The author and the publisher gratefully acknowledge the financial support of  The Japan Foundation in the publication of this book.


Sofia, 1999



Comparison between Japan and Bulgaria: Goal and Directions of the Analysis

This book is aimed at making a sociological analysis of Japanese and Bulgarian modernization, and of the ensuing transformations in the middle strata, rural communities and agriculture.

The introduction summarizes the basic tendencies of research approaches towards studying the Japanese society, while outlining the specific nature of the author’s sociological analysis. It traces in most general terms the development of Japanese sociology, the influence of western sociological schools and traditions, and the way it tries to solve the problems of its own society.  



1. Basic Problems and Ideas

My starting point is the perception that modernization is a process of economic, political, social, cultural and institutional transformation of society, through which it draws closer to the models of economic and social organization, universally recognized as being more advanced. It is a comprehensive social process, which includes the industrialization, the establishment and develop-ment of market mechanisms and institutions, the political democratization of society and affirmation of democratic institutions, setting up a strong and influential civil society, while not boiling down only and solely to these (Sills, 1968, Vol. 10, pp.386-409; Borgatta & Borgatta, 1992, Vol. 3, pp.1299-1303). Modernization theories try to identify the social variables and institu-tional factors in the organization and history of industrial societies, which have had a key impact on their development and determined the success of their transformation.

My goal in studying the Bulgarian and Japanese modernization, is identical. 

2. The Development of Modernization Processes in Japan and Bulgaria

Modernization in Japan and Bulgaria is late as compared with that in West European and American societies. This process is more or less the result of an outside interference and impact, although social, economic and cultural prerequisites for a change exist in both societies.

Bulgaria’s liberation from Ottoman rule (1878) had the nature of a bourgeois revolution. It was a leap in our socio-economic development and interrupted the smooth and natural transition towards market-economy relationships and the bourgeois society, which had begun already in the bosom of disintegrating Turkish feudalism.

During the Meiji period (1868-1912), when the first modernization took place, the Japanese society experienced profound stratification changes, expressed in the transition from feudal clans to a modern class system.

The development of Bulgaria and Japan during their first modernization is compared to that of Germany, the common feature of the three societies being the state’s strong intervention and leading role in industrialization, combined with modern, autocratic and semi-constitutional modes of government. Bulgaria and Japan got an impetus for their post-war modernization and industrialization from the outside, too. Their transformation was implemented under the powerful impact of foreign socio-economic models and cultural paragons. Reforms and changes in Japan’s Constitution, economy and society were initiated by US occupation troops in a destroyed and defeated country. Unlike Japan, Bulgaria was not destroyed, but was occupied by the Soviet Army, thus becoming a satellite of the USSR for many decades to come. 

One of the goals of Bulgaria’s post-war modernization is industrialization, understood as economic, technical and technological development along the road to progress and “modern societies”. Yet modernization in the economic sphere is not oriented towards market and market relations, structures and institutions, but in exactly the opposite direction. Private property and market institutions were destroyed. Industrialization, technical and technological modernization were sought within the central-planned state economy. In the political sphere, democratic institutions were demolished and the society became a totalitarian one. Compensation of labor was based not on its effectiveness, but on government decrees and state regulation, thus destroying labor motivation. The economic and social status did not depend directly on labor efforts or educational degree. In this way traditional Bulgarian respect for education and proverbial Bulgarian industriousness were done away with, as there is no basis for their stimulation and assessment. In the late eighties this model was totally exhausted. The society was faced with the need of a transition towards democracy and market economy, or in broader terms, the need of another, third modernization.

Not only did post-war Japan lack any experience in liberal market economy, but it also directly overleaped the stage of free market competition, moving from semi-feudal forms of organization towards modern forms of industrial corporations. This makes Japanese capitalism specific and is part of the reason to preserve intact past patriarchal traditions. The “pillars” of the Japanese industrial model built after the war are as follows: the country’s trade policy, technological policy, industrial organizations (keiretsu) and investment policy abroad. The specific features of the industrial structures and strategies include corporative loyalty, also defined as the essence of Japanese corporations, and the lifelong employment strategy, based on the perception of the enterprise as a community, rather than an industrial organization in the sense of western economic culture.

3. Socio-Cultural Factors of Modernization

A major problem of every modernizing society is the danger of coming into a situation of “modernization breakdown” (Eisenstadt, 1996, p.583). Most cases of “modernization breakdown” are characterized by an inability to establish and institutionalize new levels of solidarity, although the old solidarity frameworks are already undermined by the growing differences between individual groups and strata. Bulgarian modernization from 1989 onwards is still facing difficulties in establishing such institutional structures and mechanisms, which is among the key obstacles to the success of Bulgarian transition.

The Japanese “spirit of capitalism” is among the factors mobilizing social resources in the course of modernization processes. It is linked with the community interest, dominating the Japanese society, represented as a universal interest, and individual interests are identified with it. In the context of the Japanese value system, personal identification is impossible outside the group, and each member is self-reflected and self-determined through it.

Equality, competition and loyalty are fundamental regulation principles of Japanese groupism. According to dominating ideas, the road to one’s success is not determined by origin, formal and informal contacts, but by one’s efforts and the way of following social prescriptions.

The specifics of modernization are directly linked with the way by which every society self-identifies its cultural specifics. Not only geographically, but also culturally Bulgaria is situated between Eastern and Western civilization, combining in a specific way their characteristic features. In our cultural context the West is associated with Western Europe and Northern America, which places the self-aware Bulgarian society somewhere between the East and the West and lends a kind of duality to out national self-identification. Our understanding of modernization is understood as “joining” Europe and a “western-type” development. On the other hand, the West is perceived as a culture and civilization to which we belong in principle, but are forcibly separated because of historical, political and other circumstances.

