MIT Center for International Studies

PRESS RELEASE March 8, 2011
M I T   C E N T E R   F O R   I N T E R N A T I O N A L   S T U D I E S


Michelle Nhuch


"3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan," a New Book by Richard Samuels

CAMBRIDGE, MA On March 11, 2011, Japan was struck by the shockwaves of a 9.0 magnitude undersea earthquake originating less than 50 miles off its eastern coastline. The most powerful earthquake to have hit Japan in recorded history, it produced a devastating tsunami with waves reaching heights of over 130 feet that in turn caused an unprecedented multireactor meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This triple catastrophe claimed almost 20,000 lives, destroyed whole towns, and will ultimately cost hundreds of billions of dollars for reconstruction.

In "3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan," Richard Samuels, Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the MIT Center for International Studies, offers the first broad scholarly assessment of the disaster's impact on Japan's government and society. The events of March 2011 occurred after two decades of social and economic malaise-as well as considerable political and administrative dysfunction at both the national and local levels-and resulted in national soul-searching. Political reformers saw in the tragedy cause for hope: an opportunity for Japan to remake itself. Samuels explores Japan's post-earthquake actions in three key sectors: national security, energy policy, and local governance. For some reformers, 3.11 was a warning for Japan to overhaul its priorities and political processes. For others, it was a once-in-a-millennium event; they cautioned that while national policy could be improved, dramatic changes would be counterproductive. Still others declared that the catastrophe demonstrated the need to return to an idealized past and rebuild what has been lost to modernity and globalization.

Samuels chronicles the battles among these perspectives and analyzes various attempts to mobilize popular support by political entrepreneurs who repeatedly invoked three powerfully affective themes: leadership, community, and vulnerability. Assessing reformers' successes and failures as they used the catastrophe to push their particular agendas-and by examining the earthquake and its aftermath alongside prior disasters in Japan, China, and the United States-Samuels outlines Japan's rhetoric of crisis and shows how it has come to define post-3.11 politics and public policy.


"3.11 is very well written, insightful, and informative—it's a masterful work by a great scholar."—Jeff Kingston, Temple University Japan Campus, author of Japan's Quiet Transformation: Social Change and Civil Society in the 21st Century

"Richard J. Samuels has done extraordinary work in 3.11, building from a dazzling array of local sources. This book is impressive in its reach and its depth, particularly given the speed with which social and political debates in Japan have evolved since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophe Exceptionally well researched, deeply informative, and compellingly written, 3.11 will likely be viewed as the essential work on post-disaster Japanese politics. People will want to turn to it for years to come."—David Leheny, Henry Wendt III '55 Professor of East Asian Studies, Princeton University, author of Think Global, Fear Local: Sex, Violence, and Anxiety in Contemporary Japan

"Well done to Richard J. Samuels. This peerlessly detailed analysis of Japanese policy formulation in the wake of the 3.11 disaster provides a sobering assessment in three key areas: national security, energy, and local governance. Samuels's extensive research and documentation of the dialogue between Japanese citizens and their leaders and the policy results to date provide a solid and compelling foundation for some surprising conclusions. This book is a must-read for policymakers in the United States and Japan and for scholars and all those interested in Japan and its future."—William J. Fallon, Admiral, U.S. Navy (Retired), Commander, U.S. Pacific Command (2005–2007), and Commander, U.S. Central Command (2007–2008)

"Where on earth is Japan heading after the 3.11 tragedy? Richard J. Samuels lucidly assesses the anguish of our society, making the situation clearly visible to me for the first time."—Yoshibumi Wakamiya, former Editor-in-Chief of Asahi Shimbun

"An extraordinary book! Based on extensive research and discussions with people on the ground, Richard J. Samuels provides an extremely realistic and incisive account of Japan's biggest disaster since World War II. A story as convincing as this one is yet to be published even in Japan. Showing the potential of a nation trying to get back on its feet, the book's theme-setting is strategic and its analysis thorough. It also points out the inherent vulnerabilities of Japan and exposes what the country needs. This book is a road map for the post-3.11 Japan."—Yukio Okamoto, former member of Prime Minister's 3.11 Reconstruction Promotion Committee

"This book is essential reading for those who want to understand why disaster has not produced the dramatic changes many people had expected."—Gerald Curtis, Burgess Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

"3.11 is a much needed and careful analysis of the political and administrative historical background of the disaster, its dramatic unfolding, and its uncertain legacy for the nation."—Charles Perrow, Yale University, author of Normal Accidents: Living with High Risk Technologies



Massachusetts Institute of Technology