Today, there are only a few countries Politics work well. Without exception, in Japan, it doesn’t work at all too. People are frustrated and angry. The New York Times (2008) wrote that “The resignations of both Mr. Fukuda and Mr. Abe, who led short-lived, unpopular governments, have highlighted the lack of stability here since the popular Junichiro Koizumi stepped down two years ago“. The repeated replacement of prime ministers makes political deliberations for critical issues such as environmental issues and low birthrate problems difficult to step forward. Also conflict without collaboration among two biggest parties -The Democratic Party and The Liberal Democratic Party- never end. Distrust in politics by longtime political uncertainty and corruption are building up among citizens. According to the survey of The Yomiuri Shinbun and Waseda University (2008), more than 78% of people who was surveyed responded “dissatisfaction” toward each of the two biggest parties. People are still unaware of how does politics work well. Why don’t politics meet our need? Why aren’t people satisfied with politics? Michael K. Briand (1999) discusses the reasons in his book, “Practical Politics Five Principles for a Community That Work”. In the book, I will analyze his critiques that explain how consumerist politics, and the service, protest, and communitarian alternatives negatively affect to politics. I agree with these critiques.
The first reason Briand raises is “consumerist politics”. “Consumerist politics” contains the meaning of a market-like relationship between buyer and supplier. Fellow citizens seek to obtain political goods produced by the government as if consumers buy products produced by sellers in the market. Politics are not Economics. Why does it happen? The cause is often on the citizens’ side. People tend to lack such a notion that they are also participate in the produce process with their government. This notion must be a basic democratic principle. Because of lack of responsibility they take, they don’t try to invent their own idea of what produce or how to produce. They believe, as if it were common sense, such a notion that they should not change the situation they are facing, by themselves, in politics even if it is causing harmful effect on them. This false sense makes politics get paralyzed to work.
Briand clearly points out four faulty points of consumerist politics. The first point is that people can lose the vote on the following three ways. First of all, they are possible to be a loser forever by “majority rule” that this politics rely on. Also, in the case that there are not enough votes to win in either sides, both of them can lose together. In this case, someone or all of them might be forced to compromise. Furthermore, as long as citizens rely not on choosing a collective decision by themselves but on making decision in the political market, an outcome that no one hopes may be produced frequently.
Second, a market-like competition of private interests among people undermines people’s efforts. In this case, people tend to rely on “power plays” to just concentrate on gathering of people. Such power players never pursuit of the common good so that there are often no alternatives to be raised among them. As a result, not only deliberations are not step forward but people break up each other more seriously.
Third, people who follow the campaign of “just say no” are rather harmful to reach the public decision making on the common ground. Their negative responses such as “power to block” or “NIMBY” not only never produce any solutions but also often ruin a relationship with public officials to work together.
Forth, people in the consumerist politics lack a basic notion for democratic politics that they are responsible for overcoming competitive conflicts among people’s interests. They tend to be confused that decisions should be made by elected officials. Therefore, each of them just pressure on the elected officials to realize the plan they support. As a result, public officials often go into a political dilemma because they are easily influenced by such lobbyists.
Service, Protest and Communitarian Alternatives
Also Briand points out “service”, “protest”, and “communitarian alternatives” as the cause by which politics don’t work.
“Service” is, in this case, a kind of outputs from public organizations. What is the problem of the service? Today, there are many voluntary organizations to provide various kinds of service to citizens. Each of services is classified narrowly by case. They are well professionalized like a service provider in a market. Being formed market-like relationship between a “client” and “provider”, such voluntary organizations attempt to professionalize our social reactions. Their service would be cultivated in the arena of expertise for people. It’s not care that should be practiced in public. That is a proof that nonprofit voluntary organizations have already lost their public character. They try to one-sidedly offer such a service, which often does not reach to people as a care that must be public welfare. In most cases, they make no efforts to obtain consent with citizens, but attempts to control them. In a real sense, this problem is rooted in public. That is, us. We must take responsibility themselves to address their public concerns both individually and collectively.
