3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan

Overview

On March 11, 2011, Japan was struck by the shockwaves of a 9.0 magnitude undersea earthquake originating less than 50 miles off its eastern coastline. The most powerful earthquake to have hit Japan in recorded history, it produced a devastating tsunami with waves reaching heights of over 130 feet that in turn caused an unprecedented multireactor meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This triple catastrophe claimed almost 20,000 lives, destroyed whole towns, and will ultimately cost hundreds of ...

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3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan

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Overview

On March 11, 2011, Japan was struck by the shockwaves of a 9.0 magnitude undersea earthquake originating less than 50 miles off its eastern coastline. The most powerful earthquake to have hit Japan in recorded history, it produced a devastating tsunami with waves reaching heights of over 130 feet that in turn caused an unprecedented multireactor meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This triple catastrophe claimed almost 20,000 lives, destroyed whole towns, and will ultimately cost hundreds of billions of dollars for reconstruction.

In 3.11, Richard Samuels offers the first broad scholarly assessment of the disaster's impact on Japan's government and society. The events of March 2011 occurred after two decades of social and economic malaise—as well as considerable political and administrative dysfunction at both the national and local levels—and resulted in national soul-searching. Political reformers saw in the tragedy cause for hope: an opportunity for Japan to remake itself. Samuels explores Japan’s post-earthquake actions in three key sectors: national security, energy policy, and local governance. For some reformers, 3.11 was a warning for Japan to overhaul its priorities and political processes. For others, it was a once-in-a-millennium event; they cautioned that while national policy could be improved, dramatic changes would be counterproductive. Still others declared that the catastrophe demonstrated the need to return to an idealized past and rebuild what has been lost to modernity and globalization.

Samuels chronicles the battles among these perspectives and analyzes various attempts to mobilize popular support by political entrepreneurs who repeatedly invoked three powerfully affective themes: leadership, community, and vulnerability. Assessing reformers’ successes and failures as they used the catastrophe to push their particular agendas—and by examining the earthquake and its aftermath alongside prior disasters in Japan, China, and the United States—Samuels outlines Japan’s rhetoric of crisis and shows how it has come to define post-3.11 politics and public policy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In 3.11, Richard J. Samuels updates and examines the impact the 11 March 2011 tsunami disaster at three policy levels of national security, energy, and local governance. Through extensive field visits, interviews, and documentation, Samuels highlights appreciation for the Self-defence Forces, the relevance of the Japan-US Security Treaty, serious questions about reliance on nuclear energy, and scrutiny of existing governance structures. Of particular relevance is the installation of the independent public investigatory commission, the Kurokawa Committee in the Diet, to examine and strengthen forthcoming administrative mechanisms. The readers are left with the question: The catastrophe has opened many doors for change. Will Japan follow?"—Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (1991-2001) and President, Japan International Cooperation Agency (2003-2012)

"Richard J. Samuels has written an absolutely first-rate analysis of Japan's effort to grapple with adjustments in three policy areas—national security, energy, and local governance—in the wake of the Great Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. It reveals surprising elements of change in some areas, and resistance to change in others, and will be of great interest to both Japan specialists and policymakers in the United States and elsewhere."—Mike Armacost, Distinguished Fellow, Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center, Stanford University, author of Friends or Rivals?

Library Journal
Samuels (political science, MIT; Securing Japan: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia) draws on a lifetime of experience researching Japan's politics and local government, military and energy policy, and political leadership and economy to craft a definitive political account of the country's response to the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accidents of March 11, 2011. In a narrative organized around the themes of vulnerability, leadership, community, and change, Samuels emphasizes how institutions of Japanese government and society shaped the disaster response. He shows how political actors seized these natural and manmade disasters as opportunities to reverse Japan's extended economic decline. The book includes historical background on Japan's response to earlier earthquakes and in-depth examinations of national security, energy policy, and local government. In contrast to Gerard K. Sutton and Joseph A. Cassalli's Catastrophe in Japan: The Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011, which takes an economic perspective on the impacts of the events on Japan's international trade, this book turns its focus inward toward Japan's political response at all levels of government. VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in Asian studies, comparative politics, and disaster response.—Jennifer M. Miller, Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801452000
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 4/2/2013
  • Pages: 274
  • Sales rank: 641,455
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard J. Samuels is Ford International Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Table of Contents

Preface

1. The Status Quo Ante and 3.11

2. Never Waste a Good Crisis

3. Historical and Comparative Guidance

4. Dueling Security Narratives

5. Debating Energy Policy

6. Repurposing Local Government

Conclusion

Notes
References
Index

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