Oct 20 2020 14:55

【Report】The sixth session of the Global Studies Seminar series “Challenges in Global Studies” “What Does Globalization Bring to Comparative Sociological Research?”

Institute for Advanced Global StudiesGSI

【Report】The sixth session of the Global Studies Seminar series “Challenges in Global Studies” “What Does Globalization Bring to Comparative Sociological Research?”

Speaker: ARITA Shin (Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo)

Moderator:  KOKUBUN Koichiro(Department of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)

Discussant:TANABE Akio(Department of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)
DATE Kiyonobu(Department of Area Studies, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)

To learn more about the Global Studies Seminar series “Challenges in Global Studies,” click here.


The sixth session of the Global Studies Seminar series “Challenges in Global Studies” took place on Tuesday, October 20th, 2020. Professor Shin Arita (Institute of Social Science, the University of Tokyo) gave a lecture titled “What Does Globalization Bring to Comparative Sociological Research?”

Arita began by stating that his research in sociology has a basis in area studies, and is thus deeply rooted in the reality of society. He then reviewed the different categories of comparative sociological research presented by the American sociologist, Melvin Kohn, and related the significance of Kohn’s work to his own research. In his first book, Education and Social Stratification in South Korea, Arita conducted a comparative study of the educational environments in Japan and South Korea. As he analyzed the respective selection systems of education through the lens of social inequality, his interest shifted from the objective to the subjective understanding of social stratification. This research shed light on the fact that people’s awareness and assumptions shape the ways in which social institutions are constructed, which, in turn, influence the patterns of social stratification and social mobility. Furthermore, he added, the unexpectedly high level of response to this research suggested how the demand for research grows in response to the very content of what the research has produced. Seeing the potential in expanding area studies into the field of sociology, Arita moved on to work further on the structural aspects of society, and has been since actively engaged in what we might call a reality-based comparative sociological research.

Arita then shared his experience of participating in the SSM survey (The National Survey of Social Stratification and Social Mobility) as an examiner specializing in Japan and Korea, and introduced his succeeding work, “The Sociology of Reward Inequality among Employment Positions: A Comparison of Non-standard Employment and Social Stratification in Japan and Korea.” As he was conducting this international comparative survey, he encountered certain “double-barreled questions” with regard to the category of “non-standard employment.” This made him question the definition of a worker’s “employment status.” Noticing that the categorization of one’s “employment status” determined by the way it is named by the employer was a uniquely Japanese characteristic, he felt the need for a social constructivist approach towards the study of non-standard employment, which would examine the worker’s “status” in the labor market from a sociological perspective, taking into account the inter-subjectivity of the criteria itself. Through the examination of these “survey questions” that are highly dependent on its social context, Arita realized the importance of understanding both the national and social background behind these surveys, which marked the next turning point in his comparative sociological research.

In his recent project, “A Longitudinal Study on Career Mobility and Life Course Perspectives for Japanese Youth and Middle-aged Migrants,” Arita has turned his attention to the “Japanese-ness” illuminated through the different attitudes towards foreign and local employment. Local employment in Asia seems to be primarily driven by the incentive for career building rather than that for lifestyle migration. What this brings into stark relief is the seniority-based system of age-position adhesion in Japanese companies. The international movement of workers is itself the result of the workers’ comparing different societies and selecting one over the other. Therefore, focusing on such movements will bring in new perspectives into the field of comparative sociological research. Finally, Arita discussed how his research in comparative sociology has greatly benefited from examining the new modes of inter-social contact promoted through the global expansion of various media, and concluded his talk by stressing the importance of consciously and actively paying attention to the ongoing phenomenon of globalization.

Arita’s presentation led to an intense discussion centering on the questions concerning, for example, his account of the emergence and the institutionalization of reward inequality, the relationship between the market economy and social conventions at both global and national levels, and the evaluation of the employment categories used in Japan. The methodological challenges in comparative sociology as well as the possibility and limitation of comparing between different “regions” was also taken up. The session closed with a discussion concerning the appropriateness of a social comparison between regions with different socio-economic conditions and a question regarding the criteria for judging these conditions.

【HAN Ahram(Graduate Student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)】

【translated by ELLIS Naomi (Ph.D. Student at the University of California, Los Angeles)】