Japan is an Asian country geographically, but Japanese categorically do not regard themselves as Asian. They have numerous and diverse justifications for this cultural self-identification. The Japanese civilization and culture are adaptive and open for foreign acquisitions and models. They can quickly incorporate the latter into their own environment which is unusual for the Eastern and Asian types of culture. This predetermines their self-identification as a non-Western, non-European and definitely non-Asian culture.

Japan’s modernization is based on the preservation of age-old social models. Japan has not experienced a fundamental change of its value system; rather a change of goals in its continuity is observed.

Modernization is Bulgaria has a revolutionary nature and is usually related to a termination and leap in the social development. The very understanding of transition, reform and modernization is associated with a drastic change of the status quo and dissociation from the past.

Work ethics is among the key factors which create and develop the modernization potential of different societies. The Japanese work ethics is formed under the influence of Zen-Buddhist tradition of doing and achieving through overdoing oneself, “never saying die” and unfailing diligence. Labor is also perceived in the sense of Confucius’ ethics of duty, devotion and selflessness in the name of collective cause.

Usually, when speaking of the Bulgarians’ attitude towards labor, their industriousness is emphasized. As regards the Japanese national character, the word “industriousness” is irrelevant, to say the least. The Japanese define themselves not as industrious but as workaholics, tireless work being understood as a value per se.

During the period of modernization and establishment of the national state, the Japanese government purposefully created and imposed an ideology extolling the value of work, industriousness and education. The newly established values and norms of behavior are represented as a continuation of past values, i.e. as “traditional”, which helps the smooth and conflict-free implementation of changes.

The success of Japanese modernization is also associated with the ethos of the entrepreneur strata that took shape during the Meiji period. Japanese business leaders of that time were motivated by the desire to accumulate wealth and get a recognition by the public; a patriotic passion and devotion to the cause of modernization; the traditional values of feudal morality demanding tireless work in the name of the common well-being.

The upper middle class in Bulgaria formed under Turkish feudalism, because of its favorable economic position and the fear to lose the vast market of the Empire, remained aside from the national-liberation struggles, thus missing its chance to head them. The petty owners who were to establish the new Bulgarian State took its place. That is why the Revival ethos is associate with the morality of these strata. After the Liberation, due to the specific Bulgarian conditions, the gains of state power became the main resource of economic prosperity, which shaped the ethos of both the economic and the political elite.

Regretfully, Bulgaria is still missing an economic elite similar to that of Japan of the Meiji period, to work in the name of the national prosperity and public boon, with a strong sense of responsibility for the nation’s future.

Another essential modernization resource is the fact that the Japanese manage to combine the high value of education in their own culture with the western civilization’s piety for science, technology and economic advancement. These values have become a work morality of the whole nation through the system of universal elementary education introduced during the Meiji period. Admiration for science and education is also a traditional value in the Bulgarians’ moral system. But the labor of their bearers in the last fifty years has failed to get an economic assessment adequate to the moral value. Bulgaria would not be able to become a democratic society with an advanced market economy, unless suitable social and economic conditions are created for preserving, stimulating and developing the nation’s scientific and technological potential. 

In the process of formation of the modern Japanese State, culture was consciously made a fulcrum of the new social order. Other key prerequisites which contributed to the successful and rapid modernization include: the national consensus on the question of goals and direction of changes; the quest for harmony and avoidance of conflicts; adaptability to the demands of the new historical and social situation, combined with continuity and preservation of the traditional group and family values, in addition to the strong national integrity.

This part of the book analyzes also the characteristics of the Japanese economic culture, its role as a factor stepping up modernization, and the specific features of the educational and family system and their importance for achieving social goals.

Particular attention is devoted to recent changes in the value system of the young, and to the challenges facing the Japanese economic model in the conditions of globalization and financial crisis. The share of working women increases, thus influencing not only the family model, but also raising the question of a different attitude towards female labor in the Japanese economic culture where male labor plays a dominating role.

A question of the agenda of today’s Japanese society is to establish the work ethics of the new time, based on the young generation’s values, by emphasizing self-fulfillment and self-identification through work. 

Another urgent problem of the present-day Japanese society is the evaluation of economic culture, its advantages and disadvantages. Its major shortcomings include the Japanese strategic immobility determined by corporative loyalty, the lifelong employment system, strong state protectionism and closeness for foreign investment in economy and market. Discipline, cultivated by the educational system, is assessed as a reason for the lack of creativity. The consensus on which Japanese management is based is believed to discourage entrepreneurial spirit. Proverbial Japanese harmonic relationships, avoidance of conflicts, the coexistence of formal and informal structures in the business, economy, politics and society are recently considered major reasons for widespread corruption among the financial and political elite, the bankruptcy of major financial institutions, the connection between influential banks and organized crime, and the instability of the financial system. 

Despite post-war modernization, working and professional careers are still based not on labor achievements, but on seniority. There are still differences between labor remuneration for men and women for equal status, education, qualifications and profession. Trade unions are not formed by sectors, but by enterprise, which makes them highly dependent and practically controlled by the employer. Stockholders have limited rights, the economic activity depends greatly on bureaucracy, and the taxation system does not favor business development. 

The first reactions for coping with the financial crisis are aimed at changes in legislation to achieve financial stabilization and growth, lessening of taxes for the petty and middle business and its stimulation. A change of the economic culture has been considered lately, in the belief that the existing model has been exhausted and ineffective in the conditions of new world realities. 

*   *   *

The progress and nature of transformations in Japan and Bulgaria, typically for late-modernization societies, depend on the priorities of the state policy, on the ability to establish institutions which, drawing on the nation’s cultural resource, can ensure the legitimacy of transformations. The process of modernization has outlined the leading role of education which not only provides the material conditions for society’s development, but also cultivates values adequate to the socio-economic transformations. The specifics of economic culture and work ethics, the place of labor in the society’s value system, and the ability to encourage labor motivation are essential for the success of modernization. The Japanese and the Bulgarian experience prove the importance of the morality of the economic and political elite in periods of large-scale socio-economic transformations, as well as this elite’s ability to combine their own interests with the objectives of society, their readiness to undertake the moral responsibility for the future of the nation. 

