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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Kelly M. Young

Abstract

This work explores the development and struggle of a rhetorical subject of Japanese young non-regular workers against the recent slow economic trend. In Japan, the bubble-burst in 1991 invited a long economic recession, and companies started to adopt non-regular—low-wage, short-term and insecure—contracts from quintessential Fordist full-time seishain regular contract; yet, a large body of older seishain workers has retained this stable and affordable status. As a result, the vast majority of working forces enrolled in the job market since then has suffered from a low living standard, many on the verge of survival, while domestic mass media discourses have legitimated unfair treatments as if they do not deserve seishain positions because they are incompetent and lazy.

Combining Michel Foucault’s framework of genealogy with Louis Althusser’s idea of interpellation, this study investigates a development of discourses in ways that has legitimated their inferior material and symbolic status as well as activists’ attempts to challenge the status. After I provide an overview of the project in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 reexamines the birth and development of kaisha-shugi, companyism, or a set of normative ideas that aims at ongoing development of private companies as the national mission. The Chapter 2 remarks an effect of this system in terms of the poor notion of civic distributional justice and minimum civic life as citizens’ rights. Chapter 3 investigates discourses on the national economy, labor relations and youth culture, exploring how domestic mass media with the state hegemony rearticulated the subject of young and non-regular workers. I claim that, in the early era of the post-bubble period, the public subject was conveniently obliterated as working forces, while their future risk was optimistically calculated and underrated. In consequence, however, I also contend that a few new denominations in the middle of the 2000s have reformed their public subject in a way that explicitly degrades their symbolic status. Chapter 4 analyzes activists’ efforts, highlighting the effectivity of their rhetorics against the neoliberal dominant capitalist powers. In the conclusion, Chapter 5 claims a few contributions of this study to rhetorical studies and neoliberal studies.

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