The Neo-Liberal Subject of Lack and Potential: Developing "the Frontier Within" and Creating a Reserve Army of Labor in 21st Century Japan

Andrea G. Arai

[1] In 2002, at the height of a decade-long recession, the Japanese government enacted its third big reform of national education. Promises of relaxed requirements, individualized and lifelong learning went hand in hand with the more ambiguous-sounding slogans of "the strength to live" (ikiru chikara) and "the frontier within." Coinciding with a Japanese media boom that focused anxieties over personal futures and their relationship to national ones on "collapsing classrooms," "deteriorating homes" and "strange youth," these reforms and their pledges to the public seemed to suggest a new positive role for government in local affairs. In fact, these terms did foreshadow a new relationship between the individual and the State, but a relationship replete with new responsibilities and less security — a relationship driven by the globalization of markets and efforts on the part of the Japanese State to bring about the final structural and ideological overhaul of the postwar ideas of "homogeneity" and "democracy."

[2] In this paper, I examine how the education reforms, defined by a new relationship between education, labor and nationalism, forecast a previously unimagined rationalization of everyday life. I focus first on the larger context of the reforms, and the discursive constructs of strengthening and an inner frontier. I discuss how these constructs became the new notions of necessary personal and national development, as the Japanese government, enlisting "cultural" expertise, embarked on an unprecedented presentation of the reform rationale to the public. As I have discussed elsewhere in detail, this presentation, was accompanied by the creation of crises around the home, child and school. [1] Here, I want to emphasize that the production of crisis linked to a recasting of problems and the shunting off of older ones, should be understood as particular techniques and practices of government (aptly termed "the art of government" by Foucault). Thomas Lemke, writing of Foucault's notion of governmentality and its relation to neoliberalism, has called these practices and techniques, "the indirect means for leading and controlling individuals by shifting the burden for the social risks of poverty, illness and unemployment into the individual's domain and rendering them responsible for themselves." [2] This agenda, continues Lemke, becomes visible as a "positive" technique or practice of government (versus a negative political response) designed to produce citizens who conform to the new requirements of global competition or accept the risk for their own failure.

[3] The recasting of problems and shunting off of others that is central to the reform discourse of strengthening and inner frontier forms a critical analogue with the restructuring of the work force, and the creation of an underclass of drifting young workers — a highly politically and economically productive reserve army of labor known as the fureeta. [3] With my notion here of a reserve army of labor, I wish to point to the new bifurcation of the workforce that having been rationalized in the discourse of the education reforms and implemented through successive waves of corporate restructuring, has resulted in a new underclass, the reserve economic status of which makes it the ideal object for State appropriations of other kinds. In the second section of the paper, I analyze the overlap between the reforms of education and the restructuring of the labor force by focusing on the resonances between the new subject of education and the subject of labor. Totaling somewhere around four million by modest calculations, the new underclass of laborers (the fureeta) has become a reserve army of labor made to stand in as the re-vitalization of the nation, even as they stand for the failed project of postwar democracy in need of revision.

[4] In tracing the discursive links between the education reforms and labor restructuring, I reveal the ideological stakes of how the view of the present is changing. It is precisely the late twentieth century past, the relatively secure path from education to work undergirded by historical understandings and cultural assumptions about the difference of the Japanese system from education to capitalism that is now the focus of the recasting of problems. I argue that the governmental practices of creating crisis, recasting and shunting off problems represent a trajectory of problematization [4] that has reinterpreted the past in the name of present economic and political exigencies. The central effect analyzed here is the creation of the conditions of possibility for the "patriotic education," "the revision of the fundamental law of education," an elite educational track and a new bipolar labor force. [5] The forceful effect of this problematization, I argue, is the production of a neoliberal subject, a subject of both lack and potential that is at once particular to recessionary Japan in the early twenty-first century and coincident with the shared effects of capitalist modernity in its neoliberal mode.

[5] Before proceeding further, I wish to stress that we neglect the techniques and practices of government centered on the arena of the child and education at our peril. The dramatic changes now at work in Japan are a forceful reminder of the political and historical contestations that obtain in the arena of education, and around the figure of the developing child or youth. The massive investments in, and demands made of, this development--the constant comparisons of international test scores, and recently the Japanese government's concern over falling behind China and Korea in terms of "the will to learn," serve as poignant reminders that the child or youth stands in for the past and future of the nation, in terms of the temporality imputed to their development, as well as the value assumed to be latent within.

