Rhetorical Marginalization of Science and Democracy: Politics in Risk Discourse on Radioactive Risks in Japan

  • Hideyuki Hirakawa
  • Masashi Shirabe


This chapter analyses “politics in the risk discourse of radioactive risks” that we have witnessed since March 11, 2011 in various discursive arenas such as the mass media, governmental/municipal decision making and risk communication activities, and arguments by individual scientists on Social Network Services (SNSs). The discourse has rhetorically marginalized what has been at stake in terms of public anxiety and controversies over the risks of low dose radioactive contamination of foods, water, soil, and tsunami debris. Such marginalization can be classified into three forms in terms of how the risk discourse downplays the significance of scientific and/or social dimensions: (1) Reduction in dimensions of issues to scientific ones and the problem of public misunderstanding of science (scienceplanation ); (2) Mobilization of shaky or imbalanced scientific arguments; and (3) Emotional mobilization. We present eight case studies to exemplify these three forms of rhetorical marginalization of science and democracy in the risk discourse. In any forms of marginalization, legitimate democratic deliberation as well as genuine scientific arguments have been suppressed and replaced by top-down technocratic decisions that have sometimes relied on shaky scientific bases. In conclusion, we discuss the nature of these problems from the perspective of risk governance of technological disasters and reflexive questions as to the grounds of our criticism of marginalization.


Basic Framework Risk Governance Fukushima Prefecture Technological Disaster Victim Support 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Osaka UniversityOsakaJapan
  2. 2.Tokyo Institute of TechnologyTokyoJapan

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