Friend or Foe? Globalization and Turkey at the Turn of the 21st Century

By Ardiç, Nurullah | Journal of Economic and Social Research, January 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Friend or Foe? Globalization and Turkey at the Turn of the 21st Century


Ardiç, Nurullah, Journal of Economic and Social Research


Abstract. Globalization has been one of the most significant concepts of our time in terms not only of academic discussions but also of public debates. Accordingly, there has emerged a substantial literature in social sciences focusing on different aspects of it and utilizing different theoretical and methodological perspectives. This article presents a critical assessment of the literature on one aspect of the issue: globalization's relationship to the nation-state with reference to Turkey. After a conceptual discussion of globalization in general, I first present the standard approach - that it has caused the 'retreat of the nation-state' - dividing it into three categories: economic, political and social-cultural. I then discuss various criticisms of this paradigm, finding neither of the two paradigms satisfactory, and thus present an alternative approach in the form of Michael Mann's view of globalization, which is more comprehensive and adequate, arguing that the aforementioned relationship is multi-directional and multi-dimensional. In the second part of this paper, I discuss, from a macro-sociological perspective, the relationships between economic, political and cultural globalizations and Turkey as an empirical application of the alternative approach, taking the globalization of Istanbul as a case in point.

JEL Classification Codes: F01, F02.

Keywords: Globalization, Istanbul, the nation-state, Turkey

1. Introduction

'Globalization' has become a hot topic in social sciences in the last three decades. Although it is used casually in everyday, and sometimes academic, language to refer to a single phenomenon, it is not a single, unified process. Rather, it has several dimensions. We can identify, following Keohane and Nye (1989), four main dimensions of globalization: economic (long-distance flow of goods, services, capital and its organization), military (long-distance networks of interdependence in which force is employed, including wars and threats), environmental (long-distance transfer of materials in the atmosphere and oceans and of biological substances that affect human health), social and cultural (movements of ideas, meanings, information, images and people).1 Scholars assume different definitions of the term globalization emphasizing different aspects of it. For this reason, there is little agreement in the literature on the nature of this process.

Some scholars stress the economic dimension identifying an economic integration on a global scale (see, among others, Beck, 2001; Sassen, 2001; Strange, 2001). The idea of the domination of the (capitalist) "world-economy" (Wallerstein, 1974) was once a favored topic in some circles. Other scholars emphasize the political integration of individual states as a primary dimension of globalization (e.g. Hirst & Thompson, 1996; Johnson, 2000; Krasner, 2001; Rosenau, 2001), while some focus on environmental degradation on a global scale (see Beck, 1992; Goldblatt, 1997). Still others stress the strictly cultural aspect (Smith 1990; Nash 2000; Appadurai, 2001; Herman & McChesney, 1997, 2001). Finally, some scholars see this process more broadly in 'social' terms as, for example, the intensification social relations across the globe (Giddens, 1990) and the compression of time and space reordering all spheres of social life (Harvey, 1989). Thus, it is safe to argue, following Andreas Wimmer (2001) who criticizes the epistemological foundations of 'globalization' as a singular concept, that this process is a multi-dimensional one involving different aspects and hybrid, uneven transformations.

There is also the issue of whether the process of globalization is 'old' or 'new'. While such authors as Ash Amin (1997) and Susan Strange (2001) see it as a new phenomenon that emerged in the last decades of the 20th century, many scholars challenge this argument (see Wallerstein, 1974; Harvey, 1989; Drache, 1996; Mann, 2001). In this context, Keohane and Nye (1989: 7; see also Held 1995a) make a useful distinction between what they call "thick" and "thin" globalization, where the latter term refers to historically earlier, smaller-scale, less complex economic and cultural links involving small groups, such as the 'silk road', and the former refers to today's highly complex and more intensive and extensive global relationships. …

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