“Protest” means those who just protest to protect their rights without following any political procedures. When we discuss this kind of issue, we would need to consider carefully the question that “How is power being used, by whom, and against whom?”, which Briand described as “the central questions for politics”. Generally, the public has the power against the public in a way to deliberate, judge and choose individually and collectively among interests that conflict inevitably. That is, going through such a political measure must be an absolute requirement. However, protesters who are in the public never participate in any negotiation in public. Protesting is often the only strategy for them to realize their objectives. Briand (1999) gives warning toward protesters saying “we should be alert to the danger of making the protest approach our strategy of first resort or making it our only strategy” (P.53). They tend to assume they know what can be done in advance and reality of inequality encourage them to resort to a reckless measure. Such an abused power also enables democracy to fall into crisis.
“Communitarian” is a person who is belonging to a certain community but is unaware of responsibility as central player in the community. The character of this type are not to ignore the integral part of political act through the process of judging and choosing while goods among people conflict. Therefore, it is seemingly the way Briand pursuits. However, still, the defect is hidden in this type of approach. To demonstrate it, we need consider “how communitarians deal with essential task of politics” (P.56) Briand (1999) indicates. Communitarians establish a community and attempt to seat on the politics as the community. So such a community can be an influential entity. However, switching gear to inside of the community, the problem is appeared in sight. They often utilize tools such as polls and elections intentionally to define and build up the common good. That is because it’s fast and snappy to meet an objective that is made by a portion of members in a community in advance. Briand (1999) defines “Good democratic politics” as “the result -the “reflection”- of this commitment” (P.55). It turns out that the communitarian approach is definitely against his theory.
I agree with the Brian’s critiques of consumerist politics, and the service, protest, and communitarian alternatives. As long as the market principle works, politics is not “the public”, but “a private”. I will explain the reasons assuming that “a guesthouse” is the private and “a collective house”.
The guesthouse is a house which easily enables people to enjoy a shared lifestyle at a reasonable cost. On the other hand, the collective house is to create a shared lifestyle that the residents need collectively by themselves. Both the two aims an affordable shared lifestyle with others as a community to obtain a wealth of human relationships. However, there are some significant differences between the two. To define the differences, we would learn who operate each of them. A guesthouse is often operated by “a business corporation”. On the other hand, a collective house is usually managed by “a non-profit organization”.
Today, in Japan, the guesthouse is very popular and a number of beds of the guesthouses is increasing sharply. According to the white paper published by Hitsuji Fudosan (2008), the number had increase in number from 1,922 in 2004 to 6,897 in 2007. This is because enough numbers of the generalized beds are prospectively validated at a reasonable price for people as a service. They just choose the one they like from the beds. The fact we have to consider is that the service is based on the market principle because the owners form private companies to operate their guesthouse’s rooms. To pursuit profits, authorities to manage them are controlled by owners. This illustrates a relationship between a provider and the user. Some may say that it’s good because they don’t like to have responsibilities. However, if nothing is done, conflicts between the owners and the users can occur because the owners can use power to refuse demands from the users. If the users can not keep their temper, something that is an unreasonable action such as protest from users may happen. As long as the market principle works in Politics, there would be no shortage of such scenarios.
On the other hand, only a few people in Japan still live in the collective house usually managed by non-profit organizations. If people seek for it, it is not easy to find it because it has not had it shape. In this case, people who gather have to start to design the shape by themselves. This work would be very hard because they don’t know about how to shape it. Not only that they have to reach an agreement shared by those who there are there. However, they would reach the point relatively easily because there is no market-like structure among them. The Japan Times (2003) reports that “[one of the residents of Kankan Mori in Tokyo] enjoys the process and the fact that she can decide how much interaction she has with her neighbors.” Even though it depends on a degree of deliberation, they possibly obtain not only a shared kitchen but also a shared workshop, a shared library and even a shared farm land. This would be the public itself. Therefore, no market principle must be an absolute requirement, if we want to keep the public nature.
In politics, depending on the tools such as money, voting, candidates etc is easy way not to involve in it as much as possible for people. People often attempt to avoid to take responsibilities taken in a process of politics because, for example, political processes such as deciding priorities and collect people’s interests are very hard work. Even for a very small community such as “family”, collisions among people often occur and make them difficult to keep talking. Still more, affairs of bigger communities such as a municipality and a nation is expected to be unimaginable difficulities to discuss there affairs. Michael K. Briand attempts to challenge such difficulties boldly utilizing the principle of “Practical Politics”, which is his theory. The his theory is organized by the five principles -“Inclusion”, “Comprehension”, “Deliberation”, “Cooperation” and “Realism”-.
