Economic and political factors are closely related and today, they are inextricable. Though both play a fundamental role in social development, it may go unnoticed that both economics and politics are influenced by culture. Japanese culture plays a fundamental role in shaping the social structure in Japan. However, it cannot be termed as the role influence. Thus, political culture and economy are “factors of the same whole, interpenetrating at all levels.
The interlinking of these two facets is exhibited in several arenas. First, politics are controlled by bureaucrats rather than elected politicians. Again, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, which controls the economy interlinks state bureaucracy with commerce. A strong work ethic and management culture in the commerce and manufacturing industry has ensured the prosperity of the Japanese economy.
The hyper-consumption in Japanese cities can be attributed to policy shifts in economics. This hyper-consumption has caused the realignment of political parties and public clamor for political reforms. It is noteworthy that while law reforms have ensured that both men and women get equal employment opportunities, the Japanese culture and social structure influences progress up the career especially for women.
Consumption is the point at which economic activities and cultural practices combine. The Japanese have a liking for well finished products i.e. the aesthetics of a product must be high on average. The aesthetics must also come in technologically advanced forms.
An inspection of modern Japanese culture will reveal popularity of erotic, violent and hedonistic media. Thus, the Japanese consumer is highly likely to consume goods and services that have these themes. However, although through consumption the different classes in a society can be pointed out, the Japanese have dampened the visibility of class distinctions.
It is important to recognize that the consumers are the producers i.e. the Japanese workforce consumes what it produces. Consequently, by virtue of the argument that consumption of the average Japanese is influenced by his culture, then it follows that the cultural sphere interlinks the mode of production and consumption.
The interactions of everyday consumption and cultural norms provide an essential dynamic in understanding the dynamics of culture. A good example of the interaction of political economics and culture is the case of money in Japan. Though highly technologically advanced, the Japanese like transacting in cash. The most probable explanation for this phenomenon is culture. Exchange and transfer of cash involve interpersonal interactions during which more than just money is exchanged.
Consumption and work culture in Japan has changed from building the nation to developing the self. This is a culture shift that copies the development of the self (body project) in other developed societies. Again, politics has changed to a question of life politics rather than nationalistic politics or building the state.
In this scenario, consumption is targeted at building the individual brand rather than the national image. In general, the relationship between goods and experiences is complex; a change in experiences will lead to a different political perspective and consequently a different economic scenario. The popular culture in today’s mass media emboldens personal glorification, a shift from the content a few decades ago thus the shift from developing the nation to developing the self.
Shopping culture and political economics
Shopping is a means of acquisition of items through which consumers exert an identity. It is important to mention from the outset that Japanese’ consideration of ‘taste’ are entrenched into their production and consumption culture. Shopping in Japan is not just a simple acquisition but also symbolizes class, gender and other social aspects. Traditionally, married Japanese women are housewives while their husbands tend to be away at work.
Consequently, shopping is regarded as a feminine duty. The women form social groupings in neighborhoods and shop together. It is in these social groupings that concerns of quality, price and safety in shopped items are discussed. This concern is driven by the culture of the Japanese – the self and any acquisitions made must be perfect.
Culture has quite a substantial influence on their shopping habits. The objective for a Japanese shopper is to make a clear statement of gender, occupation and status while maintaining cleanliness and neatness and conformity to members of the same social status. Consequently, there are few variations of dress code i.e. the market is relatively homogenous.
Reading books on the train is a popular thing and Japanese towns have many bookstores most of which remain open throughout the night. Comic books are available for persons of all age groups. Once read, these books and magazines are discarded as the Japanese have distaste for used things.
Wrapping is an essential part of Japanese culture as there is a lot of literature on the same issue. Shop attendants are given lessons on how to wrap goods. This extra attention paid to wrapping is attributed to the fact that the Japanese are conscious about the wrapping of their goods.
Every purchase made is carefully wrapped especially if the customer indicates that it is a gift. This obsession with meticulous wrapping can be attributed to the Japanese culture – gift giving and receiving is a common activity. This act of gift giving requires consideration of how much to spend as well as what to give as a gift.
Young single persons and newlyweds are the most common gift givers. These persons use their monies that could otherwise have been savings to buy gifts. This clique of professionals considers itself sophisticated and their shopping choices are informed by the media as well as leading consumer magazines.
In conclusion, Japan has been able to create a brand of capitalism that is based on cultural and sociological influences that are distinct from the trend in the West. Post modernity – success in material acquisitions for oneself as well as national economic prosperity is exhibited in all facets of Japanese life. These facets are influenced by both cultural and political economics thereby making it difficult to separate the two from each other.