How are political factions forged? What role do institutions, rationality and culture play in the development of factionalism? The cultural institutionalists, who first studied the phenomenon, argued that cultural influence on the factions diminished with increasing institionalisation. The rational choice approach, which has since largely replaced the cultural approach, argues however that culture is of no importance for the development of factionalism.
In an effort to throw new light on this complicated phenomenon, this paper will view political factions in Japan between 1945 and 1958 through the newspaper discourse of this period. My basic questions are: How have people understood the term ‘faction’ at different times, and how were ‘factions’ presented to the Japanese public? Taking my cue from work in the field of discourse analysis, I attempt to identify the discursive frameworks through which factionalism and internal party divisions of the Liberal Party from 1945 to 1955 and the Liberal Democratic Party between 1955 and 1958 are presented. The main locus of the production and airing of discourse used here is the Asahi Shimbun.
The discourse on factions changed significantly in this 14 year period. Until 1955 factionalism received little attention in the Asahi but was generally framed in such a way as to emphasise the instability caused by factionalism and the undesirable outcome of such groupism. It is however obvious from this discourse that factionalism was not considered of any great importance to the political system in general. From 1955 and onwards, however, the discourse changed significantly. The factions receive more attention, they are conceived as having greater importance for the political process than before, and they are seen in increasingly negative terms. At the same time, however, the LDP factions are also increasingly described in cultural terms and I argue that through this discourse factionalism was actually given legitimacy. These results will be used to discuss the cultural-institutionalist and rational choice theories on factionalism.
Hulda Thora SVEINSDOTTIR is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.