International History and Politics
19 March 2024

The Bubble Generation: The Liberalization of Japan

Dr Kai Habel has successfully defended his brilliant thesis!



The Bubble Generation: The Liberalization of Japan


PhD Supervisor & 2nd Reader: Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou and Jussi Hanhimaki

The thesis explores the theme of liberalism and seeks to determine the evolution of liberal thought in postwar Japan, in order to determine its society’s stance towards this philosophical, political, and social movement.

We hypothesize that Japan experienced during the 1970s-1980s a great moment of liberalization that affected its economic, social, cultural, and identity structures. This period was characterized not only by the conversion of the economy to neoliberalism, but also by the rapid yet incomplete transformation of social behaviors and common values: some form of individualism was celebrated, consumption habits evolved, women were empowered, leisure activities were diversified, and customs were liberalized. Nevertheless, the collapse of the financial bubble in the early 1990s was accompanied by the interruption of this process. Japanese citizens who came of age in the years 1985-1990 have been called baburu-sedai, which means “Bubble generation”. Those belonging to this generation are said to be flamboyant, pretentious, and reckless.

Why and how did the process of liberalization, defined as the protection and extension of individual freedoms, lead to the emergence of the Bubble generation? The research attempts to answer these questions.