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2011 Vol.4
Ideological Map of the Post-Earthquake-Disaster Era

2011/10/01

Will the Great East Japan Earthquake become an ideological turning point for Japan? Immediately after the earthquake disaster,many critics argued that it would become a historical turning point like the Meiji Restoration or Japan’s defeat in World War II.
However, such opinions started to dissipate as the emotional shock began to subside. Many such assertions were a result of reemergence, in the post-earthquake period, of the social change forecasts and hopes that had been made before the earthquake byeach critic. Therefore, it cannot be said that there was actually an ideological change.
A clear change, however, can be observed among critics. Nuclear power generation used often to be criticized in the contexts of ecology, criticism of modern civilization, and reexamination of economic growth. This was a trend formed in the 1970s in which economic growth and”all-middle-class society”constituted the unconscious premise of Japanese society. However, since around 2005, when these conditions were no longer sustained and technological potential for renewable energies increased, emerging commentaries took the position that the nuclear power industry was not transparent and was a place where monopolists maintained a self-centered relationship with national policy, and that the introduction of power industry liberalization and renewable energies could increase this transparency and promote a shift away from nuclear power generation while sustaining economic growth. After the earthquake, such opinions or this”neo-liberal democracy”- in which new technologies and economic liberalization promote democracy- spread among Japanese intellectuals. It seems that the idea of neo-liberal democracy is being accepted by many as traditional reconstruction methods centered on public projects controlled by government agencies are being criticized for their inefficiency and anti-democratic approach in discussions on reconstruction efforts following the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The turmoil over the US-Japan Security Treaty in 1960 and the death of Emperor Hirohito were not precisely historical turning points. Rather, social and economic changes that had already begun accelerated at those times and led to turning points for Japan, like rapid economic growth and the collapse of the bubble economy. The Great East Japan Earthquake can also be a turning point in this sense.

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