In 2009 the German Association for Social Science Research on Japan (VSJF) conference undertakes a balanced representation of two contrasting cases of East Asian transformations: China with its large-scale mobilisation of rural populations to urban industrial centres and the rise of a middle class enjoying the opportunities raised by the individualisation of lifestyles; Japan as an example of “shrinking” metropolitan regions, a declining middle class, and rising livelihood risks.
A first aim of the VSJF conference in 2009 is to engage with the “world risk society” thesis from the perspective of East Asia and with East Asian social scientists. A second aim of the conference is to focus on major dimensions of risk from both a conceptual and an empirical perspective. In East Asian contexts, where central political elites have traditionally placed a focus on national security and social integration, the perception and projection of risks are increasingly used to frame attempts at enacting major political reforms and structural changes. The outcomes of these reforms increasingly involve the “management” or “governance of,” rather than “protection from” risks.