Ulv Hanssen, UTokyo lecture, "Breaking out of the postwar regime: How discursive struggles shape Japanese security policy," October 4, 2019

Gregory Noble's picture
October 4, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Japanese History / Studies, Political Science, Sociology


The Contemporary Japan Group at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Social Science

(ISS, or Shaken), welcomes you to a lecture by


Ulv Hanssen

(Soka University)


Breaking out of the postwar regime: How discursive struggles shape Japanese security policy




Friday, October 4, 2019



In the 1970s Japanese policy makers in the LDP lauded Japan’s moderation in the security field as an “unprecedented experiment”. Never before had an economic great power deliberately chosen not to become a military great power. This, they claimed, demonstrated postwar Japan’s exceptional character as a “peace state”. Japan’s self-imposed security restrictions, such as a limitation on defense spending and bans on nuclear weapons, arms exports and collective self-defense, were thus held up as something to be proud of. Amidst the tensions of the Cold War, this restricted security approach kept Japan from becoming entangled in foreign conflicts, reassured Asian neighbors, restrained defense spending, and garnered praise from the international community

But how times have changed! Today’s LDP, under the leadership of PM Abe, is doing everything in its power to reverse these security constraints, which are increasingly framed as not only dangerous, but also shameful. At the center of Japan’s constrained security policy is the “peace” constitution, which Abe has derided as “pathetic” and “shameful” and vowed to rewrite.

How did self-imposed security restrictions go from being objects of exceptionalism and pride to become objects of abnormality and shame?

A poststructuralist analysis of 60 years of Diet debates reveals that what is pushing Japanese policy in an increasingly assertive direction cannot simply be reduced to increased threats in the country’s security environment. Rather, it must be seen as the outcome of an intense discursive struggle in which the victorious forces have succeeded in recasting the postwar period as an age of humiliation while promising to restore national pride.



Ulv Hanssen is a lecturer in politics at Soka University. He earned a Ph.D. in Japanese studies from the Graduate School of East Asia Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. He recently published Temporal Identities and Security Policy in Postwar Japan (Routledge), on which this presentation is based. His research interests include Japanese security and foreign policy, Japan-North Korea relations, Japanese pacifism, populism, and discourse analysis.




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