试论日本近代自由民权运动的历史意义——兼论公民意识的形塑/Historical significance of the Japanese movement of
Political democratization developed very fast in Japan after the Second World War. During the period of occupation by the US between 1945 and 1953, Japan was forced to adopt democratic reform and became a democratic country in a short period. After the Occupation Period, Japan established and improved a series of political institutions including the parliamentary-cabinet system, the election system, and the local autonomy system. Further, Japan launched reform in its educational systems with a focus to promote liberalism and individualism. The educational reform instilled the idea that citizens should actively develop and maintain peaceful and democratic social life. It successfully cultivated the awareness of citizen participation, guaranteed the continuous evolution of civic awareness toward maturation, and induced behavioral patterns up to modern democratic politics.
Yet it is hard to deny that the formation and transformation of ideas and perception deeply embedded in human’s mind is a very difficult and slow process. Accordingly, the perceptions that demonstrate a nation’s identity can not be kept or abandoned at discretion. Neither can they change abruptly like political or economic reforms. There must be a incremental process that cumulates quantitative changes before a qualitative change can happen. Although the establishment of formal democratic institutions and life in the Post-War period was a necessary precondition for the civic awareness to maturate, the formation and evolution of civic awareness has to be a continuous process that maintains a nation’s identity, adapts to the sea changes of the times, and serves the modernization process of a country. Therefore, to understand the development and maturation of civic awareness in Post-War Japan, it is a must to explore its historical base and evolutionary path.
This paper argues that the success of Post-War Japan in promoting civic awareness was exactly based on a slow but continuous process of civic awareness formation since the Meiji Restoration. The Movement of Freedom and Civil Rights started in 1874 was the first political democratic movement in modern Japan, during which civic awareness in Japan emerged. Such civic awareness absorbed the pith of Japanese culture and, empowered by the rising democratism, broke through barrier of statism. It continued to be practiced and improved in Taisho Democracy Movement and managed to consolidate its virtues gained in its early developing stage. Such historical development in civic awareness, plus the formation of some preliminary democratic institutions like party politics and parliamentary system before the Second World War, was crucial for its comprehensive development in the Post-War period. In the unceasing competition and compromise between democratism and statism, the interaction between institutional and noninstitutional factors pushed forward the formation and maturation of civic awareness.