Japan, of all places, has long had a clear mainstream consensus on many issues, as reflected in the dominance of just one political party for most of the post-War period. But opinions seem to be becoming increasingly polarised – or is it just that new forms of communication make it easier for different voices to be heard? Following on from large-scale anti-nuclear demonstrations after the Fukushima accident, Japan’s polity was rocked in 2015 by violent disagreements over Prime Minister Abe’s plans to reinterpret the Constitution to allow collective defence.
The UK has more of a tradition of divided camps, but the contrast between the avowedly socialist Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the old Etonian Prime Minister David Cameron certainly suggests that the period of Tony Blair’s “third way” is behind us. The gap between rich and poor continues to widen, as perhaps does the gap in outlook between older generations and the “digital natives” who have grown up with the internet and social media.
Our seminar series this year considers why polarisation is occurring, and how to find a balance when it does.