[6] It should also not be forgotten how this arena of education has come to define the family. The larger the national investment, as Jacques Donzelot has shown, the greater the pressure on the family to maximize the potential of the child. [6] It seems especially important to note this in the United States at present, where the logics and under-funded rationalizing policies of "No Child Left Behind," opposed by every major educator on the grounds that it will leave more, not fewer, children behind, have gone largely unchallenged by the general public. [7] While the pressure of the new testing and performance criteria of the recent U.S. education reforms appear aimed at collectives (i.e. the school or local community) rather than the individual or family, it is to the new linked effects of performance based graduation requirements and more, now being established in many states, to which we must look to understand the new kinds of pressure and intensification of the family and the child inherent in "No Child Left Behind." This new reorganization of education around testing criteria, performance and a central exam, informed by logics of national competition, sets the stage for the individual forms of competition at early ages and the huge industries of special educational services that define the everyday struggles and unseen dilemmas of families, children and public in Japan, Korea, China and elsewhere. [8]

The "Strength to Live" and "the Frontier Within"

[7] In an unprecedented move to demonstrate the new direction of Japanese education in the twenty-first century, Teruwaki Ken, chief spokesman on the education reforms for the Ministry of Education was featured in a ten-part television series on school problems (kyôiku mondai) in the late spring of 2001. [9] Appearing opposite commentators on education from both ends of the political spectrum, Teruwaki responded to their critiques of the Education Ministry's plan to reform education. He reviewed for his listeners the new official rendition of the postwar education past, which suggests that the imposition of education from above created a population of docile adults. In retrospect, this approach was flawed, he said, and, moreover, now outmoded. What the government was now promoting was a larger view of education and its relation to citizenship. The goal of the new education was to create a new, globally aware, individual that would not wish to foist responsibility off on others, or wait for the schools, or government to care for them.

[8] The changes that are occurring in the education system now, maintained Teruwaki, are far more dramatic than anything in the last fifty years. What this change amounts to, he maintained, is that "in the end the Ministry of Education (Monbushô) will become almost "unnecessary" (fuyô)." It means, he said, the end of the sense that the schools (and public) have to do what the Ministry says, if they want funds. "These reforms mean a turn to the public (minnasan). The local population will from now on assume responsibility. When there are education problems from now on, you won't have to turn to the Ministry, but rather solve them on your own, by developing the strength that is now lacking."

[9] Up until now, maintained Teruwaki, it was generally thought that exam competition to enter a good college and good company was necessary for Japanese vitality (katsuryoku). This is mistaken. The fight-to-win (kachinuku) type of competition of the twentieth century is over. The twenty-first century is one of symbiosis (kyôsei), which means that everyone will now make the best of their own strong points (ii tokoro). Those who do well under competition will not be the only praised ones. Those who don't get good marks on school exams, will be seen in terms of the other areas in which they are strong.

[10] Elaborating further on the situation among children, Teruwaki maintains that there has never been a time when education (gakkô kyôiku) has been as questioned as it is right now." [10]

Terrible times have befallen Japan. (Nihon wa taihen no koto ni nate shimaimasu). What we need to get at the roots of these problems is to focus on the inner mind or heart of these children (kokoro). We need to raise children with energy (seiryoku), that will be able to go anywhere in the world and solve problems.

[11] Teruwaki's image here of the need for the lifelong education of Japanese society, and the ruination of the adult generation is one that resonated through Japanese society in various ways. In his depiction of ruin here, he makes a clear distinction between the last generation of adults, or those born during the high-growth era, his generation (Teruwaki was born in 1953), and the prewar generation prior to his. His response to those that claim that children were stronger in the past is to remind them that parents or adults were better (rippa) then too.

[12] This image of the moral decline of the generation of the 1980s (parents of the children who have little regard for school, the nation or life itself) showed up in a variety of places during this period leading up to 2002, as did the slogans of the Ministry of Education. One of the more distinctive of these was the box-office hit (in Japan and the U.S.) "Spirited Away" (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, 2001).

The film focused on the transformation of a ten-year old girl, Chihiro, from a dispirited state to one of energy, vitality and innovation — in short the "strength" that Teruwaki and others made the slogan of this period. The film appears to be set in the recessionary period of the 1990s, when following the bursting of the financial bubble in 1989, the Japanese stock market crashed, property lost nearly half its value, and the banking system nearly collapsed under the onus of years of bad loans to speculative ventures, like the deserted theme park upon which Chihiro's parents stumble in the opening scenes. Soon after, they encounter a decadent repast that mysteriously materializes before them. Failing to question or consider the source of the feast, her parents, begin to gorge on these seemingly intransigent luxuries of the "economic miracle" only to be turned into enormous swine in an ironic reversal of traditional Japanese tales of transformation in which animals often become human to repay a debt. The only one who can save them is Chihiro. The rescue must be enacted through a personal journey of reconnection with the gods, symbols, and settings of mystical Japan, within which lies, among other things the path to a seeming native source of energy (or at least a revitalization of the work ethic). In her new role as bathhouse maid, taking on and flawlessly executing the menial and dirty chores rejected for some time now by the youth of Japan, Chihiro is transformed from the subject of lack to the subject of potential, demonstrating as she does how individual responsibility is linked to national. Creator of the film, renowned anime artist and director Miyazaki Hayao, appeared on national television in a series of interviews preceding the release of the film. Acknowledging his anxiety over the breakdown of homes, schools and a youth that seems unconnected to nation or even to life itself, Miyazaki flatly denied any agenda in the creation of this film. It is, as he said, rather a message about finding the "strength to live," this he said is not a political message.

