In April and May of 2007, millions of Turks held anti-government demonstrations in the cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Organized by secularist organizations and parties, these were perhaps the largest gatherings of people in the history of these towns. The international media pointed out that the demonstrators were motivated by fear that their secular way of life was under threat from political Islam, which now ruled the country through the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi: AK Party) and was poised to elect Turkey’s first Islamist president. The major slogans in the demonstrations were about foreign policy. Indeed, one might have assumed they were protesting against Turkey’s alleged turn toward an Islamic foreign policy. Yet many demonstrators quite vocally expressed opposition to both Turkey’s entry into the European Union (EU) and its relations with the United States, marching under huge banners that read “neither the EU, nor the USA, but a fully independent Turkey!” The boiling anger of the crowds was captured by skilful orators who condemned the AK Party, claiming that the party’s “marketing” of national interests on the global market was tantamount to selling the country out to imperialist powers.
Globalization and the Crisis of Authoritarian Modernization in Turkey
Conventional models developed through the conceptual lenses of modernization theory dating back to the 1960s, are no longer applicable to Turkish politics; they fall short of grasping the changes that Turkish ideologies experienced in recent decades. In the face of Turkey’s growing democratization and societal modernization, Turkish secularists have lost their status as agents of reform and gradually emerged as defenders of the status quo in the face of the rapid mobilization of Anatolian-based conservative society. However, no factor was more responsible for this transformation than the comprehensive external and internal structural changes that Turkey experienced in the post-Cold War era, leading to the emergence of a globalist conservative ideology in large parts of Anatolia. This paper examines the question of why those who are commonly associated in Western scholarly discourse with progress and modernity,have fallen behind the Muslim conservatives in pursuit of democratization and further integration of the country with the West. The paper argues that at the root of the present conflict lies the tension between two modernization routes: a bureaucratic top-down modernization that has allowed the allocation of privileges to the secularist/nationalist elites, and the grassroots socio-economic mobilization of conservative societal elements benefiting from international integration and globalization.
The intellectual bastion of authoritarian-secularism, the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet has paradoxically become the most ardent opponent to the process of further Europeanization.
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