Transnational Migration and Limitations

by Miho Tanaka

The activities of transnational migration are expanding every day and the immigrants’ social interactions and their relationship with their host countries is changing.

Since many African American’s diaspora started around seventeenth century, immigration to the U.S. and transnational migration accompanied with it has continued. Irish, Jews, Armenians and Greeks have settled in the U.S. as well as African Americans. Nowadays more and more immigrants arrive in the U.S. from mainly Asia and Latin America and seek job opportunity there. Each government of their host lands are trying to making ties with them in order to benefit from their immigration activity beyond borders. Levitt considers this phenomenon as long-distance nationalism that emerged from this current mainstream of globalization, whose processes tend to be de-linked from specific national territories (Levitt, 2001, p.202). On the basis of the changes of immigration in the U.S., Levitt addresses how policymakers should challenge these changes (Levitt, 2004).

I consider that the U.S. is one of the epitomes of immigrant issue in the world. A lot of people and ethnic groups have migrated to the country but the country also has many problems. Though Mexicans, Dominicans, El Salvadorans and the other immigrants can have strong ties with their host countries but non-immigrants do not have any connection with the other countries and they are losing jobs. Low-skilled people in the country may have their jobs taken by immigrants. However immigrants have some issues as well; for example some of them gradually lose relationships with their home countries, and if they assimilate to U.S. society culturally, economically and socially they willing to live and settle to the U.S. In addition the second generation often find itself as American citizens; therefore long-distance nationalism would be meaningless for them.

And most importantly the issue of racism is still large in U.S. society, and the U.S. society still allows domination by European Americans and sustains racism toward minority ethnic groups. At Western Michigan University, I took an Africana studies class and a social work class, which dealt with cultural and racial issues in the U.S. Through both classes I mainly learned how African American is racially discriminated in the society.

I suppose my way of thinking is similar to colorism but those whose skin color is dark tend to be targeted as an object of discrimination. Even if they transmigrated for such a long time they still cannot assimilate into their societies and their social status is threatened by newcomer of immigrants. From the perspective I found out a limitation of transnationalism, since the U.S. itself also has a lot of unemployed people. The problem would not be solved unless people change their racial tensions based on the skin color or appearance.

Reference

Levitt, P. (2001). Transnational migration: Taking stock and future directions. In Global Networks. 1, 3, 195-216.

Levitt, P. (2004). Transnational migrants: When “home” means more than one country. Retrieved on June 6, 2013, from  http://www.migrationinformation.org/feature/display.cfm?id=261

Take This Personal Brand and Shove It

by Robert Moorehead

Two messages came across my inbox recently, and I’ve been thinking about how they’re related. The first is a brilliant animated film that captures the rigors of the job hunting process, or shūkatsu, in Japan. (You can find some insightful analysis of the film here.) In their final year of studies at the university, students dye their hair black, get more formal business haircuts, put on matching black suits, and go out to try to show how well they can toe the company line and become good corporate drones. In the process, students can lose themselves and become a person they no longer recognize.

Failing in this process also stings, as applicants can feel that their personal worth is wrapped up in the outcome. You’re reducing yourself to a commodity and peddling it to companies, and finding yourself dehumanized in the process.

The second message came from a workshop on “The Power of Brand ‘You’: Personal Branding for Career and Life Success.” The workshop is led by Peter Sterlacci, who, according to his own ad, is “known as ‘Japan’s Personal Branding Pioneer’ and is one of 15 Master level Certified Personal Branding Strategists in the world.” (Let’s set aside grammar issues with the excessive use of capital letters, and the questions about who, exactly, knows Mr. Sterlacci in this manner. Maybe it’s just him. Let’s also set aside questions about just what a personal branding strategist is, who certifies such a person, and how many levels there are.)

BrandingOL_en_copy.1

In the messages on Sterlacci’s website, we can find a few kernels of truth. For example, the Japanese workplace places a high value on workers fitting into the existing hierarchy of the company. In a changing, 21st-century economy, workers need to look for jobs in a more global marketplace—and that marketplace can include settings in which workers need to promote themselves less as workers who can fit in, and more as workers who bring something unique to the company.

So far, so good. But the messages go further, to encourage workers to become their own “personal brand.” You are to be the brand, believe in the brand, and live the brand. But beyond Ophrah-esque messages of believing in yourself, listening to your heart, following your dreams, and opening yourself up to wealth, what does this mean? Am I a brand? (And if I am, are my children my “product line,” like from the iPad comes the iPad mini?)

In my introduction to sociology classes, I discuss Karl Marx’s notion of species being, which we can also think of as human nature. Marx states that humans are unique in our creative ability to produce things. Some animals can build bridges, and a few gorillas have learned sign language, but that doesn’t compare with humans’ ability to create things, from food to clothing, to buildings, to the global computer network on which you’re reading this.

