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In my JLPT textbook, it has a section on the use of the term 離{はな}れ, "detachment". Some examples:

テレビ離{ばな}れ (detachment from television)

もの離{ばな}れ (detachment from things)

政治離{ばな}れ (detachment from politics)

However, it does not make it clear if the detachment is a willful act or an incidental act, or maybe even if it can be used in both senses.

So, if I say someone is 政治離{ばな}れ, am I saying they have made a choice to stay out of politics? Or am I saything that they live a life that just happens to not have anything to do with politics?

Or can it mean either, and context is needed to determine which one?

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Ah we also have 乳離れ、子離れ、数字離れ、理科離れ... 「政治離れ」 sounds to me as 'having no interest or knowledge in politics' –  Choko Feb 3 '12 at 5:32
    
Oh and 親離れ, 日本人離れ・・・ –  Choko Feb 3 '12 at 8:35

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The best way to put it is that, it is no not necessarily willful. It is simply the state of being detached from.

The root of this 離れる is an intransitive verb, meaning that it is something that has sort of happened on it's own. That could mean it was willful, but it could also mean it wasn't.

If you wish to make it clear that it was willful you can use ~離れをする.

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I believe it is neither a wilful act nor an incidental act. It is probably better described as a 'trend' or 'phenomenon', something that comes about for various reasons. 政治離れ could represent a rejection of politics, but it is just as likely to be a result of increasing apathy towards politics. テレビ離れ is something that happens when people find better things to do, not necessarily a deliberate avoidance of television.

Even in the everyday-life example of 乳離れ, there is no implication of intentionality on the part of the child. The weaning is usually something that the mother initiates; the result is not an action on the part of the child, simply a phenomenon.

I think you have to keep in mind that the verb 離れる is similarly vague as to intentionality.

For example:

離れて生活していると心も自然に離れてしまう。
When you live apart, your feelings also naturally grow apart

その人から離れた方がいい。
You'd be best getting away from him / keeping some distance from him

In the first, the growing apart of feelings isn't deliberate. In the second, the advice is to take deliberate action.

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