The Governance of Reproduction in Japan: How Can Reproduction be Located within the Capitalist Economic System?
Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:15 PM
As Karl Polanyi pointed out, the reproduction of human-beings and society is external to the liberal capitalist economic system. At the same time, the multi-dimensional reproductive activities (biological reproduction, economic reproduction and socio-political reproduction) are vital to the maintenance and development of the capitalist economy. The dilemma posed by the contradictory relationship between reproduction and capitalist economy had long been dealt with by mobilizing families and local communities, officially or unofficially, within each national economy. States have often played a vital role in the institutionalization of the link between reproduction and capitalist economy by locating families/communities within the national economy, in other words, governing reproductive activities, as exemplified by the setting-up of the welfare state system. Economic restructuring influenced by neoliberal principles in recent years, however, has eroded the foundation on which families and local communities can function as a unit of reproduction. This presents particularly acute problems to the Japanese state where a high degree of the welfares state system’s dependence on the family is observable and rapid demographic changes, typically ageing and birthrate decline, are ongoing.
This paper examines the ways in which the Japanese state has engaged in the governance of reproduction from the mid-19th century to the present time by arranging/re-calibrating the governing system in order to respond to changes in national/international political economy. In so doing, the paper explores a theoretical question regarding the contradictory relationship between reproduction and capitalist economy, that is, how the governance of reproduction functions in the process of developing and maintaining capitalist economies, with reference to the works of Polanyi and the ‘governmentality’ school. The analysis of the Japanese case offers some insights that illuminate inherent problems existing in the governance of reproduction embedded in governmentality.