Saturday, April 9, 2011

Japan - Agrarian To Occupational Ranking (1853)

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         Japan Alters Its Social Stratification System

       In 1853, one of the most significant events in history occurred, however, it would take more than 35 years to actually manifest its results to the world.

      1853:  At the behest of American merchants, President Millard Fillmore sent Commodore Perry with a letter to Japan’s Emperor to seek a trade treaty. Japan at this time, and throughout her history, was primarily an agrarian, subsistence farming nation - a people who had not yet discovered coin currency. It was also a country which fiercely protected its isolation.  With an exception made only to Dutch traders, any attempt by other Western nations to land on Japanese soil for the purpose of trade or any other reason,  was under the threat of immediate attack (Western merchants were primarily interested in Japan as a place to dock their ships and pick up supplies).  When Commodore Perry arrived in the Bay of Tokyo with three steam-powered warships, and fixed with cannons, the Japanese, whose only source of defense was the sword and the bow and arrow, had little choice but to receive him. Perry delivered his letter and promised to return within a year to receive the Emperor’s reply. The following year Perry did return, but with even a bigger fleet, comprised this time of seven war ships. The Emperor, gazing at the site of these mammoth warships, and forced also to witness a demonstration of the power of their cannons, knew he had no option and promptly negotiated a trade treaty. 

     Certainly the Japanese had to feel bullied by the weapons these Americans possessed. And how could they also not fail to  realize the overt threat to their own sovereignty should these Americans decide to exercise their very apparent superiority?  While we have to assume the Japanese saw themselves as intellectual equals to these white skinned men, nevertheless, how could they explain this very evident superiority? That is, what allowed these Americans  to achieve it?  Obviously the Japanese saw that it was the structure of the American’s society that allowed them to create their weapons. We can logically assume this since from approximately that date (1853) the Japanese, on their own volition, and particularly with the insistence of their Emperor, set about to structurally overhaul their political and economic arenas and model them after the American system. In other words, they set about to create an Occupational Ranking social stratification system. They were, as we know, successful. By 1900 (less than 40 years), Japan had not only replicated America’s societal structure (i.e. creating wealth using occupational titles to stratify its male group), but was also producing material items very similar in quality to the Americans.  However,  this success had another ramification to it.  Up until this time, only Europeans had Occupational Ranking systems.  This transformation by the Japanese from an agrarian societal structure to an Occupational Ranking one, demonstrated that it was not just those of the European race who were capable of creating this type of social stratification system.    

By 1964, it  was already apparent which countries had male groups capable of a creating an  Occupational Ranking stratification system.


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