Japan as "post-growth" paradigm? Assessing representations of urban and rural experimentations in social sustainability
(University of Leeds)
Paper short abstract:
Via a review of recent "post-growth" discussions and curatorial work in art and architecture, the paper assesses the significance of academic and aesthetic representations of urban and regional social movements in Japan, as a potential forerunner of global trends and source of new politics.
Paper long abstract:
There is a growing recognition of urban and regional development in Japan in terms of "post-" or "de-growth" and social sustainability. These observations echo a homegrown production of philosophers and sociologists drawing political inspiration out of quite marginal rural and urban social/cultural movements, as well as the self-representations of avant garde urbanism and critical regionalism: for example, as seen at successive recent Japanese pavilions at the Venice Biennale in art and architecture (e.g, the work of Koki Tanaka, Kyohei Sakaguchi, Atelier Bow Wow and followers, and the youth share house phenomena, such as the Tokyo collective art project Shibuhouse; see, especially, Fumihiko Sumitomo's recent exhibition, Living Locally: Reconsidering Critical Regionalism). Via a review of recent "post-" and "de-growth" (and "post-disaster") discussions, as well as selected examples of curatorial work in art and architecture, the paper assesses the significance of these academic and aesthetic representations of Japanese society as a potential forerunner of global trends and source of new politics. In these discussions, observers often emphasise the uniqueness of the country as a case. This can be variously grounded in reference to particular cultural resources said to be latent in Japanese collectivism; to Japan's special relation to nature; to its relative insulation from post-industrial immigration trends; or to its particularly "post-political" form of liberal democracy—to cite four familiar (and, more or less, dubious) utopian tropes. However stylised, though, elements of these explanations need to be considered: beginning the task of discussing the adaptation of concepts and the comparative backdrop of data (on economic performance, demography, political behaviour, values, etc) needed to avoid methodological nationalism, and adequately situate Japan as a case or (even) paradigm of "post-growth" society. The paper presents work developed in collaboration with the architect and urbanist, Julian Worrall. A forthcoming book looks at distinctive experimental movements in contemporary art and architecture in the "post-growth" (i.e. post 1990) era, in the context of global debates on political ecology (questions of social and environmental sustainability beyond growth) and political demography (questions of population change, containment and growth/decline beyond taken-for-granted nation-state units).
Conceptualising speed and deceleration