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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession II: Technology generation and transfer - Transformation alternatives
close this folderScience and technology in Japanese history: university and society
close this folderKonji Kawano
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentI. Japan before the second world war
View the documentII. The change after the second world war
View the documentIII. The significance of ''the age of local communities''

III. The significance of ''the age of local communities''

In spring 1979, the local elections for governors and mayors were held in fifteen prefectures and hundreds of cities and towns around Japan. At this time, all the political parties and the mass media advocated the slogan: "Here comes The Age of Local Communities." What did this vague slogan mean? The result of the election at least showed that all the former governors of large prefectures such as Tokyo and Osaka who had stood for a progressive opposition party were replaced by veteran administrators in charge of local problems in the central government. For citizens, "The Age of Local Communities" simply means that a local governor who has a strong connection with the central government will be able to draw out more from the central funds for his local community.

Therefore, the regionalism implied in the slogan "The Age of Local Communities" is not sufficient to satisfy the real needs of the regional community. It will not bring a radical change in the relation between the central government and regional communities, nor will it foreshadow the coming of a new age. It will guarantee neither the autonomy of the local community nor its inherent creativity. After a hundred years of centralization, the identity and independence of the local community suffer from severe damage in Japan. Therefore, people should claim more ostentatiously their right to a "regional community". Otherwise, "The Age of Local Communities" will end up as nothing but another deceptive slogan.

Nevertheless, it is noticeable that the government, economic circles, and even the mass media are at the moment continually paying lip service to the issues of the "regional community." Prime Minister Ohira conceived a plan of building a number of local cities with populations of 300,000 in many places throughout Japan. He called it the "Garden-City Concept." Also, the Agency for Land Development advocated the building up of ''Regions of Permanent Residence". The Agency for Local Institutions has another plan to transfer the administration of traffic and welfare to the local governments in the cause of decentralization. There are many more examples of local community projects advanced as joint ventures of a regional government and groups of local businessmen.

What effect have these changes had on the present situation of science and technology? It is well known that the introduction of huge industrial units in the American style brought about the economic development of post-war Japan. But it is also well known that the elaborate conglomerates cannot evolve any further, partly because of the lack of new markets and partly because of environmental pollution and inevitable accidents, but chiefly because of the shortage of resources and the new energy crisis. The technology needed at this moment is not that of the huge industrial conglomerates on a national scale and the know-how to operate them, but the development of "intermediate technology!' or "small decentralized technology" which actually meets the needs of the local community and is under the control of the members of the community. There is also a need to reevaluate the techniques for manufacture and livelihood which have been fostered and handed down in traditional communities. From these points of view, a radical change in the philosophy of science has been under way for the relocation of the regions of human life along the water supply routes and the reorientation of human society as an ecological entity. As for the energy crisis, an "Autonomic Energy Plan" will be recommended to each regional community to replace the current energy-consuming technology and way of life.

I am afraid, however, that an extreme "anti-technology" posture could easily lead to a total denial of the value of science and technology, as could the simple slogan "'Return to Nature" after the fashion of J. J. Rousseau. Japan has been so deeply committed to science and technology that it is inconceivable that she should ever give up her large-scale research projects for science and technology, or cast away her elaborate industrial investments.

'What we can hope for in Japan's future is not a vainglorious centralized government, but a productive administrative system which honors the initiative and identity of local or regional communities; not a huge conglomerate for science and technology, but a small-scale flexible system of technology; not devotion only to an analytical and rational science, but encouragement of wide varieties of study in the humanities and social sciences. I think that present-day Japan is already at such an advanced stage of culture and civilization.