“Occupy Tôkyô, SEALDs, the forgotten movement”, or the Japan of protest

Delivered. Contrary to the vision of a consensual Japan demonstrating an enviable political and social stability in the light of the heartbreaks in other democracies, the authors do an innovative work by revealing a little-known aspect of the political landscape: citizen struggle and protest. of the youth.

Anne Gonon, who teaches social sciences at Doshisha University, in Kyoto, and Christian Galan, specialist in the history of the education system in Japan, at the University of Toulouse Jean-Jaurès, show that the archipelago is not free from dispute in the vein of Occupy Wall Street, Indignados or pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong and Thailand. From a deciphering return on the start of Japanese student youth in 2015-2016, the authors highlight the emergence of spaces for critical questioning on inequality and the participation of Japanese society.

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The Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (“SEALDs” for short), a movement that appeared in May 2015, has highlighted the limits of a system which, ignoring the expectations of the younger generations – like a good part of public opinion – has led to a depoliticization as evidenced by the low rate of participation in the elections. As was the case, once again, during the renewal of the lower house on October 31: given the high rate of abstention (nearly 50%), the victory of the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), in power without practically discontinued since 1955, is less an expression of the electorate’s confidence than of the mistrust of many towards the political class.

Rejection of a sclerotic political world

If the rejection of a sclerotic political world and the doubts about the effect of the popular vote are clear, they are not for all that the expression of a withdrawal of citizen consciousness. This is expressed elsewhere than at the ballot box: in a plethora of civic, humanitarian or voluntary actions.

The SEALDs movement, which embodied a new form of this citizen activism, had as a backdrop the social transformations brought about by the effects of the neoliberal policies which followed the bursting of the financial bubble of the early 1990s. mobilized belonged to the first generation of a society wrought by rising inequalities, job insecurity and a depreciation of university degrees which no longer guarantee stable employment. The triggering phenomenon was the upheaval of society caused by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima (following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011) which undermined the myth of state-guaranteed security. It was combined with the passing of laws aimed at circumventing the pacifist provisions of the Constitution paving the way for Japan’s participation in military actions.

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“Occupy Tôkyô, SEALDs, the forgotten movement”, or the Japan of protest

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