Japanese political entrepreneurs have used the March 2011 catastrophe in Tohoku (3.11) to nudge national policy in the direction of their own choosing. For some, 3.11 was a warning for Japan to “put it in gear’’ and head off on a new path. For others, the catastrophe was a once in a millennium “black swan,” so Japan should “stay the course.’’ Still others declared that 3.11 taught that Japan must return to an idealized past and rebuild what was lost to modernity and globalization. Battles among these perspectives on change-- and contested appeals to leadership, community, and risk-- defined post-3.11 politics and public policy in Japan, particularly in the areas of national security, energy policy, and local governance.
Richard J. Samuels is Ford International Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for International Studies. He is also the Founding Director of the MIT Japan Program. Cornell University Press has just published his book about the political and economic effects of Japan’s March 2011 catastrophes: 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan. Dr. Samuels’ previous book, Securing Japan: Tokyo’s Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia, was named one of the five finalists for the 2008 Lionel Gelber Prize for the best book in international affairs. In 2005 he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2011 he received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, an Imperial decoration awarded by the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Prime Minister.
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