The comparison between the two modernizations confirms that the successful social changes in Japan are implemented with the assistance of adequate institutions that impose universally accepted norms and control their observance. The implementation of changes is possible only thanks to a suitable value system and a national consensus in the name of the social objective. In Japanese society the nation’s cultural resource forms the foundation of the “new social order” and guarantees not only the legitimacy, but also the effectiveness of changes. 

Recent processes in Bulgaria have shown that our society has been facing major problems, such as the difficult establishment of adequate institutions and the broken continuity in our development, which obstructs the legitimacy of changes. The Bulgarian society also faces difficulties in the establishment and acceptance of universally valid values and norms, and in the control of their observance. The nation’s traditions and cultural resources do not underlie changes; what is more, cultural identity is undergoing a crisis. Another obstacle to the success of modernization is the ruling strata’s political culture, and the lack of a long-term economic strategy oriented towards investment, encourage-ment, sponsoring and protection of the national economy. 

The preservation of cultural identity, integrity and consensus on the goals and nature of changes are not sufficient for Bulgaria’s successful transformation into a modern society, but they are the necessary intellectual foundations for unleashing the nation’s potential and achieving the desired prosperity.  



The analysis of the middle strata in Japan and Bulgaria aims at studying:

1.   The impact of the direction, goals and results of modernization changes on the formation, development and recruitment of the middle strata.

2.   Their objective status characteristics and the specifics of their self-identification in both societies. 

1. Middle Class in Japanese and Bulgarian Sociology

The Japanese sociological conceptions of the nature and social role of the middle class can be united in two major trends. The first, which is influenced by Marxist and neo-Marxist views, points to the relative closeness of the new middle strata and lower middle class to the working class, due to their identical attitude towards ownership and the almost identical power resources (Fukutake, 1989). The second trend emphasizes the growing economic well-being and states that: “1) the middle strata are gradually expanding; 2) the socio-economic status of the working class has sizably improved, and 3) Japan has increasingly become a middle-class society” (Odaka, 1966; Kosaka, 1994).

There are three major concepts pertaining to the middle class: “middle class in an economic sense” (chusan kaikyu), “middle prestigious class” (churu kaikyu), and “middle strata” (chukan kayso) (Odaka, 1966, p.543; Kosaka 1994, pp.95-97). Chusan kaikyu is used to denominate the middle strata which some conceptions define as “bourgeoisie”, or as a middle class defined on the basis of owned means of production and economic power. Chukan kayso is used as a concept characterizing the middle strata as regards their intermediate position in the stratification space. The sociological concept, equivalent to the understanding of a middle class in western sociology, is churu kaikyu, situated between the upper and lower class.

The social stratification of the Bulgarian society has been the subject of major research analysis in a number of publications already prior to 1989, but because of the methodological restrictions within the framework of orthodox Marxist paradigm imposed by the dominant ideology, they had to remain within the socio-class analysis, where the middle class is out of place. Since 1989 the middle class has been present in the pre-election programs and promises of almost all political parties as the goal of their future policy. But the long and painful transition, resulting in impoverishment of sizable portions of the popula-tion, has made the middle class itself almost a social illusion. The existing publications and discussions held at different scientific forums allow for making the following conclusions of the way by which the middle class is characterized in present-day Bulgarian sociology[1].

1.   According to the adherents to orthodox Marxism, the middle class is a reality in advanced societies, insofar as the concept of middle class is acceptable from theoretical Marxist positions. In post-communist societies the middle class does not exist, it is little short of a desired illusion, present in the propaganda of individual political parties.

2.   The advocates of the second view define the middle class according to economic criteria (ownership, market situation, and levels of income and consumption) and according to political criteria linked to the right to political choice and freedoms. They relate the middle class to private ownership, middle and petty business, definite life-style, political views and behavior, similar to those in advanced societies. Its typical representatives are considered entrepreneurs, businessmen and the self-employed, while ignoring both the non-entrepreneurial strata of the former middle class and the different strata of the new middle class. According to the adherents to this view, there is no middle class under socialism, as this society is political by nature. Two views, similar in justification, but differing in their final conclusions, can be distinguished within this standpoint. According to one of them, the middle class is a reality only in advanced societies. The post-communist societies, especially the poorer ones (e.g. the Bulgarian society), do not provide the necessary social and economic conditions, understood mostly as development of market relationships, levels of income, consumption, life-style and prestige, for the development and stabilization of the middle class. According to the other view, besides in advanced societies, the middle class exists in Eastern Europe too, but its share is insignificant because of the reasons listed above.

3.   According to the adherents to the third standpoint (myself among them), the middle class is defined on the basis of an aggregate of criteria, including not only ownership of the means of production, but also the nature and content of labor, specifics of profession and employment, education, prestige, power, culture status, life-style, values, consumption, incomes, political views and behavior, etc. It occupies an intermediate position in the stratification, situated in the so-called stratification environment, and exists both under socialism, and in the post-communist societies of Eastern Europe.

Some supporters of this view (myself among them), share the stand currently widespread mostly in the British sociology (Goldthorpe, 1982; Savage et. all., 1992; Butler & Savage, 1995;), that because of its heterogeneous nature it is more relevant to speak not of a single middle class, but of middle classes or rather, of middle strata.  

2. Japanese Middle Strata

Owing to the rapid but late modernization and industrialization of Japan, the influx towards the growing middle class after the war comes mainly from the midst of the former middle class, rather than of the working class. While in 1955 the share of the upper white-collar stratum, i.e. professionals and managers, was 10%, in 1995 it reached 35%[2]. At the same time, the share of skilled workers is growing.

The data on the share of the middle strata in today’s Japanese society, quoted by different authors, differ depending on the classification schemes adopted. According to SSM surveys, for instance, the Japanese middle class share grows from 30.3% in 1955 to 50.3% in 1985 (Seiyama, 1993, p.26). 

