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Inquiry into Relationships between Hope and the Society

Yoshihiro Ishikura / Associate Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University

Endeavor of "hopology"

"This country has everything. Here you can get a really variety of things, except hope" is a famous phrase in Ryu Murakami's Exodus from the Land of Hope [Kibou no Kuni no Ekusodasu] (Bungei Shunju, 2000). Probably since the publication of this book as well as Masahiro Yamada The Hope-Disparity Society [Kibou Kakusa Shakai] (Chikuma Shobou, 2004), books with the word "hope" in the title or ad would have attracted people's attention. Some similar books were also published last year, including Hope and Bond [Kibou to Kizuna] (Iwanami Shoten) by Sang-Jung Kan and Hope of [ toiu Kibou] (Seikyusha) by Mamoru Yamada, who is a professor at Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University.

Amid this trend, Japanese and foreign scholars are pursuing a unique study project called "hopology" since 2005 under the slogan "Social Science of Hope." This is an attempt at interdisciplinary argument on "hope" by jurists, political scientists, economists, business administration experts, sociologists, anthropologists, and other researchers from various fields who examine the subject from their respective point of view. Originally launched by labor economist Yuji Genda and other scholars at Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo, this research project grew larger involving more than forty members including many external researchers like me.

The aim of this project is not to present to the society what hope should look like, nor to intervene in people's inner being by proposing that everyone should have hope, as often misunderstood. Instead, hopology regards hope as a social phenomenon and has been exploring under what conditions it emerges and what meanings it carries. One pillar of the project is conceptual studies of hope, which investigate how thinkers of all ages and cultures consider hope, and analyze through questionnaire survey and interviews how ordinary people understand hope and what they set as their own hope.

The achievement of this project was published in the four-volume book entitled Kibougaku or Hopology from University of Tokyo Press from last April to July. The book seemed to be widely accepted with interest. For example, many commentators, book reviews and news shows mentioned it, and many book shops and university co-ops held a "hope" fair last year.

Analysis of local hope

The hopology project also features a comprehensive area study as another pillar. The first study field was Kamaishi City in Iwate Prefecture, which is home to the Kamaishi steel plant of Nippon Steel Corporation and was previously called "the capital of iron." Readers may remember the city for the great seven consecutive Japan championships attained by Nippon Steel Kamaishi's rugby football team. Kamaishi, which was once prosperous during the high-growth period, has been facing severe issues since the 1970s, such as transformation of the industrial structure, population drain, and population aging.

In this city as a field, research was carried out through interviews and questionnaire survey to reveal subsequent careers of people who were born there or are working for regional industrial revitalization, and prospects they think of in building a relationship with the city. The results were published in the second and third volumes of Kibougaku mentioned above and more than forty interview records and other various reports.

We the project members have a common understanding for the area study that the research purpose is not to propose solutions for the regional issues but to learn something from the region, and that we should repay research cooperation from the local people with the research achievement. As part of the repayment, we have held some public symposiums and lecture presentations, and also published our findings in the city's public relations magazine titled Koho Kamaishi every month since 2008. Of course, inadequate studies have been scathingly criticized by the local people, which probably means we have succeeded in establishing a reasonably tense relationship with the region different from so-called "university-community partnership," where a university provides ideas for regional revitalization.

While continuing the survey in Kamaishi, we have started another research in a new field, Fukui Prefecture, with additional members for testing hypotheses that emerged from the Kamaishi study.

Achievement of hopology

As a result of the conceptual studies, hopology defined hope as desire to realize something specific with action. Here, hope is not a mere dream but desire accompanied with concrete action.

The Kamaishi study generated a hypothesis that the following three elements play important roles in regional revitalization: "discovering and rebuilding local uniqueness," "sharing hope" and "extending a network both inside and outside the region." For example, it is well known that a human network involving both the inside and outside of a region has various effects including information circulation and mutual aid. Recently, this network is often called social capital, a resource available to individuals and the community. Note, however, that an attempt to create and maintain the network only in pursuit of such payoffs would be likely to result in a calculating one far from cooperative.

Though all of the three elements above are important for regional revitalization, it is impossible to create a universal manual applicable to every region. A solution can only be discovered and built through voluntary conversation among people directly involved in the issue.

As mentioned before, hope requires action for realization by the person who holds the hope. Achievement of a desire or a goal, however, also depends on assistance from surrounding people and social conditions enabling the action, as well as efforts of the person who holds the hope. In the first place, if you cannot raise a hope or specific vision to achieve, you have no ways to act. Studies have shown that your social attributes such as income and education determine whether you have hope and what attitude you adopt toward hope, and that socially disadvantageous people tend to have less hope or more negative attitude toward hope than advantageous ones.

If hope is only a privilege to some of the people, social conditions select who can entertain hope, and those who miss hope must bear burdens, then social sciences should find the causes to remedy it. I believe that this is the very meaning of hopology being involved in the society as a social science.

Part of the project achievement is available on the website <http://project.iss.u-tokyo.ac.jp/hope/>. Please read it if you are interested.

Yoshihiro Ishikura / Associate Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University

Yoshihiro Ishikura / Associate Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University Prof. Ishikura graduated from the sociology course at Faculty of Letters and the master course of interdisciplinary social sciences at Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo. He finished the required course work of the doctoral course of advanced social and international studies at the same graduate school. Prof. Ishikura has served as Assistant and Full-Time Lecturer for Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo, before assuming the current position. His specialty is sociology, especially studies of social consciousness. He also belongs to Institute of Cultural and Social Studies.
Main publications include: Hopology [Kibougaku] (co-authored, Chuukou Shinsho Laclef); Hoplogy 3: Keeping Hope - The Future of Local Communities from the Perspective of Kamaishi [Kibougaku 3: Kibou wo Tsunagu - Kamaishi kara Mita Chiikishakai no Mirai] (co-authored, University of Tokyo Press), etc.