chapter  2
The East/West perspective and civil society: Making visible similarities and differences
Pages 7

From the European and broader ‘Western’ perspective the use of the term civil society in Japan, in its Japanese equivalents, is virtually unknown. This chapter investigates the extent to which research on Japanese politics can be moved from an East-West frame into a frame of common experience with ‘the West’ in democratisation. The East-West framing has been traditional on both sides, whereas historical reflection, and current political developments (especially in Japan), will lead us to take a critical look at these assumptions. This kind of investigation is inevitably theoretical and conceptual at the outset, and if the move from one set of assumptions to another can be shown to be fruitful, then these results will be predicated on an understanding of civil society as a concept that has been shared between European and other Western writers, and various schools of thought and action in Japan, all along. That sharing, however, has been very one-sided, in that Japanese intellectual and political life has followed an importing model, and discouraged an exporting one. Some of the present authorial team are part of an export wave from Japan to reverse the flow of ideas and practice. This chapter opens with a definitional and historical summary concerning civil society, moving on to draw comparisons with Japanese theory and practice, and then offering conclusions concerning a transition from an East-West framing of comparative political research to a transcending frame of comparative studies in democratisation.