Status and the Politics of the Quotidian

David L. Howell

in Geographies of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Japan

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2005 | ISBN: 9780520240858
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930872 | DOI:
Status and the Politics of the Quotidian

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This chapter describes the association between status and economic activity in the Tokugawa period and reviews the mechanism by which economic activity was detached from status during the transition to the Meiji order after 1868. To elucidate the relationship between status and economy, it distinguishes between occupation, which refers to the economic activity linked to a household's formal status, and livelihood, or the economic means by which households actually supported themselves. The argument is that the Tokugawa system accommodated the distinction between occupation and livelihood, although at the cost of considerable institutional complexity. The gap between occupation and livelihood was especially stark for many outcastes. The monetization of duty affected all Japanese, regardless of previous status. The widening gap between occupation and livelihood formed the economic background to the arrival of the Meiji Restoration, but economic developments per se did not “cause” the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Keywords: Tokugawa; Meiji Restoration; status; economy; occupation; livelihood; monetization; politics

Chapter.  14639 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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