In this sense, this ability is part of what defines us as humans, and we have an intimate connection with the things we create. We become alienated if the products of our labor are taken from us, or if we become little more than appendages to the machines in the factory. Think of the the satisfaction we feel when we make ourselves a nice dinner, compared to the disdain we felt toward the burgers many of us flipped in minimum-wage service jobs. (And if you ate any of the food I prepared at the Solano Drive-In in the 1980s, I apologize.)

In recent decades, our experiences at work have changed dramatically. Once-solid factory jobs in countries like the US and Japan have moved elsewhere, and workers find themselves struggling to find jobs that pay enough to support themselves and their families. Commitments from companies to long-term employment have practically vanished, replaced by temporary or contract work. We’re all free agents now, freed from being trapped in the same job and also free to go hungry while we search for work.

In this environment, it makes sense for workers to retool themselves for the changing dynamics of the workplace. Keep your resume up-to-date, and always be on the lookout for the next opportunity. Believe in yourself, market yourself, take charge of your destiny—think Stuart Smalley meets Gordon Gecko—become the product others want to buy.

And there’s the catch: are you a product? or a brand? or a commodity? or whatever synonym you prefer? What is your value in the marketplace? If you are your brand, and you live that brand all the time, 24 hours a day, are you really living up to your full human potential? Are you reducing yourself to your exchange value? What is your brand worth?

As I kid I remember my brother and I arguing with our dad about what something was worth. We loved some of our stuff so much that we imagined someone would pay us a fortune for it. Then we’d make all sorts of plans to sell our things and reap our rewards. Our father would then tell us that the things were only worth what someone would pay us for them, and that was probably a lot less than we imagined. Not yet schooled in the economics of capitalism, my brother and I confused use value and exchange value. The joy we got from playing with something (it’s utility, or use value) didn’t match the value of that thing in the marketplace (it’s exchange value).

So what happens when the thing we’re trying to sell is ourselves? And what if we buy so deeply into the process that we literally become the product, that we live the brand? Becoming and living your personal brand would involve not only matching the marketing of yourself with your skills and interests, but also shaping your daily life to fit the brand you’ve become. With the brand and the person one and the same, and the brand also a product that is marketed and sold at its exchange value, how in the world can we do this without reducing our humanity down to a tag line, a logo, and a website?

“What makes you unique, makes you successful,” says Sterlacci’s ad in bold print. But what if you’re not successful? Not everyone gets the job of their dreams, since capitalism requires there to be a sufficiently large population of people to be out there, looking for work. And if you don’t succeed, do you blame it on your brand? Do you reincarnate yourself as version 2.0? 3.0? 4.0?

While mired in this process and focusing on your personal brand, how can you engage your sociological imagination, to connect your personal experiences to the bigger picture? How can we find a middle ground, in which people can pursue work that rewards them without selling out and becoming tools. Or brands.

Got answers? Share your thoughts.

Gender Equality in Work Place Will Protect Japanese Economy

by Eriko Maruyama

The Japanese society is facing serious economic problems, such as stagnant GDP growth, aging population, raising unemployment rates. In response to these issues, the Japanese government is now trying to encourage women to enter the labour market. The employments of women in Japan are around 60 percent, while those of men are 80 percent (OECD). The Economist magazine (2012) estimated that if this gap of employment rates were improved, GDP of Japan would grow at 9 percent by 2020. As this statistic suggested, it is important to promote women to enter the labour market. In order to achieve this, we need to create new working environment which enables men and women to reconcile their jobs and housework. It is important to target not only women but also men, because the problem of gender is not only about women. It is a problem of both men and women.

Firstly, we need to start with remaking of system of companies. Companies should allow employees to work flexibly. For example, we can work everywhere with high tech devices today. We do not need to go to companies any more. We can have meetings in different places thorough Internet, or we can share documents on web clouds. Thus, companies have become less important places. If employee could do their job at home, they could finish housework and do childcare at the same time.

Nevertheless, still we need to go to work places, especially for people who work for factories and service sector. Therefore, it is necessary to create places which take care of children. There are not enough number of nursery schools and kindergarten in Japan now, so many mothers give up their job and engage in childcare. I would suggest that employing the retired people as carers of children. It is estimated that one of four people would be over 60 by 2030 in Japan, and as we can see, the elderly is very active after retirement. If it was encouraged to employ these active grandparent for taking care of children, parents could engage in their jobs and also the elderly could stay healthy. It is a win-win relation. If the government pushed women into labour force without enough support, women would be blamed for neglecting housework, and this would promote women’s returning to home again. In order to prevent this phenomenon, it is important to enhance the childcare systems.

In short, in order to sustain economic growth in Japan, it is necessary to create more flexible working environment which enables more people to enter labour market. At the same time, the government should implement social policies and provide more childcare systems in order for parents to focus on their jobs. It is expected for government to see gender issue as the interconnected problem of both women and men.

Bibliography

OECD (n.d.). OECD Better Life Index Japan. Retrieved from http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/japan/

The Economist (2012). The Contribution of Women. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/economic-and-financial-indicators/21564857