Political Life in Japan
Democracy in a Reversible World
Takako Kishima


To understand how change occurs in politics, we should turn from concentrating on intentional political actions to exploring everyday life, especially marginal frames of mind in which people are open to questioning existing ideas and institutions. In so contending, Takako Kishima offers fresh understandings of contemporary Japanese politicians and the Japanese political process, while she also proposes an innovative method of looking at politics in general. Kishima points out that taken-for-granted values and beliefs are revealed as arbitrary when people experience intrusions of the marginal, or "liminal." Social marginals, such as outcastes or so-called misfits, are the most likely people to invoke these intrusions, but more ordinary folk are also subjected to them under special conditions ranging from the seemingly trivial--daydreaming, dancing, or getting drunk--to the more profound--war, natural disaster, or ecstatic ritual. During an intrusion the flow of ordinary time seems to stop, and the utilitarian principles of commonplace existence are invalidated--as described by the chapter on Nakasone, "Shedding Tears: Suspension of Politics." Drawing on insights from phenomenology, symbolic anthropology, and post-structuralism, as well as from political science, Kishima shows that the prevalence of liminal experiences in society prevents the reification of authority, allows the transcendence of formal political differences, and permits political change over time.

Originally published in 1991.

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