While East Asia’s, and especially China’s, economic growth has become a major driving force of global change, developed countries are struggling to readjust their social, economic, and political institutions to the challenges of financial crises, shrinking populations, and the rising demand for and costs of social welfare. As an economically and technologically highly advanced society, Japan finds itself at the intersection and forefront of these regional and global changes. As Japan seeks to redefine its role and responsibilities in regional and global affairs, two decades of low economic growth and rapid demographic decline as well as the impacts of the 11 March 2011 triple disaster (also known as 3.11) have generated a sense of national crisis. Yet debates about a power shift toward China and the decline of Japan, including the latter’s “lost decades,” remain ambiguous if not contradictory regarding what this decline actually entails and what social and political institutions are in crisis. This raises the following research questions:
- What structural – i.e., “real” – societal, economic, domestic-political, and international changes have challenged which institutions in post-war Japan since the late 1980s?
- How have these challenges been framed in crisis narratives, and by whom?
- What institutional changes have these narratives provoked, enabled, or hindered?
- If no change is evident, who staged resistance and using which counter-narrative?
- What is the potential of the (envisioned) institutional changes to alleviate the original causes of the crisis – i.e., the “real” structural challenges identified at the outset?
- What are the implications of these findings for the respective policy area and for the future of Japan as a whole?
- And what can the transformation of the Japanese state tell us about similar social, economic, and political transformations in East Asia and in Europe, including their international political reverberations?
To answer these questions, the organisers have invited sociologists and political scientists from inside and outside of Japan who work on a variety of policy fields and cover different issue areas within them. They will approach the above set of questions through the analysis of societal change, narrations of crisis, and institutional change from a range of thematic perspectives including economic inequality; demographic change; civil society in the aftermath of Fukushima; science, technology, and innovation; macroeconomic policies; educational reforms and globalisation; populism and the political system; foreign policy crisis management; official development assistance and cooperation; and security politics.
Prior registration is required: The workshop is open to interested academic staff and postgraduate students from the GIGA and the University of Hamburg.