Depression as a Problem of Labor: Japanese Debates About Work, Stress, and a New Therapeutic Ethos

研究成果: Chapter


The global rise of depression is often linked to the spread of neoliberalism, which urges workers to constantly design and (re)make themselves in order to advance their careers through their ever-widening social networks. Depression can be read as both the pathological breakdown of this self-production and an adaptive response against the increasing demand for affective communication. The fundamentally social nature of depression has been heatedly debated in Japan, where, since the 1990s, it has surfaced as a “national disease” that disrupts the workplace. Many workers are said to have become depressed as a result of their traditional work ethic, notable for its loyalty and diligence, which is less valued in a neoliberal economy. Using this argument, a workers’ movement has successfully established depression as an illness of work stress, thereby winning economic compensation and long-term sick leave for afflicted workers. Yet, this radical reconceptualization of depression as socially produced has also created an impetus to collectively manage workers’ mental health, with the government’s much-disputed plan to impose “stress checks” on all workers in order to screen out the vulnerable. The emerging psychiatric science of work also questions the traditional clinical approach to depression that emphasizes “natural” recovery through rest; instead, it is cultivating modes of restoring health in ways that render workers more efficient and productive for business. This paper examines Japanese debates about the nature of workers’ psychopathology, their vulnerabilities, and their recovery – or even their potential for further transformation – against the backdrop of the new therapeutic ethos.

ホスト出版物のタイトルHistory, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences
出版社Springer Science and Business Media B.V.
出版ステータスPublished - 2016


名前History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • 環境科学(その他)
  • 生態モデリング
  • 管理、モニタリング、政策と法律
  • 科学史および科学哲学


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