In the wake of World War Two, a new middle stratum, or chukan kaiso took shape according to “power resources” indicator. It comprises petty and big business owners, managers and leaders from the top of the white-collar group, and the new “family entrepreneurs” (Fukutake, 1989, p.153). Its representatives often play “the brokering role”, mediating between big and small companies. Although the political and economic elite concentrated even greater power in its hands after the war and the middle class lost its former power positions, “the new middle stratum” preserved to a degree its “middle-level” influence and power in business, the economy and local government. Odaka speaks of a “major disbalance between the social status and economic power and influence” of the representatives of chusan kaikyu and churu kaikyu (1966, p.547), and this tendency still persists. This is why the “new middle stratum” cannot be regarded as homogeneous, both in view of income, and of political and economic power resources.

The increase of inequality is particularly visible since the 80s, increasingly based on the property differences between owners of land and landed estate, especially in expensive areas, and those who do not own such property  (Ishida, 1998, p.150).

Changes in the social stratification of modern Japanese society and their impact on the middle class are traced out through different stratification schemes: through the eight-category scheme used by SSM surveys; based on Right’s classification scheme used by Hashimoto; through cluster-analysis. Also analyzed are tendencies in the employment structure by sex during 1950-1990, the growing presence of women in Japan’s economy and their place in the social structure of society. The share of women in Japanese middle strata grew after 1990, but they are concentrated in its lower-status groups such as clerks, and in the sphere of trade and services.  

3. “Socialist” Industrialization in Bulgaria and the Development of New Middle Strata

Major influence on the formation of the stratification structure of the post-war Bulgarian society was brought to bear by the changes in the socio-political system, and the “socialist” industrialization.

In line with the adopted ideological norm, the working class plays the leading role in the communist society. The share of workers grew from 41.1% in 1960 to 68.5% in 1985, with men prevailing. Those working in agriculture, prevailed by women, decreased, and in 1986 they were twice less than workers in other sectors of the economy (Statistical Yearbook, 1997, p.5).

In 1986, 66.4% of Bulgarians were low- and average-skilled workers in industry, agriculture and forestry (Ibid.). High-skilled workers in agriculture and forestry, and industrial sectors accounted for 7.2%. If these are added to the low-skilled office workers engaged in routine services, usually with secondary education (3.5%), the share of lower middle strata in 1986 was 10.7%. White-collar workers, including people and groups with different social status, ranging from local administrative personnel and office employees to ministers, have increased their relative share through the years, and in 1986 the share of skilled workers was 14.4%.

The extensive development of “socialist” industrialization led to a sizable dominance of the new middle strata by engineering and technical staff, and by administrative and bureaucratic personnel servicing the needs of the state and the central-planned economy. The growth of the managerial stratum of the new middle strata is due mainly to two reasons. First, the totalitarian society is centralized by its structure and functions and its existence necessitates an extensive managerial personnel. Second, industrialization in all societies leads to an in-crease of both bureaucratic and managerial strata.

The 1985 intelligentsia comprised 7.5% of Bulgarians, including people engaged in elaborate creative and intellectual work, and with higher education.

A typical feature of both Bulgarian intellectuals and of highly skilled employees is their state of status inconsistency born by the specifics of the totalitarian regime. Under socialism the nomenclature has privileges which bring it a high economic capital, unlimited power resources and social capital, thus allowing it to control society at all institutional levels. The totalitarian regime paid lip service to the working class, and those engaged in leading sectors of heavy industry had incomes and social benefits incomparable to those of the remaining strata, nomenclature excluded. That is why these working strata, though with a low cultural and social capital and lacking power resources, had a contradicting status from the viewpoint of their social prestige. The intelligentsia and skilled employees have the biggest cultural capital compared to other groups and strata, but have low incomes and low economic capital, respectively. Their social capital is restricted by their weak economic position, but they still have certain abilities to exercise some structure power within the framework of their institutional position. The symbol capital of these middle strata, insofar as it is linked to social prestige, is quite vague and “divided” between the value of education, the status of creative work and profession, but deprived of adequate economic position and low power resources, restricted by the nomenclature’s control.  

4. Middle Strata in Post-communist Bulgaria

In the situation of lengthy and painful transformations in the Bulgarian society after 1989, those who have the greatest resources for adaptation were in a most favorable position. Under the former regime these are the stratum of the nomenclature, possessing the biggest economic and political capital on the one hand, and on the other, those employed in the field of informal economy, who also have managed to pile up major resources. Today’s entrepreneurs have their historical roots in the preceding totalitarian period during which the above social groups have accumulated the resources necessary for their post-totalitarian transformations.

The middle strata of the present-day Bulgarian society comprise about 29% of the population, while in 1997, 35.2% of the same respondents[3] self-identified themselves as belonging to it. The latter perceive themselves mainly as a “middle-middle” class -20.2%, and “lower-middle” class - 12.5%. The paradox here lies in the fact that a large part of those defining themselves as belonging to the middle class, at the same time are self-referred to lower statuses, according to their financial situation.

Owing to the unfavorable economic situation, the Bulgarian intelligentsia is probably the middle stratum with the strongest status inconsistency between its cultural and economic capital. According to data from a sociological survey[4], representative for Bulgaria, held in July 1997, the intelligentsia accounts for 9% of the population. Fifty-one percent of intellectuals define themselves as belonging to the middle-middle class, 23% to the “lower middle class”, 5% to the “upper middle class”, and 2.4% to the “upper class”[5]

Employees in state and private companies and departments account for 12.4% and in their objective status are typical representatives of the middle strata engaged in routine, non-manual and skilled work. Of these, 5.6% have the self-confidence of an “upper-middle class” owing to their incomes. 33.6% identify themselves as belonging to the “middle-middle class”, 25.6% - as “lower-middle class”, and 25.6% as “working class”.

