The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has ruled Japan for nearly the entirety of its postwar history. After a short period of opposition control (2009-2012), the LDP has spent the past eight years reestablishing the dominant-party system through which it has monopolized Japanese politics since the 1950s. This article contends that the LDP’s resilience is bolstered by two important aspects of Japanese civil society: the bureaucracy’s insulation from democratic accountability, and a growing public trend of disengagement with the political process. I explain both of these tendencies through the theoretical lens of depoliticization. Flinders and Wood identify “depoliticization” as a shift away from robust democratic debate over policy issues and the removal of explicitly political actors (e.g. elected officials, voters) from the governing process, manifested both in government (“governmental depoliticization”) and civil society (“societal depoliticization”). Applying this concept to Japan, we can see that the depoliticization of governance prevented the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) from fulfilling key campaign pledges, therefore contributing to voter disillusionment and lowered turnout in the 2012 election. This trend has in turn greatly exacerbated the crisis of societal depoliticization in Japan, already a problem due to generations of depoliticizing influence from the media and educational system. Societal depoliticization has enabled the LDP to reap incumbency advantages associated with low voter turnout and diminished political activism. Ultimately, this entire process illustrates Flinders and Wood’s argument that governmental and societal depoliticization are “interdependent” forces that mutually reinforce each other.



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