Everyday Justice: Responsibility and the Individual in Japan and the United States

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It is a fundamental human impulse to seek restitution or retribution when a wrong is done, yet individuals and societies assess responsibility and allocate punishment for wrongdoing in different ways. This book investigates how average citizens in the United States and Japan think about and judge various kinds of wrongdoing, how they determine who is responsible when things go wrong, and how they prefer to punish offenders. Drawing on the results of surveys they conducted in Detroit, Michigan, and Yokohama and Kanazawa, Japan, the authors compare both individual and cultural reactions to wrongdoing. They find that decisions about justice are influenced by whether or not there seems to be a social relationship between the offender and victim: the American tendency is to see actors in isolation while the Japanese tendency is to see them in relation to others. The Japanese, who emphasize the importance of role obligations and social ties, mete out punishment with the goal of restoring the offender to the social network. Americans, who acknowledge fewer "ties that bind" and have firmer convictions that evil resides in individuals, punish wrongdoers by isolating them from the community. The authors explore the implications of "justice among friends" versus "justice toward strangers" as approaches to the righting of wrongs in modern society. Their findings will be of interest to students of social psychology, the sociology of law, and Japanese studies.
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Editorial Reviews

C. Neal Tate
EVERYDAY JUSTICE seeks to trace the impact of culture on individual assignments of responsibility and of punishment for actions that cause harm. The book reports empirical results based on three "survey experiments" administered in 1977, 1978, and 1979 in Detroit, Michigan, and in Yokohama and Kanazawa, Japan. Its authors are professors of social psychology at the University of Maryland (Hamilton) and of law at the University of Houston (Sanders). Their previous research has regularly addressed the problem of the attribution of responsibility; EVERYDAY JUSTICE appears to represent the culmination and summary of the authors' research on wrongdoing and responsibility in the United States and Japan. The investigation begins with a consideration of the problem of responsibility that is framed by the striking contrast between American and Japanese legal and institutional reactions to two tragic air crashes that occurred in the summer of 1985. Stereotypically, the American crash was followed immediately by a gathering of lawyers and efforts to assign and to limit corporate responsibility that produced a "nasty" and protracted legal conflict, while the Japanese crash led to an immediate acceptance of corporate responsibility, a formal apology and resignation from the president of Japan Air Lines, and a general avoidance of litigation over the tragedy. The authors warn that the airline crash stories are indeed stereotypical, and that one could select other examples that might give a different impression of how Americans and Japanese will react to circumstances that raise questions of wrongdoing and responsibility. The truths that lie behind the stereotypes reflect the differences in the way each society typically structures its social relationships, in particular the way in which the societies differ on the dimensions of hierarchy and solidarity in social relationships. The two dimensions yield four categories of relationships that are expected to affect how individuals in the two cultures assign responsibility and punishment: equal-separate (e.g., buyer-seller), equal-connected (e.g., friends), stratified-separate (boss-worker), and stratified-connected (parent-child) relationships. Responsibility may have multiple meanings. The authors' version of the concept stresses that it involves considerations of causation, capacity, role obligations, and legal and moral responsibility, and that an allegation of responsibility may be answered by what are legally conceived of as the defenses of denial, demurrer, collateral defense, and justification. It should already be clear that the authors' inquiry is framed by the concepts of macrolevel social theory. These concepts are placed into context and expectations for their effects derived from discussions of social and legal structures and of culture and the socialization process. Though comparative, these discussions focus more extensively on Japan. With regard to social structure, the authors place emphasis on the importance of the Japanese concept of "IE," right principles of organization of the family. Legally, they depict Japan as stressing more inquisitorial and less adjudicative dispute processing than the United States, noting that in Japan the barriers to litigation are deliberately set high. These social and legal structural differences lead to predicted differences in willingness to litigate and acceptance of alternative procedures of dispute processing, and to different patterns of relationships at the individual level. Of great relevance to explaining cultural differences in assessment of wrongdoing and assignment of responsibility and punishment is the well-developed Japanese practice of APOLOGY. The culture and socialization of the Japanese is argued to produce individuals who are more nested in a social context, even while accepting high expectations for individual performance, whose behavior is more likely to be governed by Page 195 follows: shame at the possibility of failing the expectations of relevant others than by guilt resulting from an individually-internalized norm, and who are more likely to see even formal authority as "fundamentally benevolent and reasonable" (p. 71). These cultural differences are expected to shape "judgments of the responsibilities of persons who do wrong and cause harm" (p. 71). The authors' investigation of responsibility and sanctions is driven by a research design that focuses on the relationships among DEEDS (the act committed, the consequences of that act, the intent of the actor) CONTEXTS (past patterns of behavior, the influence of involved others), and ROLE RELATIONSHIPS (involving hierarchy and solidarity). These concepts are used to structure four basic types of stories or vignettes that represent the four types of social relationships that result from the combination of hierarchy and solidarity (see above). Specifically, the stories deal with assessment of responsibility and sanctions for the actors in two low solidarity work situations -- a foreman on a line (authority relationship) and a used car salesman and customer (equality