Over 50% of Bulgarian businessmen define themselves as being self-employed. They state that they have very high incomes and believe that they belong to the “middle-middle” class.

Farmers account for 3.6% of the population. Half of them are 60 and above, have a low educational level and are mainly women.

Skilled workers and technicians account 14% of the population. Although they regard themselves as working class (71%), their good material status makes 15% of them to associate themselves with the “middle-middle” class, and 12% to the “lower-middle” class.  

5. Japan - a Middle Class Society?

The share of those who self-identify with the middle class in Japan after 1970 is progressively growing, but there is certain difference between those who believe they belong to the “middle prestigious class”, i.e., churyu kaikyu, and the “middle economic class” - chusan kaikyu. The majority of those who identify themselves as belonging to the middle class do so from the view point of prestige, income and consumption, as well as of their position as a middle stratum in the stratification environment, and not according to their economic resources.

Today the number of those who self-identify with the working class in Japan is still high, parallel to the high percentage of those self-identified with the middle class. In 1964 the share of the latter reached 90%[6] (Kosaka, 1994, p.9). Despite the tendencies of income, savings and consumption growth, after 1980 there was a slight drop in the share of those who regard themselves as middle class. 

The differences in ownership and power resources are key for self-identification. The model of recruiting the working class, and “the low level of its demographic identity” (Ishida, 1998, p.163), result in a very big share of people who self-identify with the middle class. The economic prosperity after World War Two and the fact that within two generations Japan turned from a poor country into a rich society, provide the foundations of the myth of “a middle class society”, zealously maintained by political parties and the media. On the other hand, the property and power inequalities, as well as those between employers and employees, are still strong factors determining present-day Japanese’s self-identification with the working class or the middle strata.

Good education is a major resource for belonging to the new middle strata, as well as their basic characteristics. The educational level of the Japanese has been on the rise ever since 1955, but it does not lead to equality in the possibilities to obtain better social positions. The social origin is the key factor for getting secondary and higher education. The educational level is growing for all social groups studied, but their inequality as regards possibilities for receiving higher education is preserved. People of middle-class origin have much better possibilities to become better educated than the rest (Seiyama, 1993). 

*   *   *

The analysis of middle strata in Japan and Bulgaria prompts the conclusion that the course, trends and specifics of the two societies’ modernization have a sizable impact on the characteristics and development of these strata. The specific features of their post-war modernization determine the development tendencies of the working class on the one hand, and the place of the new middle strata in the changing stratification system, on the other. In both societies, as a result of the industrialization, the number of those employed in agriculture declines, which affects the representation of the former middle strata in Japan. In Bulgaria, the share of the working class and the intelligentsia is growing, while in Japan there is a rapid and stable process of expansion of the new middle strata of specialists, professionals, administrators and managers. 

The status differences between the Bulgarian and the Japanese middle strata are more than obvious. The Bulgarian middle strata are much thinner and have a weaker socio-economic position than the Japanese ones. They possess smaller economic and social capital and, although the middle strata in all modern societies are characterized by a status inconsistency, in the Bulgarian society it is much more tangible than in the Japanese society. In Japan, as in Bulgaria, the stratum of the new middle is much wider than that of the old middle. But while the entrepreneurial stratum in Japan has lower incomes and prestige than the new middle stratum, the exact opposite is true for Bulgaria. 

The comparison confirms that the self-identification with middle strata depends on the ownership, on one’s belonging to the employers or to the employees, on property, level of income, consumption, cultural status and living style. At the same time self-identification is influenced by factors such as specifics of the profession, its prestige, the nature and content of labor, power resources, etc., which explain the relatively high level of self-identification with the middle strata in a poor society like Bulgaria on the one hand, and the high share of those self-identified with the working class in Japan, on the other. 

In Japan good education is a much more powerful resource for attaining a higher status than in Bulgaria, where the possibilities of transforming the economic and social capital accumulated during totalitarianism have greater potential. 

The policy of the Japanese State is oriented towards stimulating the new middle strata with a view to stepping up industrialization and achieving high and stable economic growth rates. The Bulgarian political elite, at least for the present, define such state interference as “paternalism” and insofar as support to the middle strata is meant in the public environment, this support is believed to be aimed at entrepreneurs, petty and middle businessmen, and the self-employed, excluding the new middle strata from the priorities of the state policy. The failure to put the new Bulgarian middle strata in a social and economic position adequate to their cultural status would deprive them of the motivation and the possibilities of unleashing their own potential, without which no modern society can exist.



 The first section of Part Three studies in detail the Bulgarian and Japanese village and farming in the context of their historical development. It characterizes the specific features of the Bulgarian and Japanese type of farming system, work values and morality of rural communities both before the modernization and in the light of the changes prior to World War Two.

 Agrarian reforms in Japan and Bulgaria after World War Two are analyzed from the viewpoint of their goals, trends and results. The post-war agrarian reform destroyed feudal relationships in Japan and turned Japanese peasants into landowners. At the same time, socialist transformations in Bulgaria did away with the private land ownership and deprived the Bulgarian peasants of their status of independent farmers.  

1. The Changes in Agrarian Sector

In 1996 the agrarian sector accounted for about 11.7% of the gross added value in the economy, which is less than the 14.4% in 1991 (Statistical Handbook, 1998, p.87). In 1996 the volume of farm produce was the same as in 1994 but is by 20.3% less than that in 1990 (Statistical Yearbook, 1997, pp.51-52). The relative share of those employed in agriculture as regards the total number of those employed in the national economy in the nineties is slightly but continuously growing: from 19.1% in 1991 to 24.3% in 1996 (Statistical Handbook, 1998, p.89).

Agricultural co-operatives still exist as basic organizational and production units in agriculture. Due to the nature of ownership and the level of the technology and equipment used they greatly depend on the will of the state rather than on that of the owners whose lands are incorporated in them. The economic behavior of co-operatives is closer to that of bureaucratic organizations than to that of market subjects.

