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Superlegitimacy: passion and ecstasy of a Tokyo train driver - click opera — LiveJournal
February 2010
Tue, Jul. 20th, 2004 09:45 am
Superlegitimacy: passion and ecstasy of a Tokyo train driver


Tue, Jul. 20th, 2004 03:11 pm (UTC)
Read Nakane

Excellent observations! I have never heard this idea called superlegitimacy, but that's an apt term.

(You would do good by reading Chie Nakane's "Japanese Society" at least to get down the basic concepts of Japanese society. Even the Japanese understand themselves in Nakane's framework.)

The real rub to "superlegitimacy" is basically that these roles are essentially forced upon the Japanese people, and when Western ideas of individual liberty invaded Japan, the system started to break down. People got married and had kids a lot more efficiently before these awful ideas of "renai kekkon" (love-based marriage) came into play. As an essentially authoritarian society, everything that is "Japanese" was invented by the ruling elite to create social harmony. Lifetime employment etc were plots hatched to organize unruly Japanese peasants and workers in the early 20th century, and reinforced to the people as "fundamentally" Japanese ideas.

This all leans towards some kind of liberal Marxist ideology, but superlegitimacy is a rather effective way to control the population by saying "you are your job and nothing else." The West doesn't have this, because there is at least the fundamental believe in free will, which is not a part of the Confucian tradition. Clean subway seats have a price.

Tue, Jul. 20th, 2004 04:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Read Nakane

Superlegitimacy is really just an extension of Max Weber's concept of legitimacy. Max Weber is my big sociological hero.

Kojin Karatani, the Japanese neo-Marxist, describes the Japanese system as a kind of 'capitalist Marxism'. I don't disagree with you that Japanese society is authoritarian (I think of it as 'Cute Fascism'), but there are also 'communist' aspects to it:

'Japanese society is superflat, distributed. Ultimate value might fall at any point on the horizontal plane. Everybody is as important as everybody else, everybody bows to everyone else. The capitulation is mutual, the investment total.'

Lifetime employment as a ploy to forestall communist revolution? Isn't that a bit like forestalling Marxism with a form of Marxism?

I'm also much more skeptical than you about the idea of 'free will'. The west is riddled with delusions which simply make people unhappy. Like:

'There is a place outside society.'
'You shouldn't let your social role restrict you.'
'Reality is not here, it's over there (god, happiness, truth).'
'Don't let the body you have dictate who you are.'
'Be true to yourself, do it your way.'
'You were born. So you're free. So happy birthday.'
'Compete, don't co-operate.'
'Aspire, don't conspire.'
'Our system is hierarchical, but anyone can reach the top.'
'Other systems have ideologies, the West has none except Freedom.'
'You can both stay true to your roots and be whoever you want.'

I'll try and track down the Chie Nakane book, thanks!

ReplyThread Parent

Wed, Jul. 21st, 2004 05:12 am (UTC)
Re: Read Nakane

Very good point about fighting Marxism with Marxism. Certainly, the Japanese "elite" class is less wealthy and less powerful than its Western equivalent, and since WWII, there has at least been the popular notion that anyone - throuh hard work and book-learning - could enter the Tokyo U. law department and become part of the ruling elite.

This all worked for a while, but globalization means that a country's internal, unique social system can no longer work on its own. So, when the Japanese economy goes bad, they bring in foreign techniques of downsizing and merit-based pay. Why do you have a generation of freeter? Because the system that supports "superlegitimacy" is falling apart, and kids are intoxicated the idea of being someone other than their jobs: DJs, musicians, dancers, artists, etc. You can't be a "punk" and be a banker, which is somewhat possible in the West. The consumer system itself has grown too large and destroyed the classic Japanese dream.

By attempting to hold on tight to old Japanese societial concepts within a growing Western capitalist model, the Japanese are sitting on a fence and society feels that it is in crisis. Crime, disrepect for authority, uncleanliness, a growing lower class - this is just the way Western society works, not the "breakdown" of a society.

By the way, the Nakane book is more "just the facts" rather than ideological, which is why I recommend it over Ruth Benedict's WWII-era enemy profile "The Chrysantheum and the Sword."

ReplyThread Parent
Stanley Lieber
Wed, Jul. 21st, 2004 03:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Read Nakane

"Crime, disrepect for authority, uncleanliness, a growing lower class - this is just the way Western society works, not the "breakdown" of a society."

Thank you for articulating this clearly.

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