Academic journal article Hemispheres

What Does the Middle Class Serve? the Middle-Class Discourse in Turkey

Academic journal article Hemispheres

What Does the Middle Class Serve? the Middle-Class Discourse in Turkey

Article excerpt

Introduction

According to a news article published in 2006 in a Turkish newspaper which can be viewed as "central" in the political sense, "the entrepreneurial spirit as a milestone on the path to wealth has to do with human genetics". The article reports that, "the studies carried out by British and American researchers from London's St. Thomas Hospital on 609 pairs of maternal twins of the same gender and 657 pairs of twins of opposite genders have unravelled the fact that becoming a millionaire from scratch is a skill embedded in the genes".* 1 This is how you kill multiple birds with one stone so to speak: we have long known that associating the source of social inequality with personal traits or individual behaviours is the main point of departure for the bourgeoisie's ideologists from left or right wings. On top of that, we now have the "genetic" high ground. This way, not only the argument that social inequalities in capitalism can be explained without a class conflict between capital and labour, and in other words the idea of "farewell to the proletariat" finds new backing, but also the message that this has to do with "fate" is being engraved in people's minds.

Since the dawn of capitalism, the arguments on the existence of classes have swayed from side to side, stressed from both recognizing and denying the existence of classes. This "neither on earth nor in the sky" kind of approach to classes is nothing but the embodiment of the endeavour to cloud the existence of classes and equip capitalism with an ideological stability. The basic method used in such an endeavour is to absolutize periodical tendencies. An example of these attempts to absolutize would be the argument that new technologies have ruled out the working class. In addition to reversing reality, such attempts have played a crucial role in building an ideological hegemony over the working class, to satisfy the periodical needs of the various bourgeoisie's segments - no matter which one. Remember, if there is no working class or it is completely mied out, then all citizens would be equals, or at least everybody would belong to the middleclass! Class has no place in the new world of entrepreneurship. This is how a new ideological ground is ensured for the claims that a "new middle class" replacing not only a "classless and integrated society", that can be mobilized via "common interests", but also the emergence of the "conventional" working class, which therefore needs to organize based on different political practices.

Turkey's dominant classes have been, throughout the course of history, attempting to render the working class invisible by putting forward the idea of a "classless society" through political scientists and sociologists. Based on such approaches as social stratification, and interest groups which have also been adopted by sociological analyses conducted in Turkey, the existence of classes as a production relationship and consequently the presence of a working class has been overlooked. Regardless of all their differences, the common ground for those who have ignored the working class is that they tend to focus on the consumption standards of various social segments, their income and occupational status in particular, the capacity to engage in market and political processes, and their subjective positions within these processes. In social analyses throughout Turkey, such concepts as citizenship based on different identities, lifestyles and statuses, wealth and poverty based on different levels of income, entrepreneurship based on the competence to have a say in the markets, and elites and classes of commons based on the capacity to have managerial power, have frequently been used by different groups for different purposes. The main goal of such approaches as social stratification and interest groups, is also adopted by sociological analyses conducted in Turkey to ignore the existence of classes as a production relationship. …

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