Présentation au centre de recherche sur la pauvreté et les inégalités de Stanford le 18 avril 2014.
Social mobilization of the Youth in Japan:
Reassessing the relation between poverty and social activism
This presentation aims at investigating the relation between social mobilization and poverty. It appears as a death angle of major social or labor movement theories: in the Marxist tradition, the lumpen proletariat is described as an enemy of the organized working class. More recently, the resource mobilization theory underlines the importance of resources to protest, resting the case of people with few or no assets. The case of Japan seems even more challenging: it is known for the coexistence of a weak and “consensual” civil society, “cooperative” labor unions and the share perception of a vast middle class.
It is lesser known that Japan has now a high poverty rate, second only to the one of the United States. Since the 90s, an anti-poverty movement has grown to become one of the strongest social movements in the country. It gave a strong echo to new social issues such as homelessness or working poor. The impact of the great recession has given even more strength to this social movement and seems, according to the media, to have gathered even more poor people into activism, reaching to young people with insertion problem on the labor market.
Accordingly, inside this social movement, I have focused on the recent mobilization of young non-regular workers by new labor unions or “community unions”. It is the first research on this subject using quantitative data, a community union archive (630 entries), and qualitative data, a panel of 50 members that I interviewed recurrently since 2008. In my investigation I managed to confirm the relation between poverty and social mobilization but not without elaborating on other critera such as sex, age, social trajectory and professional carrier expectations. Also, I challenge the conclusion that, because of a high turn over, their mobilization is actually weakening the social and labor movement. As I followed the trajectory of some of the members and ex-members, I found out that leaving the labor union does not mean giving up social mobilization. They can be defined as “nomads” of social movements.