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
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.
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.