriptions of how seniority in groups is formed is extremely useful in understanding Japanese society as well.

This short book is a must-read for the plane. All business people, Japan Exchange and Teaching participants, expatriates, and high school and college exchange students should read the book before, during, and after their stay in Japan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Tanimura on September 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
From the very beginning of Japanese Society, Chie Nakane explains her dedication to the structuralist approach to understand Japanese society, "I have used wide-ranging suggestive evidence as material to illustrate the crucial aspects of Japanese life, for the understanding of the structural core of Japanese society. . ." (viii). Where Ruth Benedict admits to the limited evidence at her disposal in drawing her conclusions, Nakane boasts that her belonging to the culture which she is attempting to define will aid in her critical analysis. Nakane's goal with the text is to use her understanding of Japanese culture to draw conclusions about its basic components. With this knowledge, Nakane should be able explain all aspects of Japanese culture in relation to the a few basic underlying elements and rules. The assumption that Nakane's structuralist approach makes is that all actions taken by individuals in a given society can be traced to a limited number of cultural facets that are shared by all individuals that belong to a common culture.

The benefit of the structural approach is that it produces concrete results and information that can help in understanding a given culture. Benedict's approach assumed that when Japan entered the modern era, the cultural traditions were rendered inert and unchanging. Nakane's approach allows for traditional Japanese culture to be more organic. The traditional Japanese values grow to find new applications in a modern context. The problem is that this model implies is that traditional culture appears to precede the people that live it. Though the traditional values are intact, no new cultural identity can be formed as time goes on. The structural is tic approach relies on the basic elements of culture not changing.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard Harris on September 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
Nakane has two purposes in writing Japanese Society: to explain the core structure of Japanese society and to suggest new ideas about the modern Japanese. Nakane is natively Japanese, which allows her a unique viewpoint into Japanese society. She believes that by writing about her own society, she will be able to use facts that other, non-Japanese authors might have ignored. She uses these facts and observations to arrive at her thesis about Japanese society, and uses her experiences in Japan to support it well.

Nakane's central argument is of a vertical structure that permeates Japanese society. Japanese relations are based through those who are higher in rank (sempai) and those lower in rank (kouhai). In effect, relationships are based on a superior-inferior system, and not on a system of equals. Nakane then uses this thesis to explain why Japanese society works the way it does, why, for example, seniority is the qualification of leaders, not talent. She maintains this argument throughout the book.

Nakane's argument is solid, but weakened by her belief that vertical structure is only applicable to the Japanese. She illustrates the relationships in Japanese and Western societies by using a pair of diagrams. In the West, the leader has a vertical relationship with each of his workers, who also have horizontal relationships with other workers. For the Japanese, however, the only relationships are between the leader and the worker. Nakane uses examples from Japanese society to demonstrate Japan's relationships, however she never explains how Western relationships work. Without a foil to contrast her idea with, the reader is left to question exactly how Japanese society differs from Western society.
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