Publication Details

Onuki, H. (2004). The myth of homogeneity and the 'Others': foreign labour migration and globalization in the case of Japan. International Studies Association Annual Convention (pp. 1-67). United States: International Studies Association.

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This essay will examine the multi-dimensional dynamics of global labor migrations participating in and facilitated by globalization, by analyzing Japan's contemporary experience of rapidly intensified foreign labor immigration. Japan has not considered itself as a country of immigration until recently. Since Japan's prewar self-modernization period, conservative political discourse has conceptualized the modern nation-state as a racially homogeneous entity. This discourse established the cultural and political foundation for Japanese identity, and Japan's relationship with the outside world. Consequently, the incorporation of culturally and ethnically different Others has been deemed a threat to the harmony of Japan's homogeneous society. Yet, beginning in the late 1980s when the term internationalization began to be widely used in Japan as a political slogan for the rapid expansion of the Japanese economy the number of foreign workers legally and illegally entering into Japan has increased remarkably, and these workers have become deeply incorporated in its society. The traditional migration theory utilizes neoclassical economic view in regarding labour migration as voluntary movement. This tradition considers that individuals choose to migrate through a calculation of the cost-and-benefits. However, the ahistorical and individualistic perspective of this model cannot precisely explain the historically changing modes of labour migrations. In this respect, through the critical lens of international political economy, this study will explore the contested relationship between foreign labor migration and the modern nation-state by applying three conceptual tools within Robert Cox's analytical framework, which are: the internationalization of production; the internationalization of state; and the reconstitution of power relations among diversified social forces. This essay will argue that increasing inflows and incorporation of the Others have posed a serious challenge to Japan's socially constructed hegemonic and mythical self-perception as a homogeneous nation-state and society. It will suggest democratization at the social and institutional levels as the consequent need for Japan within the context of globalization.