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Poverty management and urban governance in modern Osaka, 1871-1944

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Title: Poverty management and urban governance in modern Osaka, 1871-1944
Authors: Porter, John Patrick
Keywords: Osaka
urban governance
Issue Date: Dec 2012
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2012]
Abstract: This dissertation examines the relationship between urban poverty and local governance in modern Osaka. It seeks to elucidate the strategies and institutional mechanisms through which the authorities in Osaka attempted to regulate the urban poor from the immediate aftermath of the Meiji Restoration to the Pacific War. It begins by examining the dissolution of early modern Osaka's beggar fraternity, the kaito nakama, and considering the impact of the Restoration and subsequent dismantling of the early modern status system on the practice of poverty management and the lives of the urban poor.
Following the Restoration, the mechanisms through which the authorities in Osaka attempted to regulate the poor underwent a dramatic transformation. For centuries, the authorities had permitted thousands of the city's poorest residents to survive by gathering alms. However, in the early 1870s, officials came to view begging as a deleterious practice that encouraged idleness and dependence and stripped otherwise able-bodied individuals of their desire for self-sufficiency. Some asserted that if the practice were allowed to persist, it would ultimately undermine the vitality and stability of the fledgling Meiji state. In order for Japan to compete with the comparatively affluent states of the West, officials came to believe that it was necessary to mobilize the entire populous, including the members of economically disadvantaged groups previously permitted to subsist on the margins of the urban economy. Accordingly, officials began working to transform the poor into productive urban subjects capable of subsisting without external assistance.
This dissertation challenges foregoing studies of urban poverty in modern Japan, which emphasize only the coercive and exclusionary features of state policy towards the poor. While moments of repression and exclusion are certainly a vital part of the story, an analysis of poverty management efforts in Osaka reveals that official policy was designed primarily to harness, multiply, and exploit the productive capacities of the poor. Far from seeking their permanent exclusion from mainstream society, the authorities worked to encourage their sustained inclusion into the lower tiers of the urban socio-economic hierarchy through the hygienic remaking of their communities and the reform of their beliefs and practices.
Description: Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2012.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections:Ph.D. - History
Ph.D. - History

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