Culture of Interest: Japan Theoretical Research Paper

Pages: 15 (5094 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: Doctoral  ·  Topic: Anthropology

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] Japan scored somewhere in middle on individualism collectivism index and the society is more paternalistic in nature. It does not display strongest of collectivist traditions but neither does it resonate with individualistic characteristics as a cultural unit. The American people on the other hand have displayed tremendously high score in this dimension. Having scored 91, the nation is among highest scorer in this aspect. People primarily work for them and do not like affording extended families. Satisfaction of personal aims, aspirations and motives is primary to American people. Glorification of personal efforts to achieve success is common place in the society Americans live in. While Japanese people are more considerate towards other group members, Americans too have displayed desire to form groups, only to satisfy one's individual desires and collective motives (Yuki, 2003). Relational structure is more important to the Japanese people and relationships along with hierarchical respect are kept intact at all times of group interaction. Collective self assumes much importance in the Eastern societies of which Japan is a modern and relevant example. Though, culture is active in one's psychological self at all times but acute importance shall also be placed as to whether the self, psychologically cultural in nature can be studied scientifically. Where it is argued that participation in culture does alter human mind, cross-cultural navigation indicates that Japanese and American cultures have come close to each other during the last few decades due to increased globalization. Does globalization catalyzes assimilation and integration of cultures and makes them more identical and symmetrical to each other? Iwabuchi, K. (2002) argues that both similarities and differences in American and Japanese cultures indicate an overwhelming pattern of interconnectedness of commerce and culture. The way people earn their livings have an impact on their behavior as well as societal outlook. While Japan has long been an agricultural society and collectivism has been an important characteristic, impact of American individualism has also infiltrated and people in Japan are now growingly individualistic, falling considerably short of Scandinavian or American standards.

Gender and ethnicity of stimulus (Hess, Blairy & Kleck, 2000) have been observed to have played an important role in perceptions. Facial expressions and emotions are reflective of respective cultures that people belong to. Such conclusions are observable in everyday life where Japanese families do not approve public display of affection as well as emotions arising out of opposite gender interaction and any other social stress in public. Americans on the other hand are highly expressive in public and such behavior is approved by the society. Each cultural value is closely guarded by the members to an extent that not complying with the same can result in conflict. The survival in individualistic societies, such as American, more depends on individual effort and personal achievement rather the group one belongs to.

Japanese people are highly considerate towards their peers and if difference in social status, belonging, and power is high, it is often not admissible to display such difference. Arrogant display of power and wealth is also unheard. American people on the contrary are free and enabled to display their wealth as well as other perceived superiorities. In-group relationships are also different in Japan and America where conformity is high in degree in Japanese culture, in fact non-conformity is actively discouraged (Matsumoto, 1991). Overt connectedness (Markus & Kitayama, 1991) is not approved in American society. Anthropological and psychological theories of self are increasingly adamant on such presence of such stark difference in cultures.

Japan: Mildly collectivist culture

Studies conducted byTriandis (2001) and Kurman (2003) indicate that Japan has a collectivist culture whereby group enhancement and group goals are more important as compared to individual aspirations. Although, individualism and collectivism are not mutually exclusive in certain societies (Donahue, 1998), Japan and America are diametrically opposites in this context of culture. The determinants of social behavior are more attributed to external and group factors as opposed to personal factors. The society guards and promotes collectivism which can be an explanation of efficient use of resources by the Japanese people. In a collectivist culture, self-efficacy is attributed to group belonging rather than being in an individual capacity. Triandis, et al. (2001) has observed that collectivist culture such as those of Japan and Korea are positively related to deception in negotiations as well as emotional reactions of shame and guilt. This implies that Japanese people are more sensitive to their behavior in relation to the group and society they belong to. Marriages, the most notable and far-influencing form of social interaction also display that Japanese people closely accede to the wishes and expectation of elders and group of their belonging (Donahue, 1998).

The generic upbringing of children is within an environment of mutuality and inclusiveness. People and groups of people are more closely knit in times of grief and happiness. Asian continent is predominantly composed of collectivist cultures ranging from Japan, China, India, and Pakistan to Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Maldives. The children and teenagers are expected to resign to the group expectations and goals. Individual opinions and expressions of one's resentment on group agenda or aspirations are not considered as a positive gesture. The notion of Japanese culture as one of 'collectivist' is toned down by many behavioral and living trends of Japanese society. The people are more reserved and privacy loving as compared to other societies or cultures of Asia, such China and Korea. In fact Japanese people have stronger affiliation with their employers and the places on which they work. Their close association with work-groups is representative of their 'desire' to maintain strong individual presence through career consolidation. They are not used to 'bear' expenses of extended family members as most of the family members work for their living. The society teaches the individuals to be cooperative and honest to each other. Harmony and agreement is preferred over conflict and opposition. This reveals that Japanese culture is considerably 'collectivist' and 'paternalistic' in nature. Triandis (2001) contended that Japanese students which spend some years in the U.S. find it hard to return to their society because they feel more independent and enabled in the U.S. culture. In order to draw an informed comparison and contrast in both the cultures i.e. Japanese and America, following section will highlight the culture and values of American society.

American culture

America also owes its cultural progression to historical developments, geography, and immigration of people from all over the world, specifically from England. The culture is largely 'an amalgamation' of historical cultural perspectives of inhabitants of respective regions. Luedtke (2011) has eloquently presented the cultural analysis of the American society. From historical developments to geographical distinction between regions of America, the author has rightly so traced the cultural origins to the way this part of land got developed. The people that make up different regions of the U.S. are central to 'cultural development' of this region of the world. New England, Middle Atlantic, and Southern (Luedtke, 2011) are safely the three cultural centers around which our society is established. What seems today as a society having rich and dominant culture of the world was not such throughout the course of its development. Sports, economic independence, education par excellence, and the persona of being 'land of opportunities' was carved out of a deep desire of our people to be independent from their origins and present to the world an 'ingenious' culture capable of producing rich literature, norms, customs, and moralities that are particular to American people only. Talent, art, sports, commerce, and education, all were deliberately and consciously developed and preserved to foster a culture as rich as America of 'today'.

'Democracy' lay as one such characteristic of American culture that has enabled our society to stall at some points of the history as well as progress by leaps at other times. Such long is the history of this characteristic of American culture that a French citizen, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), mentioned in his book 'Democracy in America' that democratic culture in America is firmly grounded and will progress in coming centuries (Andersen & Taylor, 2012).

American: An individualistic culture

The most dominant value of American culture is 'individualism' that fosters a sense of independence in American people. Ideas that behold American society at large emancipate from an individual's point-of-view and uphold the concern for preserving the right to one life, liberty, and economic opportunity as well as to form groups. It is directly representative of dream and practice of an American society having free speech, free choice to join a group, to succeed, and become self-sufficient. Being an individualistic society, the primary importance is assumed by an 'individual' rather than larger social groups of which he is part of. Family is obliged to respect the privacy of its members and compliance to group goals or aspirations is not 'ingrained' in upbringing of children. Individual success is of paramount importance to 'individuals' themselves as well as the groups they form. Families encourage and up to some degree,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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