Popular Democracy in Japan examines a puzzle in
Japanese politics: Why do Japanese women turn out to vote at rates
higher than men? On the basis of in-depth fieldwork in various
parts of the country, Sherry L. Martin argues that the exclusion of
women from a full range of opportunities in public life provokes
many of them to seek alternative outlets for self-expression. They
have options that include a wide variety of study, hobby, and
lifelong learning groups-a feature of Japanese civic life that the
Ministry of Education encourages.
Women who participate in these alternative spaces for learning
tend, Martin finds, to examine the political conditions that have
pushed them there. Her research suggests that study group
participation increases women's confidence in using various types
of political participation (including voting) to pressure political
elites for a more inclusive form of democracy. Considerable overlap
between the narratives that emerge from women's groups and a survey
of national public opinion identifies these groups as crucial sites
for crafting and circulating public discourses about politics.
Martin shows how the interplay between public opinion and
institutional change has given rise to bottom-up changes in
electoral politics that culminated in the 2009 Democratic Party of
Japan victory in the House of Representatives election.
Subjects: Political Science
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