The establishment of private farms began already in the late 1989. In 1996 they employed 47.8% of farm workers and nearly one-fifth of those employed in the national economy (Statistical Yearbook, 1998, p.VII).

Bulgarian agriculture attempts to implement the market transition in a painful absence of adequate institutions. The process is further complicated by the resistance of inherited economic, political and social institutions, as well as by the objectives of individual governments, their ideological biases, economic and political interests. The state maintains its strong positions in the management of the economy, and continues to control the country’s economic life by political means. The restitution of landed estate that was collectivized in the past proved to be a slow and painful process, and arable land restituted with a title by the end of 1998 accounts for 78.9% of all land subject to restitution. 

Ever since its beginning the agrarian reform in Bulgaria has acquired the nature of a land reform, with an emphasis on restoring the ownership of arable land. The land reform itself is subordinated to political priorities and interests rather than to the interests of agrarian owners whose rights it is claiming to restore. Private ownership is but one of the prerequisites for a successful transition to market relationships. The model of agrarian sector modernization, chosen in Bulgaria, is oriented towards establishing small and medium farms and agricultural co-operatives. The small and medium farms have always been economically dependent on purchase and delivery organizations, and on the co-operatives’ farm services. Market transformation demands and presupposes the establishment of these organizations. The above structures and organizations are monopolists and dictate their economic terms to producers. These organizations benefit from the institutional and market vacuum to the detriment of producers’ and consumers’ interests. The legislative and normative chaos and instability, maintained by state employees, strengthen their positions. As a result, the artificially kept low purchase prices do not stimulate the farm producers to increase their production; furthermore, they are in fact robbed and can hardly preserve existing production. At the same time, while purchase prices are kept low, the price of fodder and farm preparations and supplies are rising continuously. Also on the rise are the market prices of farm produce which directly affects the consumers’ interests. Another obstacle to the marketing and development of agricultural production is the practically uncontrolled import of farm produce on the one hand, and the difficult export of our own farm production, on the other. 

The agrarian reform in Bulgaria remains aside from the problems of the rural areas and does not account the structural changes as indispensably linked to the development of the overall environment of agricultural production. Besides failing to create conditions for the development of the agrarian sector, the obsolete infrastructure of the rural areas is a major obstacle to its modernization. 

2. Transformations in Agriculture and Their Influence on Social Stratification

In view of the characteristics of the socio-economic processes now underway in the rural areas, the major indicators determining the status of farmers include the property owned, income, employment, profession and occupation, education and skills, power resources, the network of informal relations and contacts and some social demographic characteristics such as age, sex, health status of both the individual and the members of his household. 

Farmers in Bulgaria, either full- or part-time, are self-employed. This fact has a major impact on their reproduction and mobility as a social stratum. As a rule, the self-employed transfer the property to their children, which determines to a great extent the economic activity of agrarian heirs. 

By their economic characteristics the social groups of full-time and part-time farmers represent the so-called old middle strata engaged in farming which, due to specific Bulgarian conditions, have not yet become a farmer’s stratum. This is a still very thin and heterogeneous social stratum according to criteria such as type of agrarian employment, socio-demographic characteristics, education, skills, economic resources, labor motivation, values, etc. They are not yet real owners of their land and often till the land with primitive tools. Some have taken up farming as their main economic activity which brings them mainly money. These people will become farmers in the future. The majority of farmers, however, are either pensioners or unemployed for whom farming is mostly a source of in-kind income. 

According to their position in farm management there are different categories of specialists and managers who, by their economic and social nature form the new middle strata in farming. Each of these categories has certain power resources, which for some boil down to taking decisions about the technological organization of agricultural production. Other, depending on their hierarchical status have economic power, varied in scope, related to supplies, marketing, purchase, scientific and technical back-up, funding and crediting of farming. As a rule the above specialists, professionals and managers are concentrated in co-operatives, in the servicing structures and organizations, and in the managerial structures of the rural areas. These strata do not benefit particularly from agrarian transformations, as they lose their institutional and organizational capital from before the changes. The small size of agricultural co-operatives and their economic and financial situation do not provide adequate conditions for engaging in professional and specialized work. The chance of specialists, professionals and managers from the former middle-level agrarian and management structures is to use their educational and professional resources and the network of informal contacts and information to acquire agrarian property as a basis for developing their private farms. In other words, to become private farmers rather than develop as representatives of the new middle strata. It turns out, at least so far, that new middle strata of specialists, professionals and managers can hardly take shape in the rural areas, based on the resource of their specific labor position, specialization and education. Before the changes, nomenclature had the biggest power resources in farming and the rural areas, as well as in all the remaining social walks.  It has managed to transform its political power in economic, utilizing the accumulated social capital. In most cases its representatives set up firms for agricultural services, agricultural credit banks, etc., continuing to hold key positions in the agrarian sector. This fact is already hard to establish empirically, as in most cases the key figures in these firms, banks, etc., are family members or kin of former nomenclature. The successful agrarian economic work is based on the resources of the former leader’s position and broad social contacts, beneficial both as a source of market information, and as a financial support through loans and credits. Organizational capital is essential since it provides the requisite financial resources, knowledge and information. 

Availing themselves of their new social and political position are some representatives of the new political elite, and state administrators who have replaced the former nomenclature. The current laws and normative acts give them vast powers at the expense of the interests of agrarian owners and their heirs. 

Like in every society in a complicated and transitory historical situation, those connected with the informal economy find propitious soil for their economic prosperity. Usually they engage in the purchase of agricultural production imposing lower prices from their monopoly position and control the market.  