[13] If we do nothing, argues Teruwaki, the situation could lead the society (and the world) into ruin (horobi desu). Kids need to have more energy to lead their lives (ikiteiiku chikara).

Our population is living longer and ageing, and yet we have a youth that knows nothing about how to live or has an appreciation for life. So that is why we are instigating these reforms; everyone will learn what is necessary to live their lives. The twenty-first century will be harsh (kibishi), and children (kodomotachi) will have to learn things that were neglected during their parents' generation. [11] This is energy for life (ikiru chikara).

[14] What is significant about the immediate context of this past two years since the first stage of the reforms, is that the anxiety and pressure, ostensibly the initial concern of the reformers with troubled kids, collapsing classrooms and school refusers — the enormous group of elementary and junior-high aged students who are absent from school for extended periods — are no longer the problem and no longer the focus. In this age of major corporate restructuring and the narrative of Japan's recovery (about which I will have more to say in the following), the problem has moved from the reduction of curriculum and pressure to re-equalize society to a emphasis on the lack of independence and responsibility as a means of bifurcating of society. As we will see shortly, not everyone is cut out to compete.

[15] The twenty-first century education reforms were first proposed by the Nakasone government in the 1980s, when Reagan in the U.S. and Thatcher in the U.K. were proposing drastic reductions of State support alongside new forms of control. The various issues at the time in Japan were students who "fell through the cracks" (ochikobore) and inner-school violence (kônai boryoku). This was also a period in which concerns over the incredible grind of education and cram schooling became a big social issue. The Nakasone government's response to these problems was to reduce the curriculum, reduce the federal money for schools, and instill a stronger sense of nation in students. However, his government was unsuccessful at achieving the far-reaching portions of their goals. [12]

[16] In the late 1990s, as the economy soured and social problems soared, the government returned to the idea of reforms with the slogan of "strength to live" (ikiru chikara) (or as it's officially rendered in English, a zest for living). Ikiru chikara soon turned into one of the fastest spreading, though nowhere clearly understood, buzzwords of the last years of the century. It was also at this time that the most overwritten event of the decade concerning a youth took place in the city of Kobe. Over the course of several months in 1997, a junior high school student (later known by the anonymous appellation of Shônen A or Youth A) committed a series of violent attacks against elementary aged children. In the end, he finally beheaded one of them, and placed the head on the school gate, accompanied by a note taunting the police and swearing revenge against a school system that he said had robbed him of his existence. [13] As the Minister of Education at the time of the Kôbe incident (1997), Kosugi Takaki, later responded, the government's plan to instill the "strength to live" in its youth meant not only the need for more independence and individual responsibility, but would be incomplete without the return of manners and forms (reigi, sahô) which had sustained the importance of life and a shared morality that now seemed so clearly lacking among the young. [14]

[17] In 1997, the Japanese government enlisted the aid of Kawai Hayao (the former director of the International Center for the Study of Japanese culture and a Jungian psychologist--presently the Minister of Culture) to provide a sense of a neoliberal future that was also very "Japanese." During the years of 1999-2001 leading up to the reforms, Kawai, who has written scores of books on the themes of "the Japanese heart," the direction of Japanese culture, education in a new age," and more was to supply the missing ideological and political grounding for the new slogan of "strength to live." His report for a special prime minister's commission on "The Structure of Japan in the 21st Century" was called "Japan's Frontier is Within Japan," (Nihon no Furoteia wa Nihon no Naka ni aru). [15] In this influential essay, Kawai lays out a stark vision of what he calls the new "governance" (gabanansu), and the new independent individual (jiritsushita kojin) required for Japan's future. [16] Reminiscent of so many of the treatises on the downfall of the Japanese nation and culture from the late 1990s on, Kawai begins with a warning of the dangers that lie ahead of Japan at what he calls this "critical turning point" (judaina tenki) in the nation's history. This is the moment, he says, when Japan must prepare a "principle" (rinen), an organization (soshiki), and a desired Japanese figure (nozomareru Nihonjin no sugata)" that will be able to meet the challenges of the next several decades.

[18] Since the Meiji era, writes Kawai, Japan has followed a policy of "catch up and overtake" (oitsuki oikose) the West, and "despite this harsh project has still managed to hold onto a certain degree of its authentic Japaneseness (Nihonrashisa wo aruteido hojishitekita)." [17] In the coming century, however, in which the whole world will be in the throws of globalization (gurobaraizeishon), it is questionable, he argues, that the strong points of Japan (Nihon no yosa) that have earned the nation its standings will be up to the new tasks before it. [18] From now on, he insists, it will be important not to close ourselves off in our difference, but to open out onto the larger world. Adopting this attitude, he maintains, we will realize that Japan's frontier (furonteia) is within Japan (Nihon no naka ni aru), and proceed to design the nature of our own direction (hokosei)." [19]

[19] Kawai proceeds from this introduction to outline his two major points, first, that Japan's future rests on the "latent strength" (senzaitekina chikara) of its citizens, and second, that in order to draw on this untapped potential, Japan requires a new form of organization between the government and its citizens, between authority (ko, ôyake) and the individual (ko; kojin), which he calls a new "governance" (gabanansu). [20]

[20] Since the beginning of the 1990s, he observes, the people of Japan have sensed with some fear that something has drastically changed. They live in fear "not of the economic bubble and what is associated with it, but the sense that the political and social systems, the value system (kachitaikei) and moral sense (rinrikan) have been infested (mushibande shimatta) from within." [21] According to Kawai, this social organization and morality of Japan was formed over the course of a long history in a difficult and demanding environment (nagai rekishi, kurushii kankyô no naka), and though it has not collapsed, it is in serious need of strengthening.

