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Marginal movements and minority struggles? The case of japanese minority social and labour movements

Stewart, P. (2006) Marginal movements and minority struggles? The case of japanese minority social and labour movements. The Sociological Review, 54 (4). pp. 753-773. ISSN 0038-0261

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In Japan, some of the socially, economically and politically marginalised have developed robust social and labour movements that engage with mainstream society. These movements have developed strategies challenging the conditions of the excluded, while also highlighting pathways to establish, or enhance, individual and collective participation in the labour market and the wider society. Two distinct though related, social and organisational forms of these movements are elaborated - firm-centred and community centred respectively. The former especially has a combative past in the labour struggles of the 1950s in what are known as sa'ha sh-sū-ha kumiai (left wing Minority union, or, Minority-faction union). However, this does not mean Minorities are inherently leftist in orientation. In the 1940s and 1950s, during a period of radical union hegemony, a collaborative form of second unions developed assisting the purge of radical leaderships. Our focus here is on a contemporary radical democratic current. While articulating concerns of those in full time employment outside the political mainstream they may also represent ethnically and otherwise socially marginalised workers. The community unions, a form of what are known as 'new-type union', shingata kumiai (this term will be used here to describe the community unions) articulate the concerns of those socially and economically marginalized in the community and the wider labour market. Controversially, the term 'Minority union' is used to depict the different forms of oppositional social movement union in a broader sense than is typically understood in the literature. This is because they share a common concern with the articulation of Minority social and political interests in the context of the employment relationship and the local community. In considering the character of these social movement unions the article seeks to add to what Price (1997) describes as 'bottom up history' which we term 'sociology from below'.