chapter  6
20 Pages

The ‘Japanese-style welfare state’ and the delivery of personal social services


This chapter explores the development of personal social services in Japan in terms of our broader concepts of welfare Orientalism and Occidentalism outlined in Part I of this volume. The focus of this chapter is on the roles – both negative and positive – played by the ‘West’ in the construction of Japanese social service provision, not only literally in the form of foreign advisers in the early Meiji and post-war Occupation periods, but also metaphorically as a ‘model’ for Japanese social policy makers either to emulate or to avoid. It concentrates in particular on the system of voluntary welfare commissioners called the minseiiin seido and how their role has been variously interpreted in the light of ideas about how social welfare has developed, and should develop, in the future in Japan in comparison with ‘Western’ societies. The significance of these debates extends beyond welfare since, underlying them, are fundamental ideas about the role and the nature of the ‘person’, the ‘family’, the ‘community’, as well as the concepts of ‘civic duties’, ‘rights’ and ‘citizenship’, and how these may differ in Japan and North American and West European societies, leading thereby to very different social ideas about ‘welfare’.