Editors’ Note: This is a translation of a Teach 3.11 annotation that originally appeared here. We invite volunteers to translate and/or contribute content to Teach 3.11 in any language, including Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. Thank you.

Tsukahara, Tōgo. 2011. “Disaster Capitalism in Motion: What can we learn from Kobe, a city twice destroyed?” Gendai Shisō, vol. 39-7: 202-211.

This essay’s argument, based on Naomi Klein’s notion of “disaster capitalism,” analyzes the “large-scale social reorganization” accompanying the post-3.11 reconstruction effort within its historical context. According to the author, in the wake of the 1995 Hanshin Earthquake, the destroyed city of Kobe was destroyed once more—this time on the level of its organization—by public enterprise under the name of “reconstruction.” The logic of economic and administrative authorities also infringed upon scientific debates concerning environmental and human damage suffered after the disaster. Tsukahara sounds the alarm that this mode of “disaster capitalism,” which takes advantage of a disaster to promote “organizational exploitation,” has also gone into effect in Japan after 3.11, and that “the construction of a system of all-out war is taking place.”

In addition, when we consider 3.11 in light of the history of science, the nuclear disaster “exposes the systemic exhaustion of the post-Three-Mile-Island system, which is comprised of a technologically imperialistic division of roles that places the burden of energy-generating technology on Japan, in exchange for the U.S.’s military technology” and represents “the gushing out of all the problems within the system of scientific technological development established under 19th century imperialism since the Meiji era” (p. 207). As a framework for discussing the scientific response during reconstruction as an extension of these historical circumstances, Tsukahara proposes the concept of a “post-normal science” based on popular knowledge, subsequent to the “normal science” of the past, in which experts had determinative authority.

This essay, useful for understanding 3.11 from a scientific historiography perspective, also proposes the valuable standpoint of thinking of post-3.11 reconstruction in terms of lessons to be learned from the reconstruction of Kobe. It requires historical knowledge of the modern to contemporary periods, and would probably be best suited for students at the college or graduate level.

-Yasuhito Abe, with translation by Jennifer Lillie

ARTICLE: Disaster Capitalism in Motion: What can we learn from Kobe, a city twice destroyed? (2011)
Tagged on: