Hiroshi Mitani - Professor, University of Tokyo Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; Area Studies and Visiting Scholar in the Harvard-Yenching Institute
There are many countries that enjoy prosperity without political liberty in the non-Western world today. People who find this situation hard to accept must find ways, however difficult, to realize liberty in these countries. Through the analysis of Japanese experience, this presentation aims to think about some of these ways, other than simply denouncing the lack of human rights and forcing Western models on these countries. Japan enjoys liberal democracy although it does not have strong liberalism still today. If we analyze its history carefully, we can see an example of a dynamic public sphere in a society without strong liberalism that may have relevance to others. I will concentrate mainly on the late Tokugawa and early Meiji eras, when a public sphere emerged in Japan within an authoritarian old regime; expanded nationwide with the introduction of mass media under the new government; and established itself in a constitutional monarchy. We will search for the elements that contributed to the formation of a public sphere: the tradition of egalitarian discussion in private schools, the role of nationalism, political splits and violence along with the imported elements like mass media, political ideals and institutions. However, it is more important to observe how these elements were related to each other and interacted in particular situations than to identify the elements themselves.