Presented by: Noritoshi Furuichi
Noritoshi Furuichi (University of Tokyo)
Date and Time: Wednesday 16 October, 1630-1800
Location: University of Edinburgh, Meadows Lecture Theatre, William Robertson Wing (Old Medical School)
Amid gloomy news about deepening youth unemployment and increasingly precarious labour conditions, entrepreneurship has been highlighted as an alternative career path for today’s young adults in both Japan and the United Kingdom. There seems to be a general consensus — or at least a widely shared hope — that more entrepreneurial activity by the young will lead not only to more jobs and greater opportunity, but also to more economic growth. Social entrepreneurship and innovation are also increasingly cited in high-profile books and proposals that consider ways to enhance national dynamism and well-being.
Puzzlingly little, however, is known about the ways in which young people get involved in entrepreneurship in practice, and few policy-makers or academics appear to understand how such involvement could be effectively supported via public policy, educational institutions or intermediaries. In order to address these conundrums, University of Tokyo sociologist Noritoshi Furuichi will critically contrast images of youth and entrepreneurship that prevail in Japan with observed realities and practices, challenging us to reconsider the key structures, meanings and conditions that mediate young people’s involvement in entrepreneurship. Can youth entrepreneurship truly serve as a source of hope and vitality for our affluent but ‘desperate’ modern societies? Or are we mistaken to place high expectations on young entrepreneurs without supporting their activity at a level commensurate with these expectations.
Noritoshi Furuichi is Japan’s leading young public sociologist. His controversial second book, The Happy Youth of a Desperate Country (Kodansha, 2011) attracted great attention in academia and the general media by arguing that young Japanese adults in fact enjoy high levels of life satisfaction even as they struggle with challenges such as rising unemployment and disparities in social security benefits between the young and older generations. This argument posed a challenge to the prevailing youth discourse in Japan that portrayed young adults as an unfortunate, disappointed generation with few opportunities, calling for a more reflective debate on youth and related public policies. Since the publication of this volume, Furuichi has appeared frequently on national TV, as well as in the national and international press (recently in the Financial Times). He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Tokyo, writing a thesis that sheds light on the sociological factors that regulate youth entrepreneurship in the Japanese context. His two most recent books are Bokutachi no Zento (2012), an ethnographic reportage on selected young entrepreneurs, and Daremo Sensou wo Oshietekurenakatta (2013), a critical exploration of the relationship between war education and young people.