Democratic and Authoritarian Potential – Japanese Neighborhood Associations from the Perspective of Historical Institutionalism
Japan’s neighborhood associations (NHA) have been the subject of polemics for years. These disputes concern both their autonomy in relation to public administration and voluntary membership, and thus their civic nature, as well as the period and genesis of the formation. This article analyzes the debate on the subject, tracing the transformation and metamorphosis of neighborhood associations from the perspective of historical institutionalism. The article consists of four parts, the first one briefly discusses the concepts of historical institutionalism as well as the main assumptions and definitions adopted in this article, the second presents the profile of contemporary neighborhood associations in terms of structure, financing, and activities; the third sketches a historical development, and the fourth examines the factors for the rebirth of associations after the end of the war in Asia and the Pacific in 1945. The main argument of the article is twofold. First, the constitutive principles of neighborhood associations changed under the influence of the dominant political regime, and in the post-war transformation process the change has been occurring gradually and incrementally, primarily under the influence of generational change and other systemic and environmental factors; secondly, neighborhood associations developed after the war as a result of path dependence and the effect of self-reinforcement, i.e. the positive experiences of residents with the functioning of these organizations in previous periods as a tool to solve community problems and meet specific needs.