Annual Conference 2013 of the VSJF – German Association for Social Science Research on Japan
Social inequality has been on the research agenda pertaining to many advanced economies such as Germany and the USA for some time. The recent worldwide financial and economic crisis has given it increased significance. In Japan, too, social inequality has become a key topic for scholars and social policy makers since the turn of the century. For decades, Japan considered itself a homogeneous middle-class society of economic equity and equal opportunity. Recently however, Japan is struggling to come to terms with structural changes and a new self-image as a gap society (kakusa shakai) marked by increasing differentiation and new forms of social inequality. Economic stagnation and population aging are compounding extant problems in the labor market as well as in the already overstretched social security system.
After two decades of structural changes, we believe that it is time to take stock. Bringing together leading experts from various disciplines, including sociology, economics, social geography and Japanese studies, the conference will focus on five dimensions of social inequality which we believe to be especially relevant in the Japanese context: education, work, social welfare, the urban-rural divide, and minorities. Within each dimension presenters will concentrate on the three levels of structure, discourse, and agency. In this way, we hope to establish a coherent view of the current state of Japan as gap society and to identify the dynamics between structural changes, public and academic discourses as well as resulting behavior patterns and forms of political action.
Contact: Prof. Dr. David Chiavacci
Institute of East Asian Studies, University of Zurich
Tel. +41 44 634 40 84
Dr. Carola Hommerich
Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien (DIJ)
Tel. +81 (0)3 3222-5285