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Political Cleavages and the Representation of Social Inequalities in Japan 1953-2017

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  • Amory Gethin

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, WIL - World Inequality Lab)

Abstract

This paper exploits political attitudes surveys conducted between 1953 and 2017 to document long-run changes in the structure of political cleavages in Japan. I analyze the transformation of Japan's one-party dominant system from the hegemony of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to the disintegration of conservative forces into multiple splinter parties and the rise of a new centrist coalition. Throughout Japan's contemporary history, persisting divides based upon foreign policy and remilitarization have remained a key axis of democratic conflicts. These divides have coincided with lower-educated voters showing greater support for the LDP and other conservative parties, which have generally advocated expansion of military spending and overseas interventions. The strength of the LDP in postwar decades also relied on a unique coalition of poorer rural areas and business elites, while socialist and communist parties found greater support among urban unionized wage earners. Urbanization, declining rural-urban inequalities, the expansion of education, and the subsequent fragmentation of the party system have put an end to this equilibrium and have been associated with a remarkable "depolarization" of Japan's political space. I also analyze the long-run transformation of generational divides in relation to changing attitudes to war memory and political parties.

Suggested Citation

  • Amory Gethin, 2021. "Political Cleavages and the Representation of Social Inequalities in Japan 1953-2017," World Inequality Lab Working Papers halshs-03215888, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wilwps:halshs-03215888
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://shs.hal.science/halshs-03215888
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Thomas Piketty, 2018. "Brahmin Left vs Merchant Right: Rising Inequality & the Changing Structure of Political Conflict," Working Papers hal-02878211, HAL.
    2. Ryo Kambayashi & Sebastien Lechevalier & Thanasak Jenmana, 2020. "Decomposing Preference for Redistribution Beyond the Trans-Atlantic Perspective," PSE Working Papers halshs-02497274, HAL.
    3. Carmen Durrer de La Sota & Amory Gethin & Clara Martinez-Toledano, 2021. "Party System Transformation and the Structure of Political Cleavages in Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland, 1967-2019," Working Papers halshs-03165720, HAL.
    4. Luis Bauluz & Amory Gethin, & Clara Martinez-Toledano & Marc Morgan, 2021. "Historical Political Cleavages and Post-Crisis Transformations in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, 1953-2020," World Inequality Lab Working Papers halshs-03131155, HAL.
    5. Amory Gethin, 2021. "Political Cleavages, Class Structures, and the Politics of Old and New Minorities in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, 1963-2019," Working Papers halshs-03142214, HAL.
    6. Carmen Durrer de La Sota & Amory Gethin, 2021. "Inequality, Identity, and the Structure of Political Cleavages in South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, 1996-2016," PSE Working Papers halshs-03165716, HAL.
    7. Aldrich, Daniel P. & Kage, Rieko, 2011. "Japanese Liberal Democratic Party Support and the Gender Gap: A New Approach," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(4), pages 713-733, October.
    8. Sebastien Lechevalier, 2014. "The great transformation of Japanese capitalism," Post-Print hal-03122741, HAL.
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    1. Amory Gethin, 2021. "Political Cleavages, Class Structures, and the Politics of Old and New Minorities in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, 1963-2019," Working Papers halshs-03142214, HAL.

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