relationship), and two high solidarity family relationships -- a mother with child (authority) and twins fighting (equality). The design's purpose is to allow the authors to measure and evaluate macrolevel cultural differences in the relationships between and among deeds, contexts, and role relationships. The research design is executed through an survey experiment administered by American and Japanese research teams to samples representing urban, industrial communities in the United States and Japan (Detroit, Yokohama) and, to provide greater cultural contrast, a city expected to be more representative of traditional Japanese culture and values (Kanazawa). Each respondent was asked to assign responsibility and punishment in each of the four everyday life stories described above when the circumstances in the stories were randomly varied to represent different combinations of deeds, contexts, and role relationships. Respondents in Detroit and Yokohama were also asked to assess two stories involving criminal responsibility resulting from an auto accident and a robbery. The authors' discussion of the implementation of their complex research design, their sensitivity to possible problems of validity, and to problems of cross-cultural research such as translation is exemplary. It gives one considerable confidence in their empirical findings. The empirical findings are presented in separate chapters on responsibility, punishment, and the special case of crime. For responsibility, the overall findings confirm that judgments of responsibility vary as predicted, according to the wrongdoer's deeds and the context of those deeds. Responsibility was adjudged higher when an act was intentional, when its consequences were more serious, and when the actor had a past pattern of bad behavior, and lower when the actor acted at least partially under the influence of others. Also as expected, actor responsibility was adjudged higher in low solidarity situations, and, after appropriate adjustments for differences in story circumstances, for authorities in hierarchical situations. Space prevents the discussion of the basic findings for the interactions of roles, deeds, and contexts. But the authors' overall conclusion is that each of their expectations about the effects of deeds, contexts, and roles is confirmed. More important to the authors' analytical purposes, the patterns of macrolevel differences in the results were consistent with theoretical expectations that Americans would be more likely to see wrongdoing actors as equal, isolated individuals whose intent mattered most, while Japanese would see them more as individuals in context whose responsibility was more affected by their roles and contexts. Japanese respondents were as willing as Americans to advocate punishment of some wrongdoers. But for the "everyday life situations," the Japanese preferred punishments that focused on "relationship restoration," while, except in family situations, Americans preferred sanctions that isolated the offending actor. This leads the authors to conclude that "the solidarity of relationships appears to provide a parsimonious account of how norms of sanction come to differ within Page 196 follows: and across cultures" (p. 156). To examine responsibility and punishment in extreme situations involving the interaction of strangers, the authors asked respon- dents in Detroit and Yokohama to assess two additional vignettes involving an auto accident (with possible criminal liability) and a store robbery. In these cases, the cultural differences between Americans and Japanese in the assignment of responsibility disappear: for strangers, Japanese assign responsibility in the same way as Americans. Similarly, for assignment of punishment in the case of the store robbery, the Yokohama Japanese are found to be "more American than the Americans" (p. 169). The auto accident vignettes also found the Japanese at least as willing to punish as the Americans, but inclined once again to prefer more restorative, as opposed to isolative, punishments, and less likely than the Detroiters to define appropriate restorative punishments solely in financial terms. Following a general summary of their empirical results, the authors conclude their work with more speculative chapters dealing with the implications of their findings for the debate over the relative importance of legal structure and legal culture and the possible convergence of the two legal systems studied (Ch. 10), and the problems of justice reflected in the two styles of attribution of responsibility and punishment in the United States and Japan (Ch. 11). EVERYDAY JUSTICE is a clearly organized presentation of an important theoretical perspective, a complex research design, and a relatively elaborate data analysis. Its methodology is well- chosen and well-executed, and its statistical results generally well-presented. Occasionally, however, the authors appear to be so determined to keep the statistics simple, and so committed to the analysis of variance models that are traditional in experimental design, that they fail to present their results in the form of a summary regression or logistic model that would clarify the nature and the impacts of the statistical relationships their data support. Occasionally, also, the authors' prose becomes a bit turgid, especially when they delve deeply, sometimes too deeply, into the macrosocial theory that drives their analysis. EVERYDAY JUSTICE will be of most interest to students of legal culture and the relationship between culture, society, and the legal system. Its relationship to "law and politics" is indirect, but it is not irrelevant to the consideration and evaluation of policies relating to the regulation of litigation, crime, and punishment, or to theories explaining why polities choose such policies.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300060720
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1994
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.17 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
Pt. 1 Structure and Culture
1 The Problem of Responsibility 3
2 Social Structure and Legal Structure: A Comparative View 21
3 Culture and the Socialization Process 48
Pt. 2 Responsibility and Sanction
4 Responsibility: A Research Agenda 75
5 Methods: Experiments in Surveys 89
6 Responsibility: The Evidence 110
7 Punishment 135
8 Is Crime Special? Offenses against Strangers 157
Pt. 3 Law and Society
9 Empirical Conclusions 179
10 Legal Structure, Legal Culture, and Convergence 186
11 The Problem of Justice 203
Appendix A: Summary of the Story Versions 219
Appendix B: Punishment Questions 236
Notes 247
References 259
Index of Authors Cited 281
Subject Index 286
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