[21] Kawai argues that this is the point at which they discovered that Japan's successful model of "catch up and surpass" was unsuited for the challenges of the new age. It is also, he maintains, when they began to think that the solution lay within, "that within Japan lies a superior nature (sugureta shitsu)".

This latent strength has been lying dormant (nemutta mama). What we must do now is to reclaim this enormous frontier (kyôdaina furonteia wo kaitaku shinakereba naranai), by drawing out this latent strength. How are we going to go about this (dono yô ni jitsugen suru noka)? We are going to change the way that the people and the State relate to each other. We are going to develop a vital and supple individual (takamashiku, shinayakana kojin). [22]

[22] Kawai makes clear that this direction will demand a new type of governance that is dependent upon the establishment of the individual (kojin no kakuritsu), something he is careful to note that has been inadequate up until now in Japanese society. We are, he continues, "compelled to follow the world tide of revolutionary change in which people, things, money and information cross borders at a new rate, and change to fit the new world standard (sekai hyôjun) of a highly competitive era (daikyôsô jidai), by upping the power (kojin no pâwa appu) of the individual. [23] Globalization, maintains Kawai, "is not shackled (torawarenai) to older systems, customs or other vested interests (kitokuken)". Thus, Japan's plan needs to be to develop "global literacy" (gurobaru riterashi), which is based on access to the world and presentation ability. "Those countries with a low standard of global literacy will not be able to command a sophisticated work force, and those with a high standard (of global literacy) will become the gathering ground for the best and brightest from all over the world." [24]

[23] If the twentieth century was the century of the organization, claims Kawai, then the twenty-first is the century of the individual.

Japanese people for a very long time have associated their existence with the household system (ie shakai), in which case the freedom of the individual was limited. In the postwar, under the strong pressure of the ideology of freedom (jiyûshugi), the traditional Japanese household system collapsed (hôkai shita), and in the midst of not knowing what to do a proxy (dairi ie) household system was created, the model for which was the company (kaisha). Other kinds of stand-ins for the older system have emerged over the years and these served as satisfactory places of attachment, but now there is a need for an individual that is independent (jiritsu) and self-acting, that can take on risk, be intentional, assume responsibility, and not be tied to a place (ba) - a vital and supple individual. [25]

[24] With a new form of "governance," argues Kawai, the latent strength of the individual will be easier to draw out, and our frontier will materialize before us. Many have asked how we are to reclaim this frontier. One of the key ways to cultivate this "pioneering" (senkusei) spirit in our education, and abolish the homogeneity and uniformity (kinshitsusei to kakuitsusei) is to think of education in the broad sense.

There will two roles for the nation in education: one is obligatory enforced education (gimu toshite kyôsei suru kyôiku) and the other, a service education (saabisu toshite no kyôiku). The first will provide a minimum standard and the second will train those who are able to meet the demands of the marketplace. Right now these two kinds of education are intertwined, but in the future they will need to be separate. Along with this, we will need to reevaluate the role of the home, as one of the major bodies responsible for education, which isn't fulfilling its role at present. [26]

[25] With ikiru chikara and the frontier within as the ambiguous watchwords, the possibility of skipping grades and entering college earlier, an ambitious plan for a new curriculum, known by the broad name of "comprehensive studies" (sôgôtekina gakushû) and a new plan for "emotional education" (kokoro no kyôiku) were all added to the reform agenda. With the additions came certain subtractions as well: federal funding for a range of programs to support the smooth re-entry of children returning to Japan from overseas company postings with their families, disability education (kikokushijo, shogai kyoiku, etc.) and a reduction in the number of administrators and teachers.

[26] As this was happening, the Japanese government moved to translate its slogan "strength to live" into action. In 2000, as economic trouble worsened and youth trouble seemed to be on the increase in the schools and homes, then prime minister Yoshirô Mori (infamous for his expression that Japan is a "Land of the Gods"), convened the now well-known "people's committee for economic reform" (kyôiku kaikaku kokumin kaigi). Unlike other committees of this sort, this one produced highly concrete results. [27] The committee resolved to create a means of "raising a moral Japanese person," by extending education in the schools into the homes. They proposed the return of morals education to the schools (gakko wa dôtoku wo oshieru koto wa tamerawanai); and the establishment of national service (hôshi katsudo), reminiscent of the prewar forms of labor for the nation (kinrô hôshi) requiring all children of school age to participate in a service program of the State's origination from two weeks for the youngest ages up to one year (at its most extreme extent) for the older students. Coupled with this were recommendations for harsher steps against problem students in the schools, including suspensions and expulsions where necessary. [28] For many, the committee's most influential decision was the proposal to make the Fundamental Law of Education (kyôiku kihonhô) more "suitable" (fusawashii) to the current conditions of education and society.