3. Contemporary Japanese Village and Agriculture: Economic Development and Social Organization

Post-war agrarian reform and agricultural policy manage to carry through the modernization of Japanese agriculture, while preserving the values and specifics of traditional Japanese agrarian economic culture. As a result of the headlong economic upsurge after 1960, the importance of Japanese farming in the country’s economy plummeted. The share of the GNP generated by farming dropped from 9% in 1960 to 1.7% in 1991. The share of farmers in the total number of those employed decreased from 27% in 1960 to 6% in 1991, and in 1993 the farmer’s households accounted for 9% of all households in the country. The average age of farmers grew and in 1991 the share of farmers aged 65 and over reached 32%  (Japan Almanac, 1994, p.126).  Like the Bulgarian, Japanese agriculture too traditionally relies on female labor, and in 1990 in over half the farmer’s families women were those engaged in farming (Abstract of Statistics on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 1994, p.11). Since 1972 the per capita incomes of farmer’s households exceed those of people not engaged in farming. On the other hand, farming is linked with enormous expenses which make farm produce expensive.

The Japanese farming system uses the household’s economic resources as a subject of agrarian production and work, on the one hand. On the other, insofar as the Japanese agriculture is still based on the activities of the rural community, it relies on their organizational and economic potential. At the same time, the degree of mobility of landed estate is extremely low. The first-born son is the one who inherits and cultivates the lands of his household.

Eighty-five percent of all farmer’s households in Japan are part time farmers type II, i.e. the bulk of their incomes have extra-agrarian origin. Since the early 1990s they produce about 85% of the country’s rice.

Farm production, and mostly rice production is subsidized and protected from outside competition. The rural communities, farmers, scientific circles and the public maintain various views concerning the need to open Japanese markets to imported rice. Those who oppose liberalization of rice imports point out the direct and indirect value significance of rice-fields and rice, as well as the importance of rice production for the regional economy, economic welfare of rural communities, the issue of food safety, and other cultural, as well as politi-cal considerations. The adherents to opening Japan’s market for rice imports emphasize the economic profit and the need to solve the problem with trade friction and increased consumption.

The advance of cultivation technology and equipment brings forth the problem of overproduction. Rice-fields reduction (the so-called “gentan” policy, under-way since 1971), with the state paying to owners who agree to follow it solves it. By 1993 the rice-fields were reduced by 24% (Japan Almanac, 1994, p.131). The areas freed from rice production are usually sown to vegetables, depending on government decisions, and this is known as the “tensaku” policy.

For centuries on end the Japanese farming system has been immediately linked to and integrated with the institutions, organizations and activities of the rural community. In the Japanese farming system the individual freedom of farmers is greatly limited. Their decisions are not purely economic but are rather balanced by different social factors related to the community.

This part of the book presents the results of two sociological surveys carried out by the author in Japanese villages in 1994-1995, and the summer of 1997, based on the case study method.

The surveys confirm the hypothesis that the government of rural communities is not based on the principles of democracy, but is implemented through reaching a consensus as a result of lengthy discussions and negotiation among the members of the rural community. Even in our times, the government of rural communities is quite traditional and conservative. Their dual social organization is a peculiar mixture of the non-official structure based on traditions and having great power and the official structure built on state institutions. An informal council, headed by an informal leader, kuchou san, governs the rural community.

From an economic point of view land in Japan has a high value due to its market price. It is also an indication of its owner’s social status and defines his social position in the rural community. This status is family, rather than individual one. All Japanese farmers-respondents regard the land ownership as one of the key ways of continuing households’ traditions and as a source of pride. According to them land ownership binds them more strongly to ancestors’ traditions rather than farming.

All respondents hold the view that producing their own rice is extremely important for them. Its significance is related to the way of life of Japanese farmers, their understanding of industriousness and family integrity, their attitude towards farm work.

The farmer-respondents could not imagine ever leaving farming and taking up some more profitable economic activity. This pertains to the Japanese ethics of duty which assesses it not only as an economic activity. According to those interviewed, the survival of farming is not simply and solely an economic issue, it is rather a moral obligation related to the preservation of traditions and maintaining the viable collective spirit.

The farmers interviewed shared their disappointment with the fact that townsfolk ignore the rural life and farm labor, looking down on farming as the work of the three Ks - in Japanese kiken (dangerous), kitanai (dirty) and kitsui (hard). They also define farming as dasai, i.e., inelegant, unworthy occupation.

According to respondents, a major problem facing Japanese farming is the issue of continuing family traditions. The young farm heirs are not willing to follow their ancestors’ economic behavior and values in the same unconditional way their parents do.

Another major problem of rural households, outlined by the above surveys, is the marital question. The young Japanese women are not willing to marry farmers because the wife has to shoulder the burden of farm work to a great extent. 

The quoted sociological surveys corroborate the major influence of agricultural co-operative--JA (abbreviated from Japanese Agricultural Co-operatives), both on the farm production, and on the overall life of rural communities. The petty and middle farmers, who prevail in Japan, traditionally depend on co-operative services, e.g. for loans, purchase of the farm produce, delivery of materials, storage of production, etc. All rural inhabitants are JA members, with farmers being regular, and the rest - associated members. The latter use JA banks, gas stations, supermarkets and the other infrastructure and services built and maintained by JA. In recent times, owing to the decreased importance and reduced share of agriculture in Japanese economy, JA re-channel their activities from the field of agriculture towards other more profitable fields, such as banking and insurance.

Although JA are essentially economic organizations, they are also incorporated into the traditional informal structures of rural communities. JA are based on the traditional Japanese principles of management through negotiations, coordination and consensus, rather than on democratic principles. 

This part of the book analyses also the specific features of the agricultural policy of Japan and its impact on the values and attitudes of the main groups of farmers. 

*   *   *

The model of modernization of the rural areas and agriculture chosen in Japan in the wake of World War Two and in Bulgaria after the collapse of communism is oriented towards petty farms and co-operatives. But the trends and priorities of the agricultural policy by which the projected goals are implemented differ. The Japanese state tries to balance between the economic demands of international institutions, the national interests, and the traditional values of the Japanese peasants. The preservation of agriculture is regarded as a matter of preserving the nation’s traditions and spirit. State priorities include investment in agriculture, oriented towards credits for buying modern and costly equipment, providing high technological back-up by agricultural co-operatives, and easy financing and marketing. There are programs for encouraging the development of rural communities and their infrastructure, possibilities are provided for diverse forms of employment besides farming, leading to increased incomes of farmers and stimulating their agricultural activity. 

