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A Journey to Recognize Labor as a Social Question in Modern Japan

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Authors
Yi, Okyeon
Issue Date
2007
Publisher
Institute for Social Development and Policy Research, Center for Social Sciences, Seoul National University
Citation
Development and Society, Vol.36 No.2, pp. 297-330
Keywords
Modern JapanLabor as a Social Question, Surplus EconomyPolitical AwakeningExternal Factors
Abstract
In this paper, I delineated the dynamic processes of political awakening of workers, industrialists, and bureaucrats when faced with a rapid socioeconomic change. The Meiji Japan was a labor surplus economy in which the balance of power belonged to the owners of the scarce capital and land resources, not to the owners of abundant labor resources, the workers and the tenant farmers. Thus, their grievances were dealt with as an economic problem. Even the workers themselves were not conscious of their right to a decent human life. However, the advent of large-scale wars contributed to the advancement of the bargaining power of the workers, especially with skills in high demand. The tightening of labor market empowered the skilled workers in their demand for higher wages and better work conditions. Consequently, Japan experienced a bulge in real and nominal wages as well as the change in consumption patterns. The modern managerial industrialists managed to link higher wages with higher productivity and larger profit. Yet they failed to grasp the rights of wage laborers as being equal to theirs. In this respect, the Japanese middle class failed to sustain the trend toward democratization. Although being the prime mover of democratization, the Japanese middle class remained hesitant to recognize the human rights of workers, the propertyless. Therefore, when they did manage to start a truly liberal reform, they found that the external factors hindered their effort toward the progress of democratization. It was their hesitation that brought the end to the liberal democracy which they initiated.
ISSN
1598-8074
Language
English
URI
http://hdl.handle.net/10371/86705
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College of Social Sciences (사회과학대학)Institute for Social Development and Policy Research (사회발전연구소)Development and Society Development and Society Vol.36 No.1/2 (2007)
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