The Fall of the Family-State and Rise of the Enterprise Society: Family as Ideology and Site of Conservative Power in Modern Japan

  • Julian Brook Ruszel University of Victoria
Keywords: Japan, family, collectivism, feminism, ideology


Recent literature on the history of family in Japan reveals that what is commonly understood as the “traditional” Japanese family—called the ie family—is largely a political construct that was institutionalized in Japan’s Meiji period (1868–1912). While the ie model was effectively removed from the US-imposed postwar constitution and replaced with the western nuclear family as the new ideal, this historical analysis reveals that the neo-Confucian principles and social structures of the ie model were reintegrated into Japan’s company work culture, to the degree that the ie continued to shape Japan’s collectivist social structures and identities well beyond the end of the war. This analysis highlights key ideologies employed by the ruling elite in modern Japan as a means of social control and nation building. It demonstrates a continuation of the historically close relationship between family and the state in postwar Japan that challenges deterministic notions of westernization applied to the Japanese context; it highlights articulations of family that complicate culturally bound conceptions that see it as inherently separate from the state, and clarifies the modern history of collectivist society in Japan.

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