In light of events at the Daiichi nuclear plant, this article discusses the origins of nuclear power in Japan. These origins lie in a confluence of forces: strategic, economic, and cultural. Drawing inspiration from the work of Antonio Gramsci, the article considers the operation of these forces through a historical lens, with an emphasis on Japan's transition from feudalism to capitalism; the emergence of imperialism and ultranationalism; the postsurrender occupation of Japan by the United States; and the post-Occupation debate over nuclear power. Gramscian analysis highlights key roles of both the state and civil society in the promotion of science and technology as a tool of economic growth and as a symbol of national autonomy. The article suggests that, despite the Fukushima tragedy, Japan will continue to develop its nuclear industry for many years to come. This is the case not only because of ongoing strategic concerns and the power of the “nuclear village” but also because the ideology of techno-nationalism is deeply ingrained within and throughout Japanese society.
Ideology, Society, and the Origins of Nuclear Power in Japan
Dominic Kelly is associate professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, UK. He is the author of Japan and the Reconstruction of East Asia (2002), coeditor (with Wyn Grant) of Trade Politics in the Twenty-First Century (2005), and coeditor (with Gavin Kelly and Andrew Gamble) of Stakeholder Capitalism (1997). He is currently researching in the areas of trade politics and the political economy of nuclear power.