The essay takes on recent news stories of “missing elderly” (elderly whose deaths go unrecorded) and “lonely death” (bodies discovered days or weeks after someone has died all alone) to consider how life, death, and the bonds/debts of social relationality are getting recalibrated in postcrisis Japan. In what has become a trend toward singular living and solitary existence—sometimes called Japan's “relationless society” (muen shakai)—those without human or economic capital are put at risk. The precarity of living/dying without a safety net of others is one sociological fact examined in this essay. But I also consider another: the emergence of new practices for postmortem care/memorial that relieve social intimates (notably family) of the responsibilities of tending to the dead. In an era where privatization and “self-responsibility” now extend to death, how does sociality get played out in an everyday limited to the present?
Anne Allison; Discounted Life: Social Time in Relationless Japan. boundary 2 1 August 2015; 42 (3): 129–141. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-2919540
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