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

Friday, May 16, 2014

Stillbirth: The New Liberal-Conservative Mobilization in Turkey

By China Tugal

Jadaliyya -  May 15 2014

Liberal-conservatism was the dominant intellectual discourse in Turkey for more than three decades. The 1980s was its moment of departure. It suffered a hiatus under the shadow of the Kurdish war in the 1990s, but militaristic brutality also increased its sympathizers. The 2000s was its golden age. Its triumphalism reached an apex during the 2010 referendum. Ever since, its dominance has been crumbling.
State versus Society, the Military versus the Civilians, the Authentic Bourgeoisie versus the Old Elite
Among other factors, the 1980 coup convinced many intellectuals that the military was at the root of Turkey’s problems. Therefore, any civilian initiative deserved support. This belief was further strengthened by the global spread of liberal discourses after the defeat of the 1968 revolutionary wave. “Civil society” became the buzzword in academia and independent intellectual circles. The new focus on civilians and civic actors (somehow believed to be brought into existence without state and military involvement) got an additional boost from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European intellectuals’ liberalism.
The rise of the Islamist movement put a new spin on this emergent discourse. The dominant intellectuals perceived Islamism as a threat, but also a possibility. It was obviously one of the voices in society against the state; but it also harbored a lot of authoritarianism. If the civilian elements within the Islamist movement could be harnessed to the liberal project, then the resulting combination could turn into a veritable force against the state. Simultaneously, many intellectuals within the Islamist movement also started to use the vocabularies of liberalism, civil society, and, interestingly enough, postmodernism. The question then became: were these just isolated and unrepresentative maverick intellectuals, or was there a social force behind them?

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