Democracy, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey. Edited by Ahmet T. Kuru and Alfred Stepan. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. 216pp. $84.50 cloth, $27.50 paper, $21.99 e-book.
This is a rather short, jointly edited volume of eight solid analyses of basic themes in current Turkish politics. All its chapters will be read with profit by nonexperts and serve as useful refreshers for experts. Admirable, too, is its jargon-free language.
Karen Barkey opens with a chapter on the Ottoman Empire's "legacy ... of interreligious peace and coexistence, the spirit of toleration that enabled the Ottoman state and society to flourish for many centuries" (p. 12). She discusses "how modern Turkey can benefit from its Ottoman past" (p. 13) but concludes that "the Ottoman legacy... has not yet been attained in contemporary Turkey" (p. 28) given "the decision to build a 'Turkish nation' . . . of a mono-lingual, mono-ethnic, and (as much as possible) monoreligious society characterized by loyalty to the Turkish state" (p. 26).
In analyzing "The Historical Roots of Kemalism," M. Sukru Hanioglu proves unique among his colleagues by having almost all his endnotes taken from Turkish-language sources. Given the doctrine of Kemalism's flexibility, "it could be etatist or Uberai and elitist or populist.... Similarly, it could promote either an active foreign policy... or inactivity" (p. 37). Ataturk himself believed "that science promoted progress, while religion undermined it" (p. 40). However, his successors "gradually blunted its [Kemalism's] stance against religion and abandoned its insistence on being a fully fledged belief system" (p. 45) because it "could not indoctrinate a predominantly rural population, a good portion of which was still illiterate despite all campaigns as well as deeply attached to tradition" (pp. 48-49). The present result of this ideological transformation is "an evocative synthesis of Turkish nationalism and Islam" (p. 55).
Ergun Ozbudun's chapter deals with "the difficulty of reconciling a pluralist society with a monolithic state structure" (p. 87). He argues that this stems from the "insistence on the absolute unity of the nation" (p. 71) to an extent that "even the term 'interest group' still has a negative connotation in Turkish, as expressing narrow and selfish particularistic interests that are incompatible with 'public interest' " (p. 82). Heuristically, however, he suggests that the former Ottoman millet system "can perhaps be described as an early and primitive example of 'nonterritorial' or 'corporate' federalism" (p. 65) and that the late nineteenth-century concept of Ottoman citizenship "maybe considered the early precursor of the contemporary concept of constitutional citizenship" (p. 66), as distinguished from Turkey's present, more restrictive ethnic citizenship.
The two editors also serve as joint authors in …