Recently I have read this book: Ezra Vogel. 1963. Japan’s New Middle Class: the Salary Man and his Family in a Tokyo Suburb. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. The following is my reading note:
Chapter 1: it introduces the Mamachi and explains why this place was picked for his field study in writing the book. It spells out the assumption and goal of this research. It explains the definitions and terms used in the book.
Chapter 2: introduces the social composition of Mamachi, from the bourgeoisie to salary man, from shopkeepers to the independent professionals such as family doctors and dentists. It tries to understand how the family of salary man and wife embedded in it.
Chapter 3: it explains how the school examination system would decide whether one could become a salary man or not, and investigates how the youth in Mamachi had struggled before being able to join large corporations. It tries to understand how the family members in general, mothers in particular, help their children to prepare for the school examinations in order to be able to enter a famous university which was a prerequisite for entering big corporations.
Chapter 4: it looks into the spending pattern of the salary man; and to understand their frugality and shopping pattern.
Chapter 5: it introduces the political views of the salary man. Vogel suggests that the Mamachi salary man loved his country. They felt their country was behind the West in many respects and increasingly they accepted the western standard as the yardstick. They were sensitive to views of Westerners on Japan.
Chapter 6: it introduces the different social circles of the husband, the wife and the children respectively. It points out that the most unique characteristic of Japanese society was the existence of a series of tightly-knitted groups.
Chapter 7: it points out two general characteristics which the Japanese would regard as of fundamental importance: loyalty and competence. Their importance would strike Western observers as a culture shock.
Chapter 8: it introduces the concept of Ie. The basic goal of Ie members was to care properly for the departed ancestors and to preserve the continuity and prosperity of their Ie. This chapter concludes that Ie had lost it influence under the impact of new social orders: the forming of branch families that had shallow sense of tradition.
Chapter 9-12: introduce the relationship in the house between husband, wife and the grandparents; and also children rearing method mainly focused on the wife.
Chapter 13: concludes that the urbanization of Japan and other rapid social changes had caused strains on all Japanese, yet the disruption had remained with bounds; and a high degree of social order had been maintained throughout the transition. Vogel suggests that, on top of political unity, stability and workers hard working attitudes, some other features that had emerged from his study that were found important to the orderly process. This included the kinship system, the child-rearing method, the personality of the salary men and their social value.
Conclusion of the book: The salary man offered a model on life style which was within the range of realistic hopes yet modern enough for aspirations of other Japanese (p.268). Other walks of life would start their operational patterns centering on the salary man as a class. Middle class became an open concept that would permit many Japanese to consider themselves as middle class too.