Log in / Register
Home arrow Business & Finance arrow Enterprise as an Instrument of Civilization
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >

6.1 Introduction

In the 1980s, optimistic view of the modern was not shared any longer and began to be reviewed by Japanese intellectuals. The so-called postmodern became a trend of thought at that time and gradually permeated in Japan.

Experiencing a great turn of social thought, I myself had a sense of incongruity about the modern era which was based on the notion of social progress. I felt the need to experience other socio-economic systems of the world in order to review the modern era. I thus carried out field research in a traditional society, which resulted in finding the importance of cultural interface in order to study contemporary traditional societies.

This chapter focuses on processes of displacement in cultural interface by examining empirical cases including an ethnography based on my own fieldwork and offers a cultural perspective on the topic of management.

The keywords are displacement and translation, or displacement in translational process of culture, which actually is glocalisation, using a contemporary term (Robertson 1992; Maegawa 2008). In the process of glocalisation, agencies of entrepreneurs as mediating actors are exerted.

6.2 Interface: Entrepreneurs as Middlemen in a Traditional Society

I conducted fieldwork in a small island of about 300 indigenous people in the northeast of Australia, between the mainland and Papua New Guinea.

Pearling had been a main industry in this area since the nineteenth century which led to a decline in subsistence farming of taro and yam. However, it did not impact dugong and turtle hunting and is carried out for subsistence even now. In the 1970s, the federal government started several development projects for indigenous islanders, such as turtle farming and dinghy loan for fishing, but in vain. In the 1980s, Aboriginal Development Commission of the federal government supported Island Coordinating Council financially and set up an organisation in order to promote commercial crayfishing by the islanders, by purchasing a verge equipped with a freezer to store crayfish. However, the organisation being solely depended upon the then chairman's network, the chairman's death and serious illness of the white manager caused dissolution of the organisation in 2 years. As is often the case in a capitalist society, a mother ship of a large fishery based in the mainland started to buy crayfish strategically at a higher price than the federal government-funded indigenous crayfishing organisation, which hastened the decline of the operation of the indigenous organisation. Also, the second-hand freezer storage which kept stocks of crayfishing was overcapitalised, not being always filled with crayfish, and resulted in loss of operation cost. This became another reason for bankruptcy of the organisation.

After the collapse of the organisation, three indigenous entrepreneurs took over it and established a private enterprise. It was the first time that indigenous people managed a private enterprise with less outside support. They were different types of entrepreneurs, but they all represented typical ones in a traditional community.

In this area, since pearling started as a colonial industry in the mid-nineteenth century, the rate of intermarriage between indigenous islanders and migrant Polynesians and Southeast Asians who were engaged in pearling as divers increased. As a result, clans were reconstituted to areal groups which functioned as corporate organisations like ie in Japan. [1] Entrepreneur A was in his 50s and chairman of the island whose ancestors came from Samoa. He was the head of one of the influential families in the island and was maintaining it by working as its chairman. Entrepreneur B being in his 30s became deputy chairman after his father, former chairman of the island, died. His ancestors came from Southeast Asia and had inhabited the neighbouring island, and his father had migrated to this island a decade before the time of my fieldwork. Funded by Aboriginal Development Commission of the federal government, his father established crayfishing organisation and started the crayfishing industry, as mentioned before. The third entrepreneur C was the most entrepreneurial in a literal sense. He was born in this island but migrated to the mainland and had experience of working with white workers in plantations in the suburbs of the city. He was the most attentive to the market economy among the three entrepreneurs. All of them owned fishing boats as means of production and were related to each other by intermarriage among their families. Entrepreneurs, having areas of speciality, cooperate with each other in order to advance their crayfishing industry. At the same time, though, they were rivals as leading figures within the political economy of the island community.

Entrepreneur B had a lot of members of his family and made much of social values such as prestige and renown of his family. An economic success could enlarge the social values of his family. Entrepreneur A also had a lot of members of his family, but as chairman of the island, he also set a high value on politics and tried to maintain not only social and economic values, which were closely associated with each other, but also political value. Entrepreneur C targeted economic value in a literal sense, which must have been derived from his experience of the individualistic urban life, without a need to maintain a large family like the other two. As such, the three entrepreneurs having their own values and seeking own objectives adapted themselves to utilise economic opportunities given by the external government agencies, by playing roles to mediate and negotiate between various domains in the island, as well as within and beyond the island world. These entrepreneurs might as well be understood as middlemen.

The enterprise operation was successful, with the entrepreneurs exhibiting initiative more than in the previous crayfishing organisation. Soon, however, some of the fishermen working for the fishing boats of entrepreneur B started to do fishing independently of his operation, as they found it more lucrative to do fishing for a small unit of fishermen with a small dinghy. In response, entrepreneur B called their attention to the importance of the secondary mortuary rite and feasting in memory of his deceased father, former chairman, and the need to carry it out on a large scale in order to keep the prestige of their family. He asked his fishermen, most of whom were his kinsmen of some kind, to continue to work for his boat, by telling that his crayfishing operation was designed to contribute to the rite and feast of his father, which is properly understood as Marcel Mauss's fait social total (2002). Thus, he managed to prevent most of his fishermen from leaving.

In contrast to entrepreneur A, entrepreneur C did not respect social value of the island community and employed Papuan fisherman, because they were good divers and worked with less payment than the islanders. It was difficult for outsiders to distinguish Papuans from Islanders just by their appearance. Entrepreneur C had a strong tendency towards consumption of modern goods and preferred to purchase consumables from the mainland.

Thus, each entrepreneur adapted himself to the exogenous system of the market economy and achieved his goal in the field of both production and consumption by strategically utilising differences between various domains and fields of both inside and outside the islander's community. In this process, economic value was displaced and translated into social value (in the case of B) and into social and political values (in the case of A).

One of the key concepts of development assistance is empowerment. As mentioned above, in this area, capitalist economy, especially capitalist production, came into force from the nineteenth century onwards. In the 1970s, by which time the indigenous population had become familiar with the concept of market economy and with government assistance in place, there was a growing tendency for indigenous self-management. Entrepreneurs in the island functioned as a mediating agency between external influences of political-economic and internal community life and between several domains within their community (Maegawa 1994b).

  • [1] Ie literally means house, household, or family. However, ie, in historical perspective, signifies a larger corporate unit composed of pseudo-kin originated from the medieval period in Japan (Murakami 1992, 1996). The similar corporate unit is found in other non-Western societies.
Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >
Business & Finance
Computer Science
Language & Literature
Political science