[27] The citizens' committee was followed up last year by an even higher-level committee set on the revision of this hallmark of postwar democracy. The logic that the members of this special committee employed was in line with the various meanings of "the strength to live." Specifically, these officials argued that individual responsibility was based upon national knowledge and responsibility. The problem at present was that the Fundamental Law did not include provision for the necessary cultivation of this sense in the Japanese public.

[28] Crafted as it was in 1947 under the American Occupation, the writers, unaware of the importance of Japanese tradition and a "rich Japanese heart" (yutakana kokoro no Nihonjin), had omitted any reference of this from the Fundamental Law. The current condition of Japanese youth and the larger Japanese public, wrote these officials, made the cultivation of a "proper Japanese heart," more urgent than ever. By linking the individual to the Japanese national past, this "rich heart" would provide the basis or foundation for strength and responsibility. At present writing, the revision of the Fundamental Law has the support it needs to pass the Japanese Diet this next fall. [29] According to Fujita Hidenori, who has written extensively about this revision, changing the Fundamental Law to include "patriotic education" is the single most important step along the path to the possible revision of Article 9 — the peace clause of the constitution. [30]

[29] The greatest obstacle for those who wish to see Japan re-militarized is the two-thirds vote required for constitutional amendment. At present these proponents are working to change the requirement of this two-thirds majority. Although the revision of Article 9 still remains highly contested in Japan, the tide may be turning, reports Fujita. This is due in part to the rise in neo-nationalist feelings and the support for re-militarization among the younger generation. The question for Fujita and many others is the nature of this new youth subjectivity.

[30] The new discourse of the education reforms as elaborated by Teruwaki and Kawai, in different registers, attempts to turn the past system on its head, through reducing the curriculum and allowing people "the freedom" to choose their own way, at the same time requiring the individual decision maker to accept responsibility for his/her own choice (It's your story as Kawai suggests — jibun no monogatori). The image of a frontier made up of the latent potential of the people represents what Tomiko Yoda, writing about the recessionary period, has called the final dissolution of the master narrative that conflated the "economic miracle" with the uniqueness of Japanese culture, and produced the image of Japan as a "noncapitalist Capitalism." Yoda views the new trajectory of problemitization as articulated by government officials and resident experts as "the new terror." [31] Both forward and backward looking, the new strength to live and inner frontier mean the creation of a what is being referred to by Japanese commentators at a new "bipolar" society, where status inequality and a new underclass of workers defines the economic recovery. [32] Those who can, as Kawai says, will meet the demands of the marketplace, the others will make up the new reserve army of labor. This new "standing-reserve," that stands in as the value-creating subject of the State, will also stand for the new temporality of the nation.

From Reforms to Restructuring: the New Reserve Army

[31] Currently in Japan, there are over four million part-time workers, or fureeta. It has been projected that if the recent trends of corporate restructuring continue, the number will reach ten million (or 1 in 3) by the year 2014. Writing about the development of this enormous group of part-time workers, Yamada Masahiro, describes the phenomenon of the fureeta as the creation of a bipolar employment market, split between jobs requiring specialized knowledge, and those involving unskilled labor. He calls it the largest social problem facing Japan now. These young people according to Yamada have "leaked from the pipeline," unable to assume the jobs to which they aspire. Mari Osawa, a gender and policy analyst at Tokyo University, approaches the subject of this reserve labor force differently, emphasizing the severe global competition that has compelled companies to substantially reduce their full-time workers, and take advantage of the drifting labor force, who they can employ temporarily without guarantee and at a much lower rate for the same work as full-time employees. She is specifically concerned with the unequal conditions of young men and women in this new employment atmosphere.

[32] What Osawa, Yamada and many others writing about the new work force have neglected to address, however, is that the creation of this new underclass of workers, like the results of the education reforms themselves have become common sense. In the first part of this paper, I discussed how the State through the education reforms fashioned a new sense of problem and solution for social ills. In this final section, I will explore how the reforms form an ideological and structural analogue of labor restructuring, or how the new reserve labor force made to stand for the failed project of the postwar and as the revitalization of the nation represents the creation of the neoliberal subject of lack and potential.

[33] In February, 2005, NHK, the national broadcasting network aired a documentary on the creation of a new underclass of workers called — the drifting fureeta (fureeta hyôryû) about the dramatic reforms in employment structures and hiring in Japan as seen through the experience of the new and growing part-time labor force. The film opens with an eerie repetition of the sensational hit film of 2000 by Fukasawa Kinji, Battle Royale, about a group of students who are being transported, unbeknownst to them, to a battle to the death against their peers in the name of creating the strong subject (the survivors) of the new Japan. [33] In the NHK documentary, on the other hand, the group on the bus at 7:30am have gathered from all parts of Japan in search of work, fueling the hopes of economic recovery in Japan by substituting for full-time labor at nearly half the cost and the responsibility for their welfare and security shifted onto their shoulders from the companies. From factory to factory they drift, not knowing day to day where their final work location will be, and only knowing that it is up to them (not the company and not the State) to secure their own future. In the new economy, these part-time, underpaid workers are employed increasingly in manufacturing in place of permanent workers. Young part-timers interviewed for the film emphasize their exchangeability: "People seem to be like robots," "This is work that anybody can do, if I leave there are any number of replacements."

