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Title:Peasants, skinners, and dead cattle: The transformation of rural society in western Japan, 1600-1890
Author(s):Abele, Michael Thomas
Director of Research:Toby, Ronald P.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Wilson, Roderick I.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Burton, Antoinette; Shao, Dan
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Tokugawa Period
Abstract:This dissertation traces the development of capitalism in Japan in the nineteenth century by focusing on the transition from status-based property to private property. Property is important to the capitalist transition because the separation of the laborer from the objective means of labor forms the necessary precondition for capitalist production. At the beginning of the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), property in Japan was directly tied to status. Status was a form of organizing production and political control via semi-autonomous social groups based on a shared trade or territorial space. Status groups provided status-specific service to the Tokugawa state in return for the official recognition of status-specific rights and privileges, which constituted the status-based property of that group. The establishment of modern, capitalist property relations emerged out of the dissolution of the status system, while the abolition of status marked the triumph of new property relations. To trace these changes in status and property, I focus on the kawata (skinner) status group from the late medieval period to the end of the nineteenth century. The kawata were a group of skinners, knackers, and small holders who were responsible for disposing of dead draft animals in their local communities. In exchange for this service, these communities were granted ownership rights over all carcasses as a status-based right. When a bovine or equine died, it automatically became the property of the nearby kawata community with no compensation to the former owner. Using one village as a case study – Saraike Village of Kawachi Province, now Osaka Prefecture – I show how livestock carcasses transitioned from the status-based property of a single social group to the private property of individual households regardless of status. I argue that this change was effected by forces from below, resulting in the emergence of capitalist property relations prior to the arrival of the West in 1853.
Issue Date:2018-04-12
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Michael Abele
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
Date Deposited:2018-05

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