Crisis and Transformation in Heisei Japan
Carroll-Preyde, Myles Remi Wim
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This dissertation examines the political economy of post-war Japan using a theoretical framework that combines Antonio Gramsci's ideas about hegemony and crisis in capitalist society with feminist political economy analyses of social reproduction under capitalism. The study theorizes Japan since the 1990s as facing a multifaceted crisis what Gramsci would term an organic crisis and seeks to understand the crisis in the context of Japan's post-war period of prosperous, stable and hegemonic political economic order. Moreover, it demonstrates how central to contemporary Japan's overall crisis is a crisis of social reproduction, characterized by a rapidly aging and shrinking population and a chronically low birth rate, among other things. This crisis of social reproduction is dialectically related to other dimensions of Japan's more general organic crisis, including its prolonged period of economic stagnation since the 1990s and the widespread degree of mistrust towards political institutions held among the public, which fostered a wave of reformist politics in the 1990s and 2000s. The dissertation is thus an attempt to theorize post-war Japanese political economy by exploring the key economic, social, and political conditions that served as the basis for the robust hegemonic order of the early post-war era. It considers how those conditions were transformed by a variety of structural, institutional and political forces, beginning in the 1970s, and how as a result many of the same conditions that had initially anchored the hegemonic order came to undermine its basis and ultimately bring about a deep-seated and multifaceted crisis beginning in the 1990s, which has thus far defied resolution. After providing an original account of post-war Japanese political economy from the 1950s to the 2000s, the concluding chapters of the dissertation first examine the current period since the return to power of Abe Shinzo in 2012, exploring how Abe has sought to solve the organic crisis, before finally considering four potential scenarios for the future, as various competing social forces in Japan struggle for a resolution to the organic crisis based on different ethico-political visions, exploring the barriers and contradictions inherent in each of them.