Hypothesis & Theory ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 12 September 2011 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00207

Unable to conform, unwilling to rebel? youth, culture, and motivation in globalizing japan

Tuukka Toivonen1, Vinai Norasakkunkit2* and Yukiko Uchida3
  • 1 Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  • 2 Psychology Department, Minnesota State University Mankato, Mankato, MN, USA
  • 3 Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

This paper investigates the effects of globalization on Japanese young adults from sociological and psychological perspectives. While Japan’s socio-economic institutions have shown mainly resistant (or “hot”) reactions to globalization, individual-level adaptations remain oriented toward conformity to dominant life expectations, which remain largely unchanged, despite decreasing rewards. However, a socially withdrawn sub-group (the so-called hikikomori) appears to be unable to conform yet is also unwilling to rebel. The experimental evidence we review suggests such youth deviate from typical Japanese motivational patterns but have not necessarily become more Western. This poses serious problems in an interdependence-oriented culture, but the paralysis of this group seems to be an outcome of labor market change rather than a psychopathology. Finally, we also identify a contrasting group – whom we call the quiet mavericks – that adapts in creative and integrative (or “cool”) ways by negotiating conformist pressures tactfully. Our account sheds light on just how complex and painful the psychological and sociological effects of globalization can be for young people in conformist societies, with implications to policy and social sustainability.

Keywords: globalization, youth, motivation, marginalization, post-industrialization, Japan, NEET, hikikomori

Citation: Toivonen T, Norasakkunkit V and Uchida Y (2011) Unable to conform, unwilling to rebel? youth, culture, and motivation in globalizing japan. Front. Psychology 2:207. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00207

Received: 21 June 2011; Paper pending published: 04 July 2011;
Accepted: 13 August 2011; Published online: 13 September 2011.

Edited by:

Heejung Kim, University of California Santa Barbara, USA

Reviewed by:

Beth Morling, University of Delaware, USA
Takeshi Hamamura, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Copyright: © 2011 Toivonen, Norasakkunkit and Uchida. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: Vinai Norasakkunkit, 23 Armstrong Hall, Minnesota State University, Mankato, MN 56001, USA. e-mail: vinai.norasakkunkit@mnsu.edu

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