April 16, 2011
Executive Board of the Japan Society of Political Economy (JSPE)
We express our deep condolences to the victims of the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake and the giant tsunami it triggered. We sympathize with those in the disaster area who are still in distress and appreciate the efforts of those engaged in the disaster response, relief, and recovery in that area. Further, we express our deep concern over the ongoing accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station, its spreading radioactive contamination, and the flaws in the present system of nuclear power plants that the accident has revealed.
Even though the scale of the earthquake was well beyond anything anticipated, we as social scientists cannot set our judgment aside by saying that this was an "unprecedented natural disaster." Concerning the temblor alone, a series of questions promptly emerges: Was sufficient forecasting, warning and prevention provided? Wasn't a more effective relief system that would have avoided the loss of information at the early stage possible? What was the reason for the vulnerability of the lifeline revealed by this disaster? Has an appropriate system of aid and recovery been established? What form should the economic support for relief, maintenance and recovery take? As for the accident at the nuclear power plant in particular, we cannot avoid asking whether the system and policies that have promoted the use of nuclear energy thus far lie behind the occurrence of the disaster and the apparent delay and helplessness in efforts to combat it. Nuclear energy policy in Japan has been promoted by a closed circle of the government and the so-called "atomic lobby" of politicians, agents of the atomic energy industry including certain scientists and journalists. Along with the measures taken for disaster prevention and response, the system of policy formation as well should be placed under comprehensive and critical examination. Further, we need plans for the maintenance of industry and daily life under the current condition of electric power shortage, for recovery and its concomitant economic burdens, as well as the future renovation of our industrial economy and finances.
As the Japanese term for economy, or keizai, was derived from a classic term for "managing society and salvaging the life of the people" (keisei saimin), political economy as a discipline is concerned with relieving society and the lives of each of its members from distress and restoring their stability. Political economy as a social science emerged when this task shifted from being one of the arts of rule to a constituent of the self-knowledge of civil society. We believe that all of the researchers who together make up JSPE are in accord in seeking to deal with this disaster from the viewpoint of social scientists, and to consider the problems associated with this disaster as significant challenges for the development of the theory of political economy.
Today's meeting of the executive board of our Society decided to devote a special plenary session to the problems raised by this disaster on the second morning of our general assembly, which is to be held on September 17 and 18 at the Ikebukuro campus of the Rikkyo University, Tokyo. The board named Yasuo Goto (Fukushima Univ.), Koji Morioka (Kansai Univ.), and Kiichiro Yagi (Setsunan Univ.) as its organizers. In the proposed plenary session we pan to discuss the problems jointly based on all the comments and proposals that are directed to the organizers of this session. We hope that this discussion will be a step toward the realization of new concept in the activities of JSPE. We therefore welcome all opinions presented in the spirit of social science, from members as well as non-members, for this special plenary session.