[34] Recasting and reworking this present situation, a recent foreign ministry publication called: "The Comeback" announced in broad colors and with images of happily working young people that Japan remained a "producing power" (monozukuri no taikoku) or as Prime Minister Koizumi quoted in this same article put it, a "producing culture" (monozukuri no bunka). Koizumi's and others efforts here in framing corporate restructuring and the new formation of an underclass of part-time labor in this way is intended to continue the image both domestically and internationally of Japan as a unique capitalist nation leaning on conceptual frameworks of the 1970 and 1980s of alternative and Eastern capitalism with its implied trust, loyalty and concern for the laborer. Koizumi's and others' intentions here are to suggest that the nearly unparalleled reforms of both education and labor enacted in an effort to contend with the forces of global competition cannot be equated with the American notion of capitalism (as Kawai reminds us too, Japan's new governance has emerged from within not from without).

[35] This move by Koizumi, Kawai, Teruwaki and others to continue to insist on essential difference through the figures of the economy and the youth, is yet further complicated by the new money-making schemes, speculation and take-over plans of the private sphere. Dramatized in the news and through new best sellers, the now well-known name of Takafumi Horie with his "libu-doa" (live door) company is one such new idol. Among the young generation of workers, he is perhaps best known for his best-selling Earning is Winning (Kasegu ga Kachi) on amassing millions of yen by the age of 30, and by the slogan, "even the soul can be won for money" (hito no kokoro ni kau).

[36] I was directed to this book and others by several of my recent interviewees. For them, the new economy is composed of a sense of insecurity and instability, the creation of an elite course in education, the fureeta, and this new get-rich quick literature. The new economy presents itself to them in the drastically narrowed possibilities of educational advancement and stable work opportunities: Tokyo University is no longer open to those that just work hard, despite what the Ministry of Education says. Those who have the money, they say, will get their kids into Tokyo University (Todai) by sending them to the most expensive and most competitive cram schools (juku). The only jobs open to those who haven't been through this very top echelon of education, and new job skill training will have to settle for the worst. Employment follows suit, made up increasingly of harsh competition for fewer stable jobs. The openings that do exist are in sales and construction work in which the formerly exploitative nature of overtime (zangyô) now goes not only unpaid but is considered an integral part of the job. The choice beyond this, they say, is the condition of the boys on the bus in the drifting fureeta film. For my young interlocutors, the scenes of the fureeta in the NHK documentary, provoke the frightening image of a Japan that has not only lost out to, but is becoming China, where in their minds the cultivation of the worth of one's labor power — its value as a commodity — would be judged by the global market.

[37] Complicating this position even further as I have suggested above, this new economy is defined by a new set of idols and ideals (even the popular manga, Shonen Jump now sports stories about stocks and speculation.) The phenomenal success stories of easy and quick millions, however, resonate for their readers in over-determined ways. They represent both the potential that this generation can aspire to and the lack that those who have recast problems and suggested solutions have inserted strongly into the larger discursive field. As my respondents rehearse "the terror" of these times, they also articulate the nostalgia. The past, now distanced even further across the divide of modernity and the new problematizations of the State, has been re-idealized, serving across these new divides and discourses, to animate a new group of nationalistic cultural productions and sensibilities.

[38] In recapitulating this history, they also announce themselves to be the result of Japan's failed postwar democracy — a democracy they say that is now coming to an end. By renouncing its connection with its past; teaching atrocities rather than history, Japanese officials have emasculated the nation. They lack guts (konjo) (ostensibly the guts that would have allowed them to succeed in this new economy in spite of the obstacles they know and say now exist) because, they announce, they do not know war. This "I know but nevertheless" position is precisely the space within which the best-selling manga series "Sensoron" (On War) by the highly prolific Kobayashi Yoshinori operates. The scandal about this series, which transforms Japan's wartime responsibilities into what Marilyn Ivy has called an exemplar of Freud's kettle logic: "photographs of Japanese atrocities are spurious — we didn't commit any atrocities, our atrocities are not worse than anyone else's, was it's popularity among the young." [34] In fact, Kobayashi's focus in this series and in his many offshoots is the young, in particular their lack of strength — the strength to live or to die for anything. My informants self-portrayals echo the materialization of the new discursive field shared by the reforms and these various cultural productions.

[39] Like the kids who must battle it out in the now cult film "Battle Royale" they have been deprived of the means of survival in the new economy, and arguably this is true. The recent economic decline, the rising power of China, and even the smaller defeats of the nation all add up for them to the fact that the Japanese (like the soccer players at the recent match with North Korea who couldn't even sing "kimigayo" — the prewar Japanese national anthem) don't know Japan.


