International Symposium: Crisis of Democracy? Chances, Risks, and Challenges - A comparison between Japan (Asia) and Germany (Europe)


  Conference coverage


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Organization: apl. Prof. Dr. Carmen Schmidt (

Thursday 15 March 2018 - Saturday 17 March 2018

Venue: Schlossaula, University of Osnabrueck


"Is democracy in crisis?" By formulating this question, Joji Watanuki, Samuel P. Huntington, and Michel Crozier started their legendary report on the governability of democracies to the Trilateral Commission meetings in Kyoto, Japan, in May 1975. In this report, they provided a predominately optimistic prognosis of democracies' viability in the West and Japan. Some forty years later, however, this question is being posed with increasing urgency. Besides severe economic and fiscal crises in Japan and Germany, we witness a visible loss of trust in political, economic, religious and other institutions.

This interdisciplinary symposium was intended to shed light on the future of our democracies, our economies, our educational systems, on party politics, national policies, social-structural changes as well as socialization in the family and school, and related value changes, stimulating citizen protest, new social movements, the foundation of new parties and new processes of integration and disintegration in the search for a “good life”, a “good society”, and a trustworthy, legitimate democracy. Since the future of democracy is closely related to the process of political globalization, we were also interested in new forms of supranational political organization and regional integration. The conference was also intended to shed light on the implicit and explicit objectives of the actors on the various levels, namely the macro, micro and individual level within this process of change. Since the future of democracy is closely related to the process of political globalization, the conference focussed on new forms of supranational political organization and regional integration.

The main diagnosis was, that crisis of democracy can be seen as a crisis that occurs during the transition from modernity to the second or digital modernity. Thus it can be considered as a crisis of adoption of social change. The outcome of the conference will be published in 2019.

The symposium itself was divided into two main parts: The welcome addresses and the keynote speeches, which were open to the public, and the main part for participants and interested individuals. The symposium started with a public evening event and three keynote speakers. Professor YAZAWA Shûjirô (Seijô University, Tokyo) contributed to the general topic on the crisis of democracy due to the challenges of globalization and new tendencies of nationalism as a result of social and migration crisis from a Japanese point of view. Professor SHIN Kwang-Yeong (Chung-Ang University, Seoul) delivered a historical insight into the development of civil society in the East Asian country entitled "The rocky road of democracy and the civil society in South Korea". Professor Gian-Vittorio CAPRARA (University of Rome) contributed a normative perspective on "Democracy as a moral enterprise".

The next two days were divided into ten panels. Panel one started with a psychological perspective on democracy. Professor KOBAYASHI Makoto (Tamagawa University, Machida, Tôkyô) gave a lecture on the preconditions for the formation of global citizenship identities which require a further merging of the global countries. He especially focused on “Developmental conditions for the formation of global citizenship identity - Psychological implications for global citizenship education of UNESCO”. Professor TAKAHASHI Nobuyuki (Hokkaidô University, Japan), who analyzed democracy on basis of a behavioral studies’ approach, continued with a presentation entitled "Voting with their feet provides mutual cooperation”. Professor Bernhard MANN (University of Koblenz-Landau) concluded the first panel by a comparative study on the "Developments of public health in Germany and Japan”.

Panel two was addressing the relationship between autonomy, legitimacy, and democracy. Professor YAMAI Toshiaki (Ritsumeikan University, Kyôto) started the panel by giving an insight into regional policies in Germany since the 1990s regarding “Metropolitan regions and municipal autonomy: regional policy in Germany since the 1990s”. Dr. Momoyo HÜSTEBECK (University of Duisburg-Essen) shed light on representative democracy and its innovating processes by means of participatory democracy in order to show differences to Western democracies (“Innovating Japanese representative democracy by means of participatory democracy”). Professor NAMBA Takashi (Ôsaka University of Economics) closed the second panel with a comparative study on “The consensus building process concerning the renewal and reconstruction of the closed military base sites in Germany and Japan”.

The next panels' topic was the relationship between political representation, the political system, and democracy. Professor MORI Mototaka (Waseda University, Tôkyô) focused on traditional values and structures in Japan ("Constitutional ordering and everyday life in Japan: Reconsidering on a consequence of rationalized traditionalism”). The programme schedule was continued by Professor SATÔ Haruko (Osaka University), who related Japanese values to “Political legitimacy in Japan”.

