348.3 How society is producing its own crisis: A systems theoretical case study of Japan

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 3:10 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Saburo AKAHORI , department of sociology, Tokyo Woman's Christian University, Tokyo, Japan
In Japan, the triple crisis after the March 2011 disasters (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters) is still going on. Then why can’t this problem be solved promptly, and why is such misery continuing in spite of Japan’s desire to revive? This paper tries to answer these questions from the viewpoint of Niklas Luhmann’s sociological systems theory, especially his theory of the mass media system.

Luhmann defined the system of mass media as a particular function system of society. It consists of a series of communicative events and constructs its own reality by using the distinction of information and non-information.

As for the situation after the Earthquake, the word hisai-chi (disaster-hit areas) has become a cliché in Japan. Here this word becomes the focus because it seems to indicate a defect of the mass media system in Japan. In Japan’s mass media system, the Tohoku area tends to be identified as hisai-chi, however strictly speaking, a large part of the Tohoku area is not damaged. In addition, other areas suffering from the disasters, such as Kanto’s coastal areas, are rarely mentioned as hisai-chi. In this case, by drawing a distinction, the mass media system separates the audience from the hisai-chi areas and makes them feel safe. By using the word, the system has been producing a sense of security whereas people may actually be in insecure areas.

In conclusion, on one hand the mass media system as a function system of society has always been behaving normatively as if it is going to make those that are suffering overcome this crisis, and on the other hand, it is producing and promoting a system-specified reality that obstructs recovery at the same time.