'civil society' in Japanese politics: Implications for contemporary political research

Terrell Carver*, Shin Chiba, Reiji Matsumoto, James Martin, Bob Jessop, Fumio Iida, Atsushi Sugita

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    This article presents a definitional and historical summary of 'civil society' as a western concept, and then traces how it was used in Japanese political theory and practice. 'Civil society' discourse became a familiar term amongst post-war Japanese historians and social scientists in the period 1945-1970, and thus preceded the recent international proliferation of 'civil society' literature in the 'west' from the 1970s onwards. 'Civil society' discourse was politicised in practice in Japan in the 1950s and 1960s, principally in opposition movements wanting to encourage political participation by ordinary citizens. While some 'civil society' discourse in Japan was based on an idealisation of 'western' ideas and practice, it is also the case that the individualism and democratisation implied in 'civil society' discourse has been very differently understood in 'western' countries and very unevenly instituted in their political practice. A simple East-West frame makes significant similarities between Japanese ideas and practice and 'western' concepts and politics disappear, and additionally causes significant differences within the 'west' regarding individualism and democratisation to become invisible.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)541-555
    Number of pages15
    JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2000 Jun

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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