Society, Politics, and Economy in Modern Turkey: Sociology of Turkey - Maintained by Tugrul Keskin
We are at a point in our work when we can no longer ignore empires and the imperial context in our studies. (p. 5)
― Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Turkey is Occupy not Spring

By Alexander Key

Arcade - 06.23.2013

The #Taksim protests in #Turkey should IMHO be read as part of #Occupy, not as analogous to the #Arab_Spring. The same is true of the protests in Brazil: Occupy not Spring. Discourses that link Istanbul to the Arab Spring are not good for any of the parties involved, and that includes "us" (or at least "me", an Englishman in Northern California).
What is being protested in Turkey is democratic deficit, the overreach of elected politicians, attacks on the freedom of expression, police and state brutality, the injustice at the heart of the form of capitalism being practiced, and a lack of due process. These are failures of the state to do what it promises. A similar set of accusations might be made by the protestors in Brazil. This is criticism analagous to the Occupy movement; analagous and equally justified. 

What happened in the Arab world in 2011 (and is still happening today) is qualitatively and quantitatively of a different order. People who lived in failed and failing states that had denied them any freedom to control their own destinies for generations decided, one after another (both one state after another and one person after another) that the end had come, and had to come. Muhammad Bouazizi burnt himself to death, hundreds of thousands risked their lives (and thousands died), and the institution of the Arab President for Life (who manipulates both the neo-liberal means of production and his international relations with the goal of passing on the regime to his son) came to an end in Tunisia and Egypt.

The problem with conflating the Arab Spring and the protests in Turkey and Brazil is that it conflates revolution with protest. This is not to disparage protest (without the Chartists where would I be?), nor to defend the justice of the systems protested (Old Sarum anyone?) but rather to draw attention to the fact that calling the protests in Turkey and Brazil revolutions elides the existence of functional democracies in those two countries. It also conveniently lumps Turkey and Brazil into a non-white, non-Western, non-democratic world where revolutions might needed to get where France (1789) and America (1783) are today. Calling Turkey and Brazil part of Occupy forces a more uncomfortable comparison between the state of their democracies (and the health of their capitalisms) and the state of ours.

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