First principle Briand (1999) defines as “inclusion” means “the process of deciding how to respond to public problems requires the active participation of a broad range and large number of ordinary persons, not just those with formal decision-making authority.” (P.9). I’ll elaborate this principle later.
Briand (1999) explains that “comprehension” makes sense that “decision-making process must begin with a profound and comprehensive political understanding of the matter to which the community must respond.” (P.9). He analyzes such a mutual comprehension is one of the key to success of practical politics. To generate the mutual comprehension among people, Briand (1999) recommends , a discussion among people, based on this principle, should be gone through these five processes: “(1) Collecting statements, (2) identifying motivations, (3) clustering motivations into viewpoints, (4). clarifying the issues, and (5) reformulating the matter for public discussion.” (P.139). Through these processes, people learn the inevitable fact that interests among people conflict and acknowledge each other
Third principle is “deliberation”. Briand (1999) defines it as “recognizing and accepting that every political situation presents us with a hard choice between good things about which people understandably care deeply” (P.10). I’ll particularize this principle later as well as “inclusion”.
According to Briand (1999), “cooperation”, the forth principle, means “working together for mutual benefit.” (P.10). Working together in a constructive way for a collective future shared by people is a significant element of practical politics. On that basis, Briand (1999) argues about distinction between “Collaboration” and the cooperation. (P.153). This encourages people to pursuit their own interests freely. Interests among people often conflict each other. A Martin Wachs (2001) argues it is saying “things should and would be different and better in the future in ways that people could see and hear and feel.” (P.368). As long as these conflicts are a natural phenomenon for human, we attempt not to avoid these collisions but to challenge to overcome them by themselves to reach completion of practical politics.
Finally, Briand (1999) defines ”realism” as “understanding and accepting that a number of obstacles-some small, some large-stand in the way of a widespread, durable, productive practice of practical politics” (P.10) Briand discuss how important we contemplate reality. Today, most of all people in Japan have some degree of such a assumption that Politics is something that is dirty and never change. Therefore, they don’t involve it. They may consider nothing to do as nothing to change. However, a situation varies from hour to hour. Thus, nothing to do often generates a result not only that can be keeping things as they are but also that is worsen before. So we should give up such a just convenient idea because whether we can attain benefits or not would just depend on Politician’s moral. We have to realize that depending on it may be like “Russian roulette”.
I will choose “Inclusion” and “Cooperation” in the five and elaborate on their significance.
A constructive and in-depth dialogue is a crucial part of encouraging people to reach the common sense one another. Daisaku Ikeda, president of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) has fostered a dialogue between civilizations through dialogues of more than 1,600 times so far with world leaders, including Mikhail Gorbachev, Henry A. Kissinger and Aurelio Peccei. When people discuss and deliberate each other with patience without giving up the dialogue, they can necessarily understand one another. If people stand on their common ground without sticking to individual benefits, they can stare the same respect that is common benefits for all of them. Briand (1999) argues that “All we have at our disposal is our best political judgment, achieved through democratic deliberation.” (P.10). Do we deliberate each other enough to reach common agreement? I’ll discuss what are happening to our real life to analyze the third principle of practical politics, “deliberation”.
Now, on the global basis, suburbanization and sprawl by mainly auto-dependency are going serious. Robert Fishman (2000) argues that the American metropolis are influenced overwhelmingly by policies federal government adopted past 50 years such as the 1956 Interstate Highway Act and the 1949 Housing Act. (P.201). These policies crucially promoted suburbanization and sprawl. According, Fishman (2000)’s analysis through the survey he conducted to research the “top 10 influences on the American metropolis of the past 50 years”, all on the list show some degree of negative impacts to people’s life by suburbanization and sprawl. (P.201). Why did they happen? Are these results really the results that people hope? What or who was responsible for?
The notion of “American Dream” is used widely today started using the term from 1930’s Truslow Adams James (1931), who this term first used, in his book The Epic of America defines “The American Dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” As it is known, as a result of spreading the notion widely, we can see the shape of modern-day suburbanization and sprawl. Many people in America believe this notion even now.
These results clearly come from absence of deliberation among people. How can we avoid such unplanned disasters? Briand indicates some points to avert them. First, people must argue whether it is right or wrong drastically. The example I discuss above illustrates how easily Americans believed what James said. This notion had to be discussed more carefully among people in the United State. Second, we can avoid such disasters in a way to postpone what should be adopted as much as possible. This means that before something is adopted, the retard effect encourages people to raise potential affairs as many as possible. In such a case, “troublemakers” are often beneficial for such the arguments. They are very good at seeking for faulty points from the discussion. Moreover, Briand (1999) points out “responsibility for facilitating a public discussion” (P.139). He encourages them to help a discussion to proceed as smoothly as possible.
