Twenty Years of Street Thought

Table of Contents

In the 2000s, the concept of “street thought” emerged in Japan along with subculture criticism. From 2011 to 2015, “street thought” had a large impact on Japanese society. In the world of criticism, “street thought” rejects postmodernism and is considered influential. This stance is premised on the idea that postmodernist thought and street thought are opposed to one another, but is this a fair assessment?

This opposition schema may be found in the progression from the New Left to the postmodern. Overseas, the New Left, within the context of modernist criticism, critiqued the already existing Left and the welfare state. In the same way, the Japanese New Left critiqued postwar democracy.

After the 1970s, due to conservative neoliberalism, the activities of the New Left in Japan and elsewhere were repurposed for the establishment of an ideological hegemony. Japan’s “street thought” attempted to form an authentic left-wing movement by downplaying the radical politics of the 1980s Japanese postmodernism, thereby molding a political radicalism different from neoliberalism.

In addition to postmodernism, “street thought” has three objects of criticism: “otaku thought,” “street image,” and “university intellectuals.” It criticizes “otaku thought” for its lack of an “apolitical political” vantage point. It adds to “street image,” the classical criticisms of the culture of capitalism like those of the Frankfurt School. In regards to “university intellectuals,” it carries out criticism of postwar democracy from the same viewpoint as the New Left. However, following the Great East Japan earthquake in 2011, with the flourishing anti-nuclear power movements and the anti-ANPO protests, those responsible for “street thought” expressed the behavior of the “university intellectuals” whom they critiqued.