Document Type


Publication Date

October 2010

Journal or Book Title







How does an undemocratic country create democratic institutions and transform its polity in such a way that democratic values and practices become integral parts of its political culture? This article uses the case of Japan to advocate for a new theoretical approach to the study of democratization. In particular, it examines how theoretical models based on the European and North American experiences have difficulty explaining the process of democratization in Japan, and argues that a state-in-society approach is better suited to explaining the democratization process diverse cultural contexts. Taking a bottom-up view of recent developments in Japanese civil society through the close examination of two cases—one traditional organization dating from the pre-war era (neighbourhood associations) and one new-style group formed in 2000 (Association of New Elder Citizens)—this article illustrates how Japanese citizens have democratized their political culture at the grassroots. The state-in-society approach to democratization is particularly useful for the study of democratization processes in non-Western countries where the development of democracy requires not only the modification of a traditional political culture but also the development of new, indigenous, democratic ideas and practices.