We can not exist without belonging to a community. We are belonging to some kinds of communities. A Nation, a municipality, an NPO, a school, a company, a neighborhood and even a family can be considered as a community. A community that many people gather has much more potential abilities to change the situation better than individuals. The many more people there are in the community, the many more degrees of power they might have. Therefore encouraging more participation should be promoted as much as possible. Briand discusses “inclusion” of his five principles in his practical politics as the first principle.
To elaborate this importance, I will use the example of suburbanization and sprawl I used in the section of the deliberation. To stop these disasters, The Smart Growth Plan is underway. Randal O’Toole (2007) define, in the book PLANETIXEN CONTEMPORARY DEBATES IN URBAN PLANNING, the plan as “coercive land-use planning aimed at compact cities, often combined with expensive and ineffective rail transit.” (P.34). This plan’s attempts are mostly opposite side of thinkings people in suburban area have. Therefore, in fact, the significant number of people in America strongly opposes this plan. Anthony Downs (2005) points out the controversial point over the smart growth plan. The point is that “most pressures to adopt Smart Growth policies do not come from the citizenry at large but from one or more of these special interest groups” (P.368). This kind of faulty points is same as the points of consumerist politics. Such exclusions only reflect a portion of people’s interest. Also, such a small group, who controls the public, can not overcome this kind of deep-seated problems. This means full participations as the public need to be required to address these problems.
Briand (1999) argues ““the public” is considered “as meaning all” (P.73). What is the “all” participation? Sherry R Amstein (1969) discusses a degree of citizen participation and classifies the level of the degree in the book A Ladder of Citizen Participation. According to the classification, top of the ladder is defined as “Citizen Control”. This is the example of the state of citizen power.
In New Haven, residents of the Hill neighborhood have created a corporation that has been delegated the power to prepare the entire Model Cities plan. The city, which received a $117,000 planning grant from HUD, has subcontracted $110,000 of it to the neighborhood corporation to hire its own planning staff and consultants. The Hill Neighborhood Corporation has eleven representatives on the twenty-one-member CDA board which assures it a majority voice when its proposed plan is reviewed by the CDA
This example illustrates that the side of citizens have enough power to deal with the challenging problem with Government as a partner.
As I demonstrate above, “Deliberation” and “Inclusion” are both the essential principles for practical politics Briand argues. If either of them is lacking, practical politics don’t work well. Therefore, without avoiding challenges, we should actually practice them adding the rest of three of principles –“Comprehension”, “Cooperation” and “Realism”-
Recent years, in Japan, it seems interactions between neighbors decrease dramatically. Being influenced by suburbanization and sprawl phenomenon, the numbers of houses built up in my home district that is located originally in suburban area. People who originally settle in the district are completely bewildered such a radical change and the newcomers also cannot fit in with our neighborhood. Good old social and cultural interactions that are cultivated traditionally such as Bon Festival, a Japanese traditional dance festival in my neighborhood may be faced the greatest challenge. Losing such a mutual local character means losing interests of sticking to their local. Michael K.Briand (1999) argues “By intentionally saying to themselves, this to be driven or seduced away from it. It is this intentional “inhabiting” that affords neighbors the opportunity to become citizens. (P.171) He indicates a mutual relationship that is community-based between neighbors. I will discuss between what he says and what is happening.
Briand (1999) also mentions how democratic communities encourage people in the community to cooperate to work together. He says that “If democratic community requires activity by citizens in which the coincidence of personal concern and the common welfare can be experienced concretely, what can we do and experience together that we all will find to be good?” (P.171). That is, under a condition of democratic community, people can interact and meet a challenge of problems as their common affairs with not only neighbors who they already know but also those who they don’t know yet. Unfortunately, this kind of situation almost never happens in my neighborhoods any more. This proofs how our neighborhoods are far from the democratic community.
Briand encourages us to start from where we are now. He believes that there possibly are communities that transcend tolerance and acceptance to cooperate one another willingly. Whether it’s possible or not is absolutely dependent on whether each of us can start from where we are and stick to our local neighborhood and reach a mutual agreement that all of the neighbors are willingly to consent.
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