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From Undemocratic to Democratic Civil Society: Japan's Volunteer Fire Departments

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 March 2010

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How do undemocratic civic organizations become compatible with democratic civil society? How do local organizations merge older patriarchal, hierarchical values and practices with newer more egalitarian, democratic ones? This article tells the story of how volunteer fire departments have done this in Japan. Their transformation from centralized war instruments of an authoritarian regime to local community safety organizations of a full-fledged democracy did not happen overnight. A slow process of demographic and value changes helped the organizations adjust to more democratic social values and practices. The way in which these organizations have made the transition offers important lessons for emerging democracies around the world.

Research Article
Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 2010

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