Saturday, September 22, 2007


recently of issue is the so called sociological phenomenon of "peer pressure" (mahalle baskısı). the secularist/laicist masses are afraid/wary and warn that once relgious symbols as the head scarf are let free, peer pressure will cause those who now ignore them to abide by religious dress codes, too.

what is more, there exists positive evidence that the current administration is willing to encourage such pressure. an advisor to the prime minister just made a public statement condoning government contractors who made their wives cover their heads, so they can win tenders. "well, it is better they pull themselves together," he said; "if they want to do business".

hmmm... implication one:

in turkey, politics still consists of seizing the power and the means of the state and distributing them in partisan fashion to cohorts and minions, through an hierarchical pyramid, depending also on the psychological distance the beneficiary maintains to the center. this qualifies as a form of "patron - client" relationship but differs in that it is historically ordained: in the ottoman (and previously byzantine) system, the state was almost the only way for upward mobility aqnd prosperity. bureaucratic promotion depended on which clique of grand vizirs or vizirs were on the rise or on their way to the executioner's rope. peer pressure was a method of consolidating relations within one faction, and also tightening loyalties.

the same is true of any centrally operated system of distributing benefits. in diversified, democracy-oriented societies, interests are far more impersonalized, and are defined and sought collectively. that is why parties exist. rather than base policies on distributing the assets of the state (which, theoretically at least, belongs to everyone, rather than just the ruling political party and in practice, is getting smaller), they clear the way for the particular groups they represent to realize their goals, without license to harm or destroy opposing social forces.

in turkey's lay, non-political society, too, the same pyramidal hierarchies persist: with the weakening of the state and bureaucracy, a quasi-feudal structure of landlords and notables arose in turkey. they had tenants whom they had to "look after" in a paternal (patriarchal) rather than patronal model.

when the state's regime softened with the advent of democracy and more or less modern - capitalist modalities settled, the two branches of the paternal system merged. most of the previously externalized landlords and notables found their niches in the political system. thus, they, too, accessed means that they could dispense among loyals and entrench their local powers. then, as feudal ties further loosened, smaller but still paternal patterns of affiliation with a distinctly "business" rather than agrarian character dispersed in society. today, such "cliques", mostly based on locality or some sort of kinship, play an important function in all parties.

ferdinand tönnies was the first philosopher to put a finger on the machinations of this phenomenon, with his famous gesselschaft versus gemeinschaft dichotomy. simply put, the model pits the impersonal and anonymous urban (society) relationships against the more intimate rural (community) where personal ties, group pressure, social control play a heavy role in maintaining cohesion. obviously, the dichotomy lies on both ends of a continuum of capitalistic development.

the first implication is that, despite politicians' and media mythologies of economic development and success, turkey, one of the world's 20 largest economies, is still a state-oriented, over-centralized bureaucracy.

hmmm... implication two:

abiding by and strictly observing islamic rules may put souls at ease but they do not guarantee success in an open economy, dependent on technological development (*); where innovation is next to synonymous with free thinking.

this is the islamist's quandary in turkey: more and more, turkish capital and capitalists of islamic origins are appearing on the global scene of trade, not simply as merchants as they once did, but as consummate commercial agents in a fatally competitive market, where knowledge is not limited with what one learns by experience. neither at home nor abroad, can such economic dynamics suffer too much state patronage, auspices, intervention or impediment for long. rules of capitalism cannot brook playing favorites (**).

the first part of the second implication is that the akp and its hand-fed capitalist section may soon (***) have an oedipal fall out.

the second part of the second implication is that the akp's economic policies, unless the party is going to vanish into political vapor shortly, have to be autophagic (***) - they have to be self-devouring. they have to relinquish their hold over their protéges and aggree to being controlled by them. their alternative is going down the same way hardline islamist erbakan and co. did, into obligatory oblivion. if the akp succeeds such a gargantuan paradigm shift from religious piousness to conservative capitalism though, it can set itself free... just as a cunning fox chews away its caught limb from a trap... or a starving octopus feeds on one of its own legs...

hmmmm... implication three:

it all comes back to the same point on the vicious circle: tayyib effendi & co. & rosy are not philosophically, therefore mentally, therefore technically equipped to enact such a major transformation.

(*) i use technology rather looosely here, to cover all acts - not necessarily technical or mechanical - that make life easier and more enjoyable; or in practical terms, turn production as well as consumption into a meaningful source of fun, for deriving the best value out of time. therefore, a fine movie, an excellent painting, a good idea etc. are all a part of living-life-technology.
(**) indeed, there are signs leaking from the traditional economic giants of turkey, traditionally always watched over "paternally" by the state, that they do not much approve of the government's favoritism toward the "green" capital. they are apprehensive that the religiously oriented government is in a process of creating its own bourgeoisie, just as they were raised by the secularist state at one time. want an indicator? a major holding has sponsored an art show endorsing optimism! optimism is usually required at times of uncertainty, with the bad looming on most of the horizon. jjust ask who feels pessimistic in turkish society today?
(***) self eating
(****) sociologically soon... five years? 10? probably not 20...

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