EASC 3 - 1 Madison Nina Madison Professor Cooper EASC 150g...

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1 Madison Nina Madison Professor Cooper EASC 150g 29 November 2011 Social Hierarchy in a Changing Society Investigating both the inherent cultural values and external factors of a society reveal the reasons behind the changing social structure of a particular country. The East Asian countries of Korea, Japan, and China have some cultural similarities that can be used to analyze the history of each country. The books written by various sociologists about specific communities provide more information in context to the progressive changes in social structures. It is important to note that each of these studies have a limited focus and may not be representative of Korea, Japan, and China as a whole. Ancestor Worship and Korean Society by Roger L. Janelli and Dawnhee Yim Janelli, Shinohata by Ronald P. Dore, and Private Life Under Socialism by Yunxiang Yan present the influence of age and gender in the social hierarchies of these Asian countries. The details about primogeniture and ancestor worship show the importance of the paternal family unit, which was a source of social hierarchy in preindustrial times. Over time, all three countries underwent dramatic social changes due to political restructuring and economic prosperity. Class Struggle or Family Struggle? by Seung-kyung Kim , Japanese Workers in Protest by Christena L. Turner , and Against the Law by Ching Kwan Lee expose the resulting resistance to social hierarchy in the initial transformation of government policies. After political restructuring changed the economy, the influence of age and gender on social hierarchy decreased, affecting social life in Korea, Japan, and China especially.
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2 Social hierarchy was partly determined by age in all three countries because of the cultural importance of ancestors and family lineage. This is evident through the books’ emphasis on the value of age and birth order in Asian culture. Specifically in Korean culture, the oldest son of the family inherits his father’s land and has the responsibility of conducting rituals in honor of his ancestors (Janelli 1982: 99). The increase of social power with age is illustrated through these practices because they were specifically intended to enforce filial piety. Despite the burdens of conducting rituals and caring for the family, the eldest son wields exceptional power after being granted household headship and property ownership (Janelli 1982: 43). The patrilineal inheritance used age as the criterion in assessing the amount of property and money male descendants acquired. Land ownership was a large determinant of social class; therefore, property given to the oldest son further engraved the importance of age into Asian culture. Age was significant in Japan as well, where “reverence for the ancestors was an important focus of religious sentiment and practice in the community” (Dore 1994: 140). After the oldest son assumes the position of head of the family, he becomes an honored member of the village community. Genealogy was an essential aspect of Japanese life and further illustrated why the
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This note was uploaded on 03/30/2012 for the course EASC 250g taught by Professor ? during the Fall '11 term at USC.

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EASC 3 - 1 Madison Nina Madison Professor Cooper EASC 150g...

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