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Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Broadbent
(University of Minnesota, USA)

"Civil Society and Power in Japan pre and post Fukushima"

December 11, 2014

In Japan over the decades since the end of WWII, the structure of effective political power ands it relation to the formation of civil society has been characterized by a strong dimension of vertical, top-down control. Despite globalization, in Japan political and social power continues to be concentrated in the Ruling Triad (the 1955 system). Since the 1990s, the core Triad has wobbled a bit with the opposition parties occasionally taking control of the Upper House. The Minshuto control lasted 2009-2012 with Hatoyama as its first PM.

During this period, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear catastrophe occurred. The accident pushed the Kan government to declare an end to nuclear power in Japan and to shut down all plants, suddenly removing 30% of Japan’s electricity supply, but replacing it with fossil fuels. The accident also inspired a very large wave of anti-nuclear protests organized by marginal leaders. Almost none of the established, incorporated, government funded environmental NGOs ever mentioned the Fukushima disaster. Moreover, conservative newspapers only stressed the economic losses due to shortages and higher cost of electric power, not the dangers of nuclear power. As a result, the wave of protest gradually diminished, though public opinion remains opposed. The localism of Japanese politics reasserted itself in the 2012 election and the LDP back into power, despite the expectation that the LDP would resume nuclear power. Thus the ultimate ”Fukushima effect” on energy choices in the land of its occurrence are beginning to look minimal, though things could change again.

Jeffrey Broadbent is Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota and is currently finishing his visiting professorship at the IN-EAST in Duisburg-Essen. He has received his PhD from Harvard in Sociology, and his research focus includes comparative sociology, culture and structure and environmental sociology. Among his latest publications are: East Asian Social Movements: Power, Protest and Change. New York: Springer (2011, co-edited with Vicky Brodman), and Sociological Perspectives on Global Climate Change. National Science Foundation and American Sociological Association (2011, co-ed.). Der Vortrag wurde gemeinsam von der Japanologie und der Graduate School of East Asian Studies angeboten.