The Modernization of Turkey: From Ataturk to the Present Day

The Modernization of Turkey: From Ataturk to the Present Day

The Modernization of Turkey: From Ataturk to the Present Day

The Modernization of Turkey: From Ataturk to the Present Day

Excerpt

Turkey has long held the interest of the West. Once it was the focus of attention because of its romantic fascination: an exotic land with sultans, harems, eunuchs and dervishes; a fierce and fearsome people who had twice knocked on the very gates of Vienna; the great mosques and monuments of Constantinople; the amazing Ataturk, who devastated mighty Britain at Gallipoli and then set out to turn his entire country around with one dramatic revolution after another. Then after World War II came the spectacle, almost unparalleled in modern times, of a ruling single party which not only allowed a free election, but acquiesced in its own defeat and quietly left power to become the opposition.

Today Turkey is still attracting the attention of observers, but for different reasons: It has completed a full half-century of a modernizing revolution, half of that period with democratic politics, a record achieved by few other "developing" countries. Its multiparty political system has been strong enough to survive two interventions by its armed forces. It has also managed to do well generally in checking radical challenges from both the right and the left, even while undergoing the strains of rapid population growth, the problems of rapid and massive urbanization, a vast increase in popular demands on both the political and economic systems, critical economic problems, and challenges from many directions in international relations. How and how well these problems have been met, and how the work of the first half-century of the Republic may have prepared Turkey for meeting the problems of the second, may tell us a great deal about both the potential for and the difficulties of the survival of democratic institutions in nations undergoing modernization. And while it is true that each society is in some way unique, perhaps it is not too much to hope that the ideas developed in this study might also be food for thought for other, later-modernizing nations.

To the visitor from the West, Turkey is a country of great paradoxes. One hears many complaints about the economy--rapid inflation, numerous shortages, aggravating inadequacies of public services--but at the same time most people seem to have a remarkable ability to adjust to their circumstances. To . . .

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