VOLUME 5 (2003) - ISSUE 10 (WINTER)

Religion and Terrorism: The Aum Sect in Japan

by Masachi OHSAWA


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.


Aum - Sects - Religions - Terrorism - New Religions


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).


Author Name (Year), “Title”, in: The International Scope Review, Volume Number, Issue Number, TSCF Editions, Brussels.


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


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