Programm der Fachgruppe „Soziologie und Sozialanthropologie“

VSJF-Jahrestagung 2017
Universität Wien

Programm der Fachgruppe „Soziologie und Sozialanthropologie“
1. November 2017, 15.30–18.00 Uhr


Begrüßung (Klien, Hommerich, Obinger)

“Consequences of Educational Upgrading in Modern Societies on the Reproduction of Social Inequalities: Increasing Supplementary Education Investments in Japan?”
Steve Entrich

“Happiness is…: A Method-Mix Approach to Japan’s ‘Happy Youth’”
Carola Hommerich


“Here to stay: An analysis of the revitalization initiative Zen of the Aso region and its impact on the local community”
Signy Spletzer

“Transnational lifestyle mobility of Japanese to Europe and the quest for well-being outside Japan”
Susanne Klien

Abschlussdiskussionen / Q&A


Consequences of Educational Upgrading in Modern Societies on the Reproduction of Social Inequalities: Increasing Supplementary Education Investments in Japan?
Steve Entrich and Wolfgang Lauterbach (University of Potsdam)

Over the last 150 years we observed a steady increase of the educational level of most societies’ population, resulting in a general educational “upgrading” worldwide. But even though this upgrading trend is understood as an ultimate verification of more equality of educational opportunities and thus a reduction of social inequalities; upgrading has a tremendous influence on the reproduction of social inequalities also. With massive quantitative upgrading maintaining a social status becomes increasingly difficult and thus new investment opportunities need to be pursued to achieve a similar status. Effectively maintained inequality (EMI) theory stresses that if the majority of students reaches an advanced education level, the quality of the achieved education becomes more important for status positioning. Hence, in the ‘schooled society’ families have become more likely to pursue non-formal, supplementary education to achieve competitive advantages.

Focusing on Japan, the following will be shown: (1) Educational upgrading occurred worldwide and will continue further (empirical trends and prognoses from 1870-2100). (2) As consequence, families increasingly invest in supplementary education, such as shadow education and study abroad. (3) Analyses based on the 2013 Benesse Gakkōgai kyōiku katsudō ni kansuru chōsa (for 15.000 students aged 3 to 18) show that students from well-off family backgrounds are most likely to study abroad and go to juku in Japan. Therefore, upper class families possibly make such investments to achieve competitive status advantages thus contributing to social inequalities.


Happiness is…: A Method-Mix Approach to Japan’s “Happy Youth”
Carola Hommerich (Hokkaido University)

Subjective well-being among 20-29-year-old Japanese has increased since the 1970s and by the turn of the century has outstripped that of those in their thirties, forties or fifties. While unimaginable by older generations, it seems that young Japanese – despite a bleak outlook to the future (e.g. in terms of employment or the financial burden of a super-ageing society) – feel satisfied with their lives. This result caused a stir in Japanese academic and public discourse alike. It indicates that what the young generation considers important for their well-being might differ from older generations.

In this project, I test how and to what extent what I call the “structure of happiness”, measured in terms of satisfaction with and importance of different life domains (such as health, finance, family, friends etc.), varies across age. I look at (1) which aspects of their lives young Japanese are satisfied or dissatisfied with (as compared to other generations), and (2) which of these aspects they think of as important when considering their happiness. I use data from the National Survey on Lifestyle Preferences from 2010, and from the SSP2015 survey for analysis. Additionally, I analyze data from 55 qualitative interviews with young Japanese in their twenties, to add further substance to the quantitative results.

Preliminary results imply that what is individually evaluated as “overall happiness” needs to be thought of as complex interplay of different topicalities that are weighted and judged against each other in course of the evaluation. In the specific case of the Japanese youth, their distinctively different idea of happiness points to an impact of their generational location – growing up in a period of economic stagnation – which distinguishes them from previous generations, who were used to continuous economic growth and social upgrading.


Here to stay: An analysis of the revitalization initiative Zen of the Aso region and its impact on the local community
Signy Spletzer (Vienna University)

While in Japan demographic change concerns the whole nation, the rural areas are particularly confronted with the harsh reality of ageing and population decline. Despite several countermeasures implemented by national and local governments, the situation in rural regions has not improved but worsened in many cases. To boost the number of tourists that had declined due to a string of natural disasters in recent years and to attract more foreign tourists the so-called Zen Initiative (taken from the word shizen meaning “nature”) was inaugurated by the local government of Aso City in the prefecture of Kumamoto in 2013. The initiative works on two levels, it has set itself the goal of creating a positive impact on tourism as well as on the local communities. Before tourists can be drawn into the region changes must be made within the local community to create valuable living opportunities for the inhabitants of the region. Hence the first goal of the initiative is to build a local community that can withstand decline and can rely on its assets. Even though first reactions towards the top-down approach of this initiative appeared to be positive, rigid structures, miscommunication and internal problems have seemed to bring this revitalisation project to its limits.


Transnational lifestyle mobility of Japanese to Europe and the quest for well-being outside Japan
Susanne Klien (Hokkaido University)

This ethnographic project explores the motives of Japanese individuals between 25 and 50 who have relocated to Europe for non-economic reasons. Generally defined as ‘lifestyle migrants’, they tend to opt for self-created work in the creative sector. The paper aims to examine the changes individuals experienced as result of their relocation, their social life and sense of belonging, how migrants adjusted to their new environments, self-perception before and after their move, how they earn a livelihood, how they relate to society, gender roles and how they describe their mid- and long-term plans. Data was compiled from semi-structured interviews and participant observation conducted in Austria, Germany and Portugal since March 2016. I argue that Japanese migrants tend to relocate for reasons of self-growth, inspiration and change. Female settlers tend to have a history of ‘broken bodies’ due to overwork. Lifestyle migrants generally aspire to non-normative life courses; however, narratives indicate that resistance to mainstream values features side by side with appropriation of societal norms. On the one hand, interviewees express high satisfaction with their daily lives. Yet, having eschewed stable careers in lifelong employment and familial engagement, they also mention their sense of transience, liminality, precariousness and considerable pressure to turn their lives overseas into a success.