PEACEKEEPING PARTICIPATION AND IDENTITY CHANGES IN THE JAPAN SELF DEFENSE FORCES:MILITARY SERVICE AS 'DIRTY WORK'

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2005-08-04

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This dissertation examines (a) how a professional organization dealing with 'dirty work' (Hughes 1951, 1958) shape organizational practices and professional identity of its members in the process of seeking legitimacy and (b) how adaptation to a new task transforms these micro-institutional dynamics in the organization based on a case study of the Japan Self Defense Forces (SDF) and their peacekeeping participation. I utilize in-depth interviews with approximately 30 Japanese service members and survey data from 618 Japanese peacekeepers.

Given an anti-militaristic culture in society and Constitutional restrictions against the possession of military power, the SDF have been developed as a constabulary military with limited legitimacy. Lack of legitimacy led the SDF to use symbolic management strategies to gain legitimacy, but their attempt unexpectedly put the organization into a 'vicious circle of legitimation' (Ashforth and Kreiner 1999), in which the aggressive attempt to pursue legitimacy aggravated skepticism of the observers and failed to increase legitimacy. Nonetheless, the SDF survived as a dirty work organization to protect the purity of the larger society. Contexualized by these institutional environments, service members have developed highly constabulary, less masculine, and civilianized identities.

Since the early 1990s peacekeeping participation combined with the transformation of the work force structure has gradually lifted dirty work status of the SDF and provided service members with positive possible selves in their professional life. Regardless, the stigmatized status continues to regularize service members' behavior and professional identities. Increasing exposure to soldiers from other nations underscores their marginal position as military professionals. Japanese peacekeepers systematically focus on technical aspects to neutralize the militaristic nature of the contact.

Moreover, the stringent rules of engagement (ROE) institutionalized by the anti-militarism sentiment in Japanese society help the SDF to maintain the consistency with the existing norms on the exercise of military power. At the same time, these imposed behavioral norms promote the fundamentally troubling, crisis-bearing arrangements that may routinize harmful practice and risk the safety of service members in the field. This dissertation contributes to the study of work organizations by illustrating the meaning creation and negotiation of identity in the micro-institutional dynamics in a socially stigmatized professional organization.

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