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Alternative Modernities: A Cultural Genealogy of Japan's Modernization

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Traditional and largely rural patterns of relationships seem to persist in Japan despite economic and political modernization. Infused within modern technology, ideology, and apparently modern organizational forms, one discerns the persistent, if not determining, influence of native values and social patterns. Following a genealogical approach, inspired by Nietzsche and Foucault, this paper goes beyond the opposition between universalist and multiculturalist models of modernization, in order to identify certain indigenous principles of social organization manifest in both "traditional" and "modern" social formations of Japan. The persistence of these basic principles, such as the 'frame orientation," and the emphasis on wa (harmony, peace), is traced through the historical process of Japan's modernization in various realms of social life — the economy, political life, and popular culture. e analysis recent structural shifts in Japanese society, while still affirming the principles of Japan's "alternative modernity," also implies that major changes in its basic organizing principles might be under way.

Affiliations: 1: Formerly, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland


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