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VOLUME 5 (2003), ISSUE 10 (WINTER)

 

THE AUM SECT: RELIGION AND TERRORISM

MASACHI OHSAWA

 

SUMMARY

This chapter analyzes the social consciousness of contemporary Japanese society by investigating the context of the Aum terrorist attacks. 

First, it examines how the Japanese religious group Aum can be seen as an extreme reflection of Japanese society in general. An account of why Aum held such fascination, specially amongst the youth, provides insight into contemporary Japanese consciousness. Second, it locates Aum within Japanese post-war history that the author divides into two stages: the era of ideal and the era of fiction. The Aum Incident can be interpreted as the limit or the end of the second stage leading, paradoxically, to the return of the ideal as a total destruction. Third, through investigating Aum’s irrational attachment to sarin gas, it considers the distinctive sense of bodily experience central to the ambivalent relation to the “other". Fourth, it explains why Aum’s negative eschatology which seeks the total destruction of the world is attractive for Japanese youth,  showing that the popularity of the cult such as Aum is a symptom of the social disintegration brought forth by advanced capitalism.

KEYWORDS

Aum - Sects - Religions - Terrorism - New Religions

AUTHOR'S PRESENTATION

Masachi OHSAWA is a doctor in Sociology (1990, University of Tokyo) and an associate professor at the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies at Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.  His research interests mainly include theoretical sociology and the analysis of contemporary society.

In the first field (theoretical sociology), he attempted to give a firm philosophical basis to the theory of the social system, using approaches such as phenomenology of the body, analytic philosophy,  and self-referential logic. He applied some findings of this research to the second field (analysis of the contemporary society). Masachi tried to explain coherently various aspects of the contemporary society, being especially interested in religious phenomena, nationalism, and the social influence of media technologies. 

He published mainly on The Algebra of Action (1989), Comparative Sociology of the Body  (1990, 1992),  Eros and Capitalism (1996), The Limit of the Era of the Fiction in Postwar Japan (1996) and The Dark Side of Politics (2000).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This contribution is a chapter of the book edited by Patrick HUNOUT, The Erosion of the Social Link in the Economically Advanced Countries.

COPYRIGHT

All work published in The International Scope Review is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any manner or in any medium - unless written consent  is given by The Social Capital Foundation represented by its President, unless the author's name and the one of The International Scope Review as the first publication medium appear on the work or the excerpt, and unless no charge is made for the copy containing the work or excerpt.

Any demands for obtaining consent for reproduction should be sent to  lawyer@socialcapital-foundation.org

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