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A Great Transformation: Social And Economic Change In Sixteenth And Seventeenth-Century Japan

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on Japan's emergence as an 'economy-minded society', the most crucial prerequisite of its industrialisation and modernisation. It determines when the maximisation of economic utility in Japan began. With two reservations, it asserts that it appeared first in late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is realized that in Japan this transformation to an economically-minded society and to industrialisation did not take place all at once. Second, since there are few literary source materials in Japan much before 1600 that tell us about social conditions, such as how peasants lived and produced, no real contrast can be made between pre-1600 and post-1600 socio-economic conditions through primary historical sources. Through this transformation, the Japanese, particularly the common people, realized that their material life could be improved through economic activities. Industriousness became a virtue, the most essential secularised value. It was handed down to posterity through the ie, or family system.

Keywords: economy-minded society; industrialisation; Japan; modernisation; secularised value; social conditions; transformation



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