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History, Social Structure and Individualism

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image of International Journal of Comparative Sociology
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This paper explores how history and social structure affect individualism in Japan. It integrates a variety of cross-cultural studies comparing Japan with the West whose methodological approaches vary considerably. Its historical comparisons point to many parallels between Japan and the West and reveal similar links between economic development and individualism. Sociological surveys demonstrate that similar environmental conditions, particularly environmental complexity, have similar effects in the two settings and provide evidence of a growth in individualism in Japan resulting from an increase in such complexity. Anthropological and developmental psychological studies demonstrate how maternal behaviors reproduce cultural norms about appropriate levels of group interdependence and suggest that maternal behavior is becoming more individualistic in Japan, most probably as a result of changing socio-environmental conditions. Reported findings on how the institutionalization of values such as individualism or interdependence lead to such values' continued acceptance provide an indication of why the values embodied in cultures and social structures often seem to change more slowly than do values of individuals.

Affiliations: 1: Section on Socio-environmental Studies, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, U.S.A.


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