Deciding Whether the Notion of a Collectivist State Can Still be Applied to Current Day Japan

Hosoda, Midori (2016). 'Deciding Whether the Notion of a Collectivist State Can Still be Applied to Current Day Japan' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

abstract This study focuses on whether the stereotypical notion of Japan being a collectivist nation can still be applied to the country today. Originating from the Edo Period, the Japanese have continued to use a system where every member belonging to a social group is held responsible for the actions or behavior of another. This makes it easier for those in power to govern and retain control over the masses. In this kind of system, people are respected as long as they belong to a certain group and oblige by the rules. However there is evidence that over the years, Japan has obtained individualistic qualities through a shift in its societal structure and heavy influence from surrounding developed nations. Thus, the author has hypothesized in this thesis that although there are still customs and behaviors of the Japanese people that can be classified as collectivistic, it cannot be asserted that everything fits under this category. References to previously done research and a survey conducted by the author were used to prove this conjecture. To narrow down the scope of this topic, the author focused on collective responsibility as a unique aspect of collectivism. The Japanese education system has been raised as an example of an institution that relies heavily on some of the key concepts of this principle. The teachers and club instructors use this to discipline their students and have them realize the importance of teamwork and of building a community. Thus, a survey was conducted among pupils in sixth to ninth grade to get a better understanding of how collectivism was integrated into their learning experience and to hear how they felt about this practice. Additionally, through the survey, the author was able to analyze whether the experience of living abroad shaped a child’s opinions toward collective responsibility.  From the results, the author was able to find that seventy percent of the students had experienced collective responsibility and over sixty percent of it was at school. It is also interesting to note that half of the students agreed to the effectiveness of this method involving collective responsibility while the other half disagreed. It can be assumed that this is due to the societal inclination in recent years to create “model global citizens” with an emphasis placed on the individual’s independent leadership and sense of responsibility rather than a duty as a collective. Therefore, the students are being placed in an ambivalent situation where they are being taught one thing while being disciplined in another. In turn, this led to the conclusion that Japan is not a wholly collectivist nation, and that collectivistic and individualistic ideas coexist; this creates room for diverse thoughts and more balance within peoples' lives as they respect each individual while also taking into account the importance of community relationships.

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