Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Understanding Japan

During this next academic year, I have a class in Japanese and American Comparative Culture. I am really looking forward to it, and have bought some books on Japan for preparation. One of the books, Kata: The key to understanding and dealing with the Japanese! by Boye Lafayette De Mente, was a pretty good find, despite the title. His thesis is that the Japanese have ways of doing things, and if those ways are understood, then we can have an insight into what motivates their behavior.

The book is interesting enough, and I recommend it for Japanologists, but I was intrigued most, not by what this writer had written, but by a reference that De Mente makes to another scholar of things Japanese. In a subheading, he talks about "Clark's Curve." This refers to a graph that Gregory Clark, Vice President at Akita International University, has developed from his research into "...why the collectivist/communalistic, particularistic Japanese had been able to create an economy powerful enough to frighten us advanced, modern, individualistic, rationalistic Westerners.

You can find his discussion of this topic at his web site, which happens to be his life story. Terrific reading, really. He finally decides that societies don't follow linear progressions, but rather curved progressions, and that Japan has yet to reach the apex, where the best points of a village society and older, rationalistic society are in perfect balance.

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