Transformations in Bulgarian agriculture are implemented through essentially different agricultural policy. The agriculture is not subsidized by the state, and the agricultural policy is linked to the ruling authorities’ political bias and is not the result of integral strategy ensuring continuity in the development and preservation of what has already been created. The successful transformation of agriculture demands a unified national strategy and policy providing legislative and institutional mechanisms of supporting the sector, stimulation and protection of production. Modern agriculture is impossible without subsidies, investment, crediting, developing the village infrastructure, techno-scientific assistance and servicing, encouragement of innovations and initiative. A policy of income and employment is needed to stimulate the economic interests of producers, provide possibilities for non-agrarian forms of employment, and invest in their training, education and skills. The modernization of agriculture and rural areas is unthinkable without stabilizing the farmer’s strata, parallel to stimulating the development of the new middle strata in the villages. 

The Bulgarian village and agriculture have a great potential both for their own development, and for the country’s economy. They posses a cultural resource that can help their revival if the agricultural policy draw on its foundation. 


The analysis of the Japanese and Bulgarian modernization, and its impact on the development of the middle strata, agriculture and rural communities in both countries, helps formulate conclusions about the way in which the chosen modernization model determines the socio-economic development of both countries. The conclusions are related mainly to the role of institutions and the state, culture, traditions, values, work ethics, economic and political culture, which are essential factors affecting the investigated processes.



INTRODUCTION                                                                                                                                        ..... 7

1. Comparison between Japan and Bulgaria:   goal and directions of analysis                                                ..... 7

2. Japan as an object of scientific interest                                                                                                   . ... 11

3. The influence of Western sociology upon  the establishment and the development of Japanese sociology                                                                                                                                                             ... 14


Part one

MODERNIZATION IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE                                                            ... 19

1. Basic problems and ideas                                                                                                                        ... 19

2. The development of modernization   processes in Japan and Bulgaria                                                       ... 22

2.1. First modernization (from the third quarter  of the 19th century till the beginning

                   of the 20th century)                                                                                                                    ... 22

2.2. Post W. W. II Modernization of Japan and Bulgaria: Directions, Goals and Achievements          ... 29

3. Socio-cultural factors of modernization                                                                                                   ... 34

3.1. The “breakdown” of modernization                                                                                           ... 34

3.2. The “spirit of capitalism”                                                                                                           ... 36

3.3. Cultural Self-identification                                                                                                         ... 43

3.4. Work ethics and ideology of modernization                                                                               ... 47

3.5. Economic culture facing challenges   of changing realities                                                            ... 55

4. Brief conclusions                                                                                                                                   ... 64

Part two

MIDDLE STRATA IN JAPAN AND BULGARIA                                                                          ... 67

1. Middle class in Japanese and Bulgarian sociology                                                                                 ... 68

2. Japanese middle strata                                                                                                                         ... 76

3. “Socialist” industrialization in Bulgaria and  the development of new middle strata                                  ... 85

4. Middle strata in post-communist Bulgaria                                                                                             ... 92

5. Japan - a middle class society?                                                                                                            ... 97

6. Brief conclusions                                                                                                                                ... 103


Part three


1. Bulgarian village and agriculture in the context of its historic development                                            ... 112

2. Rural communities and agriculture in Japan until W. W. II                                                                   ... 116

3. Agrarian reform in Bulgaria and Japan: goals, directions and achievements                                          ... 128

3.1. Socialist experiment with Bulgarian agriculture                                                                      ... 128

3.2. The changes in agrarian sector                                                                                               ... 132

3.3. Transformations in agriculture and their influence  on social stratification                                  ... 145

3.4. Contemporary Japanese village and agriculture:  economic development

 and social organization                                                                                         ... 154

3.5. Agricultural cooperative between market   and tradition                                                        ... 180

3.6. Japanese agricultural policy and the farmers   value system                                                    ... 182

4. Brief conclusions                                                                                                                               ... 187


CONCLUSION                                                                                                                                       ... 191

REFERENCES                                                                                                                                           ... 197

APPENDICES                                                                                                                                            ... 207

ENGLISH SUMMARY                                                                                                                             ... 221

CONTENTS IN ENGLISH                                                                                                                        ... 245


[1] For views listed below, and for opinions of Bulgarian authors on this question, see Tilkidjiev (ed.), 1998.

[2] According to SSM surveys (Social Stratification and Mobility National Surveys), which are held every 10 years and are representative for the male population. These surveys use two schemes. The first comprises eight classes: professionals, managers, clerks, tradesmen, skilled, semi-skilled, unskilled and farmers. The scheme based on three-class division consists of “white collars”, “blue collars” and farmers (Seiyama, 1993). In this case, researchers specify that what is meant is a “stratum” or “professional category”, rather than a class in the sociological sense.

[3] Data are from representative surveys of the Agency for Social Analyses, carried out within the International Social Survey Program and are quoted after Tilkidjiev, 19998a, pp.67-69; Tilkidjiev, 1998b, p.140.

[4] A sociological survey “The state, civil society and labor” under L. Dimova of the Agency for Social Analyses, held in July 1997 within the International Social Studies Program (ISSP).

[5]  See Tilkidjiev, 1998b, pp.236-240. The data quoted in the following paragraphs are from the same source.

[6] Quoted data differ from those of the SSM survey, according to which 70-75% of the population self-associate with the middle class, mainly because of differences in the classification categories and schemes used.


*Maya KELIYAN is Associate professor, Dr. at Institute of Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. For contacts:mayakeliyan@gmail.com.



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