[40] The capillary-like distribution of the discursive constructs of "the strength to live" and "the frontier within" through society framed the troubles of the recessionary period in Japan in a way that suggested a need for particular psychological expertise and a recasting of problems. I have insisted on the necessity of situating the discursive products of the reforms alongside the restructuring of labor in order to understand how the objects of education and labor are now both undergoing a foundational change. This change, as I have argued is informed by discourses that should collide, but instead coincide. It is expressed in the emergence of a new subject of neoliberalism — a subject of lack and potential.


[1] See my dissertation, "Recessionary Effects: The Crisis of the Child and the Culture of Reform in Contemporary Japan," Columbia University, 2004.

[2] Thomas Lemke, "The birth of bio-politics: Michel Foucault's lecture at the Collège de France."

[3] Fureeta is a neologism that weds the German word "arubaita" or part-time worker with the English word, "free," resulting in the term "furee-arubaita" or "fureeta" in its shortened form.

[4] Thanks to Ann Anagnost for discussions about the techniques and practices of government at the beginning of the twenty-first century. As nation-states are increasingly subject to new forms of global competition and increasingly vulnerable to the rise and fall of their economies, they have set about reordering, reforming and restructuring their means of production and value-creation in new ways. The "trajectory of problematization" arose out of our discussions as a way to express the intensification of certain areas of life, the removal of others from the national agenda, and the indirect forms of power and cultural logics of the State at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

[5] The "Fundamental Law of Education" (kyôiku kihonhô) occupies a critical role in the post-WWII new Japanese constitution. The role of the "fundamental law," was to free education from the realm of ultra-nationalism and the emperor-centered ideology of the prewar period. The focus of this law is respect for the individual's right to learn without indoctrination by the State.

[6] Jacques Donzelot, The Policing of Families.

[7] See Saving our Schools: The Case for Public Education, Saying No to "No Child Left Behind," edited by: Ken Goodman, Patrick Shannon, Yetta Goodman and Roger Rapoport, as one of many examples of the large and dynamic literature by educators on the hidden deprivations for schools and individuals of the recent education reforms. My interests lie in the cultural logics that make these deprivations seem necessary and tolerable, despite the costs that the population (different segments in different ways) will be made to bear.

[8] See my paper forthcoming in Youth Cultures in Japan, "When National Futures don't Guarantee Personal Ones: the Juku, Japanese Youth, and the Unseen Dilemmas of the Everyday."

[9] This series was aired on NHK, Japanese public television, over a period of two weeks from the end of May through early June of 2001.

[10] Teruwaki Ken, In the 21st Century, Education Will Change: the End of the Age of Competition). From 1999-2001, Teruwaki's presence was everywhere. He appeared on television often, was queried and cited even more frequently, and wrote prodigiously on the subject of past mistakes and future directions in Japanese education. It was pointed out to me that this too was part of the new policy of the Ministry, formerly known for its concealment and lack of transparency. In Teruwaki, they had created a model of the approach that they advised schools and local administrations to adopt in order to ward off the furious complaints by local citizenry (and in turn, to turn the onus back on the criticizers).

[11] Teruwaki argues that things like farming and agriculture (nôgyô), not only knowledge of technologies, but the culture (nô no bunka) and the heart (nô no kokoro) will be important in the twenty-first century in Japan.

[12] For an institutional view of why Nakasone was unsuccessful in the 1980s see, Leonard Schoppa, Education Reform in Japan. I have also written elsewhere in more detail about how the recession of the 1990s allowed the State to manoeuver in ways that were not available to former prime minister Nakasone, despite the neoliberal mindset he had adopted from Reagan and Thatcher. See my "Killing Kids: Recession and Survival in 21st Century Japan," in Postcolonial Studies, Vol. 6, No. 3, Nov. 2003.

[13] Elsewhere, I have looked specifically at the cult-like effects that have developed from the Kôbe or Shônen A incident, I show how the most poignant, and yet the most overlooked effect of this incident has been the adoption of a psychological (or psycho-cultural) language that turns the focus of anxieties to the emotions and the heart (kokoro) of the child, providing a disciplinary framework within which to anchor (and decontextualize) the motivations of the reforms. See, "The Wild Child of 1990s Japan" in Millennial Japan: Rethinking the Nation in the Age of Recession, South Atlantic Quarterly, 99:4.

[14] Kosugi, Takaki. Ushinatta Kokoro no Kyôiku, 1997. Here Kosugi also explained that the bullying (ijime) and school refusal (tôkôkyohi) that continue to plague Japanese schools could be ameliorated through the improvement of manner-training in the home, and the teaching of form (sahô) in the schools.

