Seventh Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday, June 21-Sunday 22, 2003
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University



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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

Session 25
Re-Assessing the State of Civil Society in Japan
Organizer/Chair: Rieko Kage, Harvard University

The recent growth of voluntarism in Japan has led both scholars and practitioners alike to hail civil society organizations to be at once a potential alternative to the bureaucracy in the provision of public service as well as an impetus for administrative reform. In assessing the potential impact of Japanese civil society, however, a better understanding of the current state of Japanese civil society is necessary. Beyond numerical growth, how much has Japanese civil society really changed, and where does it currently stand? Who are the individuals who comprise these associations, and what factors have shaped their preferences? What forces, especially the central government, have shaped its historical evolution? And how might these factors, in turn, influence the potential impact of Japanese civil society on state-society relations?

The papers in this panel will address these issues from three different time-frames. The Vosse paper examines the current state of Japanese civil society, especially the extent to which Japan's civil society has embraced the ideals of the public sphere and discourse democracy. The Aldrich paper argues that throughout the postwar period the Japanese state has created institutions which penetrate society in order to alter citizen preferences and dampen resistance to state planning. The Kage paper delves further back to the wartime and immediate postwar period to explore the causes of the dramatic rise in civic engagement during the immediate postwar period and argues that U.S. occupation policy played an important role in stimulating the dramatic rise in civic participation after the war.

1) Daniel Aldrich, Harvard University / University of Tokyo. "The Institutions that Bind: Central State Penetration of Japanese Society"

Much research on the Japanese state and civil society focuses on how a currently nascent civil society has been hobbled in many ways by central government procedures and regulations. Pekkanen and Vosse, for example, have shown how non-profit status has been an elusive goal for the majority of NGOs which have remained unrecognized by the central government, without access to resources like cheaper mail rates and the benefit of tax deductible contributions. But many analysts have overlooked the extent to which the postwar Japanese state has created institutions which are designed to penetrate society in order to alter citizen preferences and suppress resistance. That is, in many fields, the central government has created institutions and tools designed to overcome citizen opposition to state planned facilities.
This paper will focus on the ways in which the central state over the past forty years has attempted to further its national energy, infrastructure, and transportation goals often over the objections of local citizens movements. In order to construct the airports, dams, nuclear power plants, and waste dumps so necessary for advanced industrial societies as a whole but so unwanted by their neighbors, the Japanese state has developed a range of methods and strategies, from coercive to voluntary, to further what state authorities see as the national interest over what is often branded as "local egoism."

2) Wilhem Vosse, International Christian University. "Japanese Civil Society Revisited"

For Japan, the end of the Cold-War era involved not only the end ofthe bubble economy and collapse of the LDP's one party rule, but also the beginning of a shift in the relationship between state and society toward a strengthening of a civil society. Many analysts argue that the 1990s saw an increase in civic engagement in social movements, a wave of volunteer movements particularly after the Hanshin earthquake in 1995, an unprecedented wave of referenda and lawsuits, and the improvement of the legal recognition process for Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs). This paper will take a closer look at this argument and the current state of civil society in Japan. It will (1) question the widely-held belief that associational groups and organizations strengthen civil society per se (Robert Putnam), and then (2) argue against conceptualizations of civil society that do not distinguish between civil society organizations and civil society itself. The paper will make the case for (3) a re-evaluation of citizen-state relations in Japan by using a civil society concept that emphasizes the public sphere and discourse democracy. The paper will ask to what extent Japanese NPOs and citizens' movements have in the last ten years contributed towards this end, and whether Japanese society and politics has actually begun to embrace open debates, the disclosure of information, and the use of mainstream and alternative media.

3) Rieko Kage, Harvard University. "Embracing Democracy: The Promotion of Civic Engagement in Occupied Japan"

How do major wars influence civic engagement? An influential line of work by Theda Skocpol and her associates argues that whether or not a country wins or loses a major war is a crucial determinant of the levels of ci engagement in the decades following the war. This paper draws on the case of Japan during and immediately after World War II to argue that the immediate interactions with the conquering power, rather than victory or defeat, shape the postwar trajectory of civic engagement in crucial ways. Japan is an especially important case for exploring the relationship between major wars and civic engagement. The Japanese defeat in World War II was both convincing and accompanied drastic physical damage. If Skocpol's argument holds true, Japanese citizens should have been particularly discouraged from participation after the war.

The U.S. Occupation believed that the building of a flourishing and self-sustaining Japanese democracy required the inculcation of (more) democratic values among Japanese citizens. On the basis of archival research conducted at the U.S. National Archives, this paper argues that the U.S. Occupation viewed civil society groups, such as YMCA Japan, the Japanese Red Cross, and the Girl Scouts, to be a crucial engine for fostering democratic values; it actively encouraged their reconstruction. Occupation policies, in turn, led to a dramatic rise in Japanese civic engagement in the immediate postwar period.


list of panels