The Politics of Anti-Politics in Postwar and Contemporary Japan

The Politics of Anti-Politics in Postwar and Contemporary Japan

Nick Kapur - Associate Professor of History, Rutgers University-Camden

Monday, January 29, 2024 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Room 202, Henry R. Luce Hall See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511

In the late 1960s, a new style of “non-political” social movement emerged in Japan. Despite aiming at social reforms, these movements—including environmental, consumer protection, and local improvement movements—embraced a rhetoric of “anti-politics,” disclaiming “ideology” in exchange for a focus on “issues.” These paradoxically “non-political” organizations achieved great success in the political arena, and by declaring that “anyone can join,” these movements succeeded in achieving a number of policy goals. I trace the history of Japan’s “non-political” political activism from the mid-1960s to the present, including recent movements against nuclear power plants and the 2015 Security Bill. I argue that because the wages of “anti-politics” were so high, this approach became hegemonic in Japanese political organizing, such that many movements may feel compelled to embrace it even when they seek more overtly “political” objectives.

Nick Kapur received his Ph.D. in Japanese history from Harvard University, working under Akira Iriye ad Andrew Gordon, and is presently Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University’s Camden campus, where he teaches Japanese and East Asian history. His research interests focus on modern Japan and US-Japan relations, broadly conceived. His book Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo (Harvard University Press, 2018) details enduring transformations in Japanese politics, culture, and society, as well as US-Japan alliance diplomacy and the Cold War international system, that unfolded in the aftermath of the massive 1960 protests against the US-Japan Security Treaty. In addition, he has recently published research on US-Japan relations during the John F. Kennedy administration, the 1968 centennial celebrations of Japan’s Meiji Restoration, and Japan’s postwar student movement.

This lecture series is generously sponsored by the Japan Foundation.