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Japan's Changing Regional World of Welfare: Agricultural Reform, Hamlet-based Collective Farming, and the Local Renegotiation of Social Risks

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This article analyzes agricultural reform as an element of broader shifts in the Japanese welfare regime. In postwar Japan, agricultural support and protection served as a "functional equivalent" to welfare provision in rural and semi-rural areas. However, an ongoing agricultural reform process has put pressure on aging smallholders and on JA, the powerful organization of agricultural cooperatives. This article investigates how these local actors have responded to an increasingly hostile socio-economic and political environment. To address this question, the article focuses on hamlet-based collective farming, which is a form of agricultural production that can reproduce the welfare character of the postwar support and protection regime on the local level. Based on field research in several rural and semi-rural communities, the article argues that the functions and the local proliferation of hamlet-based farming are shaped by village institutions: hamlet-level norms and rules governing land use and agricultural cooperation, as well as social ties between hamlets, local co-ops, and local governments. While the integration of village institutions into local cooperative and administrative structures can support a systematic local proliferation of collective farming, municipal and cooperative mergers have rendered such comprehensive local responses more complicated. More generally, the article proposes to investigate local acts of recombining community ties and norms with changing macro policies as a promising analytical angle to understand the ongoing renegotiation of East Asian welfare regimes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2020

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