Journal article written by 2003 Abe Fellow Koichi Hasegawa, Chika Shinohara, and 2005 Abe Fellow Jeffrey Broadbent, based on Hasegawa and Broadbent’s projects “Green Energy Politics and Civil Society: Sociological Analysis of Strategies and Effects of Environmental NGOs on Macro, Meso and Micro Level in Japan, the U.S. and the Netherlands” and “Reciprocity and Negotiation on Diffuse Risks: Climate-Change Policy Networks in Japan, the United States, Germany and Austria,” respectively.
This paper proposes a theoretical explanation for the impact of ‘social expectation’ on the growth of civil society in Japan. Why has civil society developed as it has in Japan? Contrary to the image of Japan as a ‘strong and controlling’ nation-state, we find that private citizens—the non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders, scholars on community planning, and younger liberal politicians—set the conditions towards the growth of civil society, responding to global influences during the 1990s. We argue that the successful implementation of ‘social expectation’ played a central role for creating a social flow towards non-profit organizational activities and for the passage of the Non-Profit Organization Law (NPO Law) in Japan. Social expectation is an internalized social norm for individuals and organizations, thus for society as a whole, about what people should do. It operates on two different levels—first on particular elite groups and then on the general public—driving the dramatic growth of associational activities in Japan. It is a general societal climate where people’s imagined reference groups or communities affect their behaviours. ‘Social expectation’ is a future vision leading Japan towards a citizen-based society through dynamic collaborations among activists, NPOs, and media. We suggest in incorporating a ‘social expectation’ perspective in the study Japanese civil society development.