Linking Consent and Resistance: Worker Responses to the Vulnerability of Informal Employment in Japan

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal 5A G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Shinji KOJIMA, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan
Existing studies show that the increase of flexible employment arrangements in Japan have deepened the fault line between regular workers and irregular workers in addition to the historical gap that have existed between male and female workers. Ethnographic studies that examine the work experiences of irregular workers have identified the mechanism that make workers "consent" to the flexible employment regime as they work hard to adapt to the insecurities at work and thus making the best out of their limited life chances in the labor market. However, little is known about the connections between the logic of self-help/hard work that dominates their lived experiences at work and the collective forms of resistances documented by social movements scholars. This paper attempts to connect the two fields of sociology of work and the study of social movements by raising the question, how does hard work ethic lead to collective resistance? How do their work experiences shape the moral claims they make? Based on ethnographic data gathered from participant observation of factory temp workers and labor union activism from 2008 to 2009, in addition to a series of interviews to temp workers and labor activists between 2009 to 2015, I argue that the workers' moral claims for justice were shaped by the self-recognition as hard working men and women committed to the corporations they worked for. The workers' commitment to the job served to magnify the anger and disappointment with the treatment they received, which were then given a justifying language of illegality and injustice by union activists and labor lawyers during the course of struggles. I argue that work experience significantly shapes the emotions that arise inside the workers who experience the maltreatments.