Reworking Japan examines how the past several decades of neoliberal economic reforms have challenged Japan's corporate ideologies, gendered relations, and subjectivities of individual employees. With Japan's remarkable economic growth since the 1950s, the lifestyles and life courses of "salarymen" came to embody the "New Middle Class" family ideal. However, the nearly three decades of economic stagnation and reforms since the bursting of the economic bubble in the early 1990s has intensified corporate retrenchment under the banner of neoliberal restructuring and brought new challenges to employees and their previously protected livelihoods.
The book explores Japan's fraught and problematic transition from the postwar ideology of "companyism" to the emergent ideology of neoliberalism and the subsequent large-scale economic restructuring. By juxtaposing Japan's economic transformation with an ethnography of work and play, and individual life histories, the book goes beyond the abstract to explore the human dimension of the neoliberal reforms that have impacted Japan’s corporate management, leisure, and workers' subjectivities. Reworking Japan, with its first-hand analysis of how the supposedly hegemonic neoliberal regime does not completely transform existing cultural frames and social relations, will shake up preconceived ideas about Japanese men and the social effects of neoliberalism.
Nana Okura Gagné is Associate Professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is an anthropologist whose research explores how global capitalism impinges upon local ideologies and existing social relations, including gender relations, family relations, and socio-economic relations in Japan and the USA. She is the author of Reworking Japan: Changing Men at Work and Play under Neoliberalism Japan (Cornell University Press, 2020), and she has published in American Ethnologist, Anthropological Theory, Ethnography, Journal of Contemporary Asia.