Spiritual safety nets and networked faith: The “liquidity” of family and work under late modernity.

Gagné, Isaac

In the midst of the 20 years of economic and social uncertainty that has been punctuated by the worldwide financial crisis, an increasing rhetoric of economic uncertainty and social instability has risen to popular consciousness among many ordinary citizens in Japan. With changing economic and familial relations, individuals in Japan are participating in the networked communities of “moralizing institutions” to find renewed stability and a sense of empowerment in their lives. Through ethnographic fieldwork with an international religious organization and a domestic ethics organization, this paper analyzes the diverse ways in which individuals are reestablishing a sense of stability and direction by reengaging with idealized life patterns and family orientations that have become more elusive under the increasingly uncertain socioeconomic conditions. Specifically, I analyze how individual members were directly affected by what Zygmunt Bauman calls the “liquidity” of recent economic reforms including rising unemployment and late-career layoffs which had drastic repercussions on life planning and family relations. As human networks built from resilient networked faith, these moralizing institutions provide a different kind of logic of “liquidity” and “flexibility,” allowing members to realize their idealized life plans and to navigate toward the solid ground of a stable work and family life.

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