Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

The New Turkey and Its Discontents

Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

The New Turkey and Its Discontents

Article excerpt

SIMON A. WALDMAN and EMRE ÇALIŞKAN, The New Turkey and Its Discontents (Oxford University Press, Oxford: 2017). Pp. 344. ?50.00 Cloth.

As its title succinctly suggests, Simon A. Waldman and Emre Çalışkan's The New Turkey and Its Discontents explores the tensions between a top-down governance project and the popular elements that take issue with it. Recalling Globalization and Its Discontents (2003), Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz's work on the populations of developing countries who objected to the globalizing reforms imposed upon them, Waldman and Çalışkan focus on societal opposition to reforms containing not only aspects of neoliberalism, but also personalistic authoritarianism and political Islam, imposed under Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Although the parties involved and dynamics of governance in Turkey have changed substantially over time, the state-society conflicts the book investigates in impressive depth also recall the continuing importance of the late seminal scholar Şerif Mardin's 1973 article on Turkey's center-periphery relations.1 Much has been transformed, often in whiplash-inducing shifts in both domestic and foreign policy, since the publication of Mardin's argument that legacies of Ottoman governance structures shape modern Turkey, but fissures remain between the governing and the governed-and among the governed themselves. As this new book argues, the imposition of AKP co-founder and leader President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's "New Turkey" onto a society rich (or riddled, depending on your viewpoint) with political, socio-economic, and cultural differences has served to exacerbate, rather than dispel, tensions around issues ranging from media freedoms (chapter 4) and urban development (chapter 5) to the Kurdish Question (chapter 6) and foreign policy (chapter 7).

The term "New Turkey" itself, although not defined until relatively late in the book, represents a political project and societal manifesto characterized most prominently by constitutional reforms that would concentrate executive power in the hands of Erdoğan himself. As the authors note, campaigns using the term in the 2014 presidential and 2015 general elections pitted a "New Turkey" against a return to military tutelage (79)-an explicit reference to a period in which much of Erdoğan's pious constituency experienced repression at the hands of a Republican Nationalist (also referred to, sometimes pejoratively, as Kemalist) elite. To facilitate an understanding of the debates at stake in the elections described in chapter 2- indeed in everyday life in Turkey-chapter 1 provides a detailed but crystal-clear account of the ideological and political clashes between the AKP and these former elites. Its concise overview of the Turkish-Islamic Synthesis (pp. 50-57) that resulted in a sort of compromise between secularists and members of Turkey's National Outlook (Milli Görüş) Movement to defeat leftist elements, viewed at the time as an even greater threat to Turkish society than Islamists, deftly avoids any reductionist secular-Islamist explanations while demonstrating how such a move opened the space for the rise of political Islam. A discussion of those who made similar compromises with Turkey's Islamists, such as the Yetmez Ama Evet'çiler (It's Not Enough But Yes) and foreign governments eager to identify a model for combining Islam and democracy in the region, would further contribute to understanding how the AKP came to a place where it could design and disseminate a "New Turkey" unthinkable twenty years ago. Additionally, a closer focus on the political economy of this project and on the deeply seated crony capitalism that underpins it while leaving Turkey's future subject to economic crisis would greatly enhance such an understanding.

Although the book's aim is not to provide a theoretical framework for such a transformation, greater references to some of the arguments in political science, sociology, media studies, and other literatures would enrich the fascinating narrative the book offers. …

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