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Middleman Minority Concept: Its Explanatory Value in the Case of the Japanese in California Agriculture

David J. O'Brien and Stephen S. Fugita
The Pacific Sociological Review
Vol. 25, No. 2 (Apr., 1982), pp. 185-204
DOI: 10.2307/1388723
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1388723
Page Count: 20
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Middleman Minority Concept: Its Explanatory Value in the Case of the Japanese in California Agriculture
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Abstract

The concept of the "middleman minority" has been employed in the social sciences to deal with minority groups whose historical experience, although marked by discrimination, is not characterized by continuous, extreme subordinate status. The explanatory value of this concept is challenged, however, when one examines the historical experience of one of its primary empirical examples, Japanese Americans in agriculture. In this case, one of the most important requirements of the theory--that the group occupies a middle-rank position in the stratification system and functions as "middleman" in the movement of goods and services--is not met. Furthermore, we suggest that the more parsimonious concept of "petite bourgeoisie," combined with an emphasis on the common cultural/social organizational resources found in these groups, allows us to understand better the social-psychological consequences of involvement in small-scale businesses. Such an approach provides insights into the way economic activities influence the character of persons and their communities in certain types of ethnic groups.

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