Panel four was a jurisprudential perspective on the legal aspects of democracy. Professor Heinrich MENKHAUS (Meiji University) gave an overview of the “Legal Framework of Democracy in Japan”. Professor KIMURA Masato (Takachiho University) analyzed the recently established system of lay judges (“Lay Judge, common sense and cruel punishment”). The panel was concluded with a study on constitutional reform and the divided society ("A text-mining analysis of Japanese newspapers") by Professor ABE Yuki (Kumamoto University).

"Democracy and well being" was the title of the fifth panel, which included contributions by Professor UCHIDA Yukiko (Kyôto University), Professor NISHIJIMA Yoshinori (Kanazawa University) and Professor Carmen SCHMIDT (Osnabrueck University). Professor UCHIDA was lecturing on "Happiness in communities. The function of social capital and autonomy”, referring to the role of social capital and autonomy for democracy. Professor NISHIJIMA focused on the generational conflict ("Young people are getting more polite: change in use of evaluation concepts of communicative behavior in Japanese and German") whereas Professor SCHMIDT talked about "Modernization, values, and democracy in East Asia".

The next interdisciplinary panel combined different cultural and economic perspectives with regard to public policies. The start was made with the descriptive presentation about "Public finance in Japan: how could it be reasonably explained " by Professor HIRASHIMA Kenji (University of Tôkyô). Professor Raymond YAMAMOTO (Aarhus University, Denmark) analyzed “Japan’s new ODA strategy" as a tendency back to an approach of mercantilism. The panel was concluded by a comparative study about “Educational system in Japan and Germany: Changes and continuity” by Professor Hans-Joachim KORNADT (Saarland University, represented by Professor Trommsdorff).

The subsequent panel "Democracy, economy and political thought" was supposed to show the conflictual relation of economic and social policies. Professor MORIKAWA Takemitsu (University of Duisburg-Essen) commented on the contemporary crisis of democracy in Japan by considering the social systems theory (On the contemporary crisis of democracy in Japan: Some comments from the perspective of the social systems theory”). Professor Matthias PILZ (University of Cologne) and Dr. Peter Joerg ALEXANDER, former Director of the German School of Tôkyô-Yokohama, spoke on “The transition from school to work in times of economic and social instability in Japan”.

On Saturday the Symposium was closed by three more panels. Panel eight focused on the relationship between global democracy, values, and economy showing the chances of multi-level governance and socio-cultural changes. Dr. Wolfgang PAPE (Bruxelles) advocated for more international interdependency of international political institutions ("From simple quantity up to wider quality in multi-level governance"). Professor Gisela TROMMSDORFF (University of Konstanz) was referring to a “Successful adaptation to socio-cultural change”. Professor Claudia DERICHS (Marburg University) focused on the impact of the liberation movement in the Sixties on a global scale in particular (“Democracy, Liberation and the 'Global Sixties’”).

The ninth panel on minorities and integration dealt with the North-South migration pressure on Western countries with regard to the welfare state. Dr. Paul G. SCHMITZ (University of Bonn) referred to “Individual Differences in Acculturation Strategies" due to the pressure of migration to the North ("A strain or a challenge for Immigrants in Modern Societies”). Dr. Laura FROEHLICH (University of Hagen) talked about “Integrating immigrants and refugees into German society”, taking into account majority and minority perspectives. Dr. MINAMI Yuichirô (Kansai University) concluded the panel with a "Genealogy of arguments on the independence of Okinawa and its feasibility”.

The final panel analyzed the correlation between democracy, ecological aspects, and animal rights. Professor Rafael VÁZQUEZ-GARCÍA (University of Granada) talked about "Democracy beyond human borders" giving an insight into the challenges of the Spanish Animalist Party Against Animal Abuse (PACMA). Professor TOKUYASU Akira (Hôsei University, Tôkyô) focused on difficulties in democratic decision making in awareness of risky ecological problems ("How can we make the democratic decision about risky ecological problems?”). The panel was concluded by Dr. Elisabeth MUSCH (Osnabrueck University), who analyzed the “Climate change policy in the Netherlands” a country that is famous for a complex consensus model.

The participants appreciated the excellent organisation of the conference, the pleasant atmosphere and the numerous networking opportunities for informal discussions and continuation of discussions on the presentations.

In view of the far-reaching consequences of digitization for the development of contemporary societies, the GJSSS decided to turn attention to the socio-cultural implications of digitization. An international symposium on this topic is planned as part of the organization's 30th-anniversary celebrations in summer 2019 in Hamburg.