The Problem of Legitimacy in Japan's Political System: A Luhmannian Perspective

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 15 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Andrew MITCHELL, Kumamoto University, Japan
Within Japanese politics the ruling LDP administration, led by Abe Shinzo, has been at the forefront of numerous controversial policy decisions regarding the military and nuclear power. Public dissatisfaction with such policies has led to the Abe administration’s approval rating slipping to 38.5% by September 2015, its lowest level since Abe took office in December 2012. Yet the support rating of the largest opposition party, the DPJ, is only 4.9%, making them a statistical factor rather than a potential electoral challenger. This is not an anomalous result and reflects the underlying reality of LDP political domination, with the party having held power almost unbroken since 1955. This lack of viable political plurality in the face of sliding ratings for the Abe administration raises the issue of political legitimacy. Japan’s lack of an effective political opposition through which public opinion can enter into the political system also raises the question as to whether Japan’s political system can truly be considered democratic.

In this paper I wish to take a Luhmannian reading of the Japanese political system, focusing on Luhmann’s assertion that the binary coding of the political system is government/opposition and that political legitimacy is created through this coding. Through an analysis of Luhmann’s political theory I shall track the development of Japan’s democratic development, focusing on its initial emergence during the Meiji restoration and its reform during the SCAP administration led by the Americans post-war. By then focusing on the political realities of modern Japan, I shall critique Japan’s political system from a Luhmannian perspective. I shall then consider whether such a reading offers any novel approaches for political development.