[15] It is interesting to speculate on the Deweyian overtones of the idea of the "frontier" that Kawai employs here. Writing about transnationalism and the limits of liberalism, Kathryne Mitchell, notes that for Dewey, "the frontier can be read as a metonym for the endlessly expandable "spaces" of democracy within the confines of the nation-state project." As the literal spaces of the frontier closed up by the 1930s, Dewey advocated a "substitute," in the form of a "moral frontier," in the sense that seeing unused resources as human rather than material. See Kathryn Mitchell, "Education for Democratic Citizenship: Transnationalism, Multiculturalism, and the Limits of Liberalism," Spring, 2001, and John Dewey, Democracy and Education, 1924.

[16] My interpretation of the "neoliberalism" of Kawai's message here, and for that matter, in the greater tone and direction of the reforms, is informed by my reading of Thomas Lemke's, "The birth of bio-politics: Michel Foucault's lecture at the Collège de France on neo-liberal governmentality" (2001), Andrew Barry, Thomas Osborne, an Nikolas Rose's, "Introduction" (and various articles in) Foucault and Political Reason (1996), and Colin's Gordon's "Governmental Rationality: An Introduction," in The Foucault Effect,1991.)

[17] "The Frontier Within," p. 1

[18] Kawai does not make explicit here what he means by Nihon no yosa, and it is arguable that he does not have to. For the target Japanese audience, the body of ideas contained in this notion of yosa connects directly to national identity discourse and its psychological traits of dependency, homogeneity, restraint (gaman), inside and outside (omote and ura), division of duties and responsibilities (kejime), implicit communication style, and many more.

[19] "The Frontier Within," p. 1

[20] It is interesting that Kawai stays away here from the more obvious references to the relationship between the public and the private (ôyake to watakushi), where the former would probably be better rendered as "traditional authority" according to J. Victor Koschmann, due to the specificities of the developments of these terms and relationships in the Japanese and Western spheres. For more on this, see, J.Victor Koschmann, "Ko to Shi", Idioms of Contemporay Japan X", and H.D. Harootunian's, "National Narratives/Spectral Happenings," pg. 24-27.

[21] "The Frontier Within," p. 25.

[22] Ibid. pg. 27-28. The term that Kawai uses here "shinayakana" has various renderings in English, among which are supple and flexible. While "flexible" would be a good choice for its implications of the flexible worker demanded by the ever-changing, ever deterritorializing nature of late capitalism, I have intentionally chosen "supple" to also pick up on the physical and perhaps even youthful overtones that Kawai suggests will be necessary here.

[23] Ibid. p. 29. Suijun ga taki kuni wa sekaijû kara jinzai ga atsumaru to iu genshoga okoru ni chigainai.

[24] Ibid. p. 32.

[25] Ibid. pg. 37-38.

[26] Ibid. p. 42-43.

[27] The proposals, social commentary and criticism of the people's committee's report are now massive in length, and because of the significance of the future impact of this report on the postwar Constitution. I will not attempt here to cover the whole range of these, but instead will highlight what I understand to be the most influential (and to many controversial) of their proposals.

[28] This decision appeared in line to most proponents and critics of this plan with the same year's harshening of the juvenile law, by lowering the age at which young offenders could face adult criminal charges from eighteen to the age of the Kôbe youth at the time of his arrest, fourteen. This does not make Japan exceptional in its harshening of this law, compared to the U.S., for example, but several legal commentators on this change regarded it as the possible beginning of slippery slope, given that it was the first revision of the juvenile law in Japan, since its inception at the time of the immediate postwar reforms.

[29] Fujita Hidenori, International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan, Department of Education. This excerpt is from an interview with him in March, 2005.

[30] Article 9 is a renunciation of the nation-state's right to prosecute war drafted into the postwar Japanese constitution, often known as the "peace Constitution". For a discussion of current attempts to rescind or revise Article 9, see Gavan McCormack's, "Remilitarizing Japan," in The New Left Review, Sept/Oct. 2004. The Fundamental Law of Education was promulgated in March, 1947 to replace the Imperial Rescript on Education (Kyôiku Chokugo, 1890). The intention of the "Fundamental Law of Education" which replaced the Imperial Rescript as the legal foundation for education, was to move the people into the place that the emperor had held as the bearer of the right to have, what Horio Teruhisa has called, an education freer from the exigencies of the State (whether military or economically initiated). For an in-depth discussion of the Imperial Rescript, the Fundamental Law of Education and the "Image of the Ideal Japanese," see Horio's, Educational Thought and Ideology in Modern Japan. Also, for an interesting discussion of the problems faced by teachers in making the switch from the Imperial Rescript to the postwar Fundamental Law, see Inoue Kyoko's Individual Dignity in Modern Japanese Thought, Chapter 2.

[31] Tomiko Yoda, "The Roadmap to Millennial Japan," in Millennial Japan: Rethinking the Nation in the Age of Recession.

[32] While the term "bipolar" is associated of late in the U.S. with states of manic depression and names a new syndrome and area of medical intervention, in Japan the term has been employed of late by Yamada Masahiro and others to characterize the bifurcation of society into an elite and underclass.

[33] See my "Killing Kids: Recession and Survival in 21st century Japan"

[34] Marilyn Ivy, "Revenge and Recapitation in Recessionary Japan"

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