Civil society and neoliberalism: Heisei's historic convergence

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    This chapter argues that the evolution of civil society in the Heisei era is best understood as the product of two processes—one citizen-led and born out of long-held desires and movements for autonomy and independence; the other state-led and deeply shaped by major socioeconomic transformations and the related shift to neoliberal forms of governance in Japan. While both processes had discrete historical roots, throughout the Heisei era they rapidly converged almost to the point of being indistinguishable—the civic-led process being largely subsumed into the neoliberal governmental process. Although many sang praises of Japan's ‘new civil society’ with all its associated undertones of an enhanced democracy and rising civic influence in policymaking, the greatest casualty of this convergence was arguably Japanese democracy itself. Under conditions of Heisei neoliberalism, civic aspirations for ‘independence’ and ‘autonomy’ became more closely associated with self-responsibility and self-help in a world of small government, while civil society's politicality, its role as an adversary, and its capacity for antagonism slowly atrophied. As the era drew to a close in 2019, the task of reinvigorating progressive politics after decades of neoliberal depoliticization remained as unfinished business for civil society in the new age of Reiwa.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationJapan in the Heisei Era (1989–2019)
    Editors Noriko Murai, Jeff Kingston, Tina Burrett
    Place of PublicationUk
    ISBN (Print)9780429273575
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


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