Global Asia Journal


Yoshio Shibata


Occasional Paper No. 12

Document Type



This article explores the institutional causes of karoshi (death from

overwork) and karojisatsu (suicide induced by overwork and

work-related depression) in Japan. Rejecting the culturalist

explanations of these health problems, this study discusses the

management-labor struggles of postwar Japan and their impacts

on the institutional modes of labor relations. It specifically

examines the institutional features of internal labor markets that

are closely linked to karoshi and karojisatsu by exploring how the

Japanese employees are driven to overwork at the micro level.

Drawing on the Foucauldian idea of governmentality and utilizing

a sociological approach, this research treats these institutional

forms of labor relations as part of the governmental technology

that has adversely affected the everyday working lives of

employees and has compelled them to overwork.