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Islam’s Marriage with Neoliberalism: State Transformation in Turkey, Yıldız Atasoy, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009

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Abstract Yıldız Atasoy’s recent survey of state transformation in Turkey reiterates some of the most typical shortcomings of Marxian approaches to the Ottoman/Turkish modernisation. This involves an ahistorical conception of capitalism reduced to commercial expansion and a structuralist method that transhistoricises the historical differentiation of the economic from the political. Combined together in Atasoy’s book, capitalism no longer exists in the shape of specific social relations and particular juridical/political forms, but rather it precedes and determines them. Consequently, social struggles over production and reproduction are separated from and no longer implicated within struggles over the redefinition of citizenship, secularism and democracy. An implicit economic determinism eventually prevails, reproducing functionalist modes of argumentation. Based on a theoretical and historical critique of Atasoy’s argument, this review seeks to provide new insights into Ottoman/Turkish modernity from a Political Marxist perspective.

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90. FN1 1. Keyman 2010.
91. FN2 2. Heper 2005.
92. FN3 3. Pamuk 2008a.
93. FN4 4. Ercan and Oḡuz 2006.
94. FN5 5. Yalvaç 2012.
95. FN6 6. A large group of scholars who have written extensively on Turkey from world-systems theory (WST) and dependency-theory perspectives have especially employed this conception. See Islamoḡlu and Keyder 1987; Kasaba 1988; Wallerstein, Decdeli and Kasaba 1987; Berberoḡlu 1982. For more nuanced approaches operating within the general parameters of world-systems and dependency theories, see Sunar 1987; Keyder 1987; Pamuk 1987; Boratav 2003.
96. FN7 7. Ercan 2002; Oḡuz 2008.
97. FN8 8. Although there have been many attempts to overcome the limitations of structuralist explanations by drawing attention to the local dynamics of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey (e.g. Atasoy 2005, p. 13; Gocek 1996, pp. 17–18; Insel 1984; Yalman 2002) the critique of the Braudelian/Wallersteinian understanding of capitalism has remained largely underdeveloped. As a result, capitalism is almost unanimously assumed to exist merely by virtue of the commercial and imperialist ties linking the Empire to the capitalist world-system, which no longer presupposes the existence of capitalist social relations. Marxian approaches to Ottoman/Turkish modernity eventually fail to distinguish between the capitalist world market and capitalism, jettisoning the theory of capitalism through their exclusive focus on imperialism (compare Wood 1997a, p. 3). For a thorough critique, see Brenner 1977 and 1985. For a debate on the origins of and transition to capitalism, see Hilton, Lefebvre, Procacci, Merrington, Hill, Hobsbawm, Dobb, Sweezy and Takahashi 1976.
98. FN9 9. See Brenner 1985; Wood 1995 and 1999; Comninel 1987; Lacher 2007; Teschke 2003.
99. FN10 10. Thompson 1978, p. 84.
100. FN11 11. Wood 1999, p. 14.
101. FN12 12. Brenner 1977, p. 39.
102. FN13 13. Compare Wood 1997b.
103. FN14 14. Pamuk 1987, p. 83.
104. FN15 15. Pamuk 1987, pp. 11–12.
105. FN16 16. Teoman and Kaymak 2008, pp. 317–18.
106. FN17 17. Adanır 1989, p. 155; Güran 1992, pp. 229–30.
107. FN18 18. Islamoglu 2000; Inalcik 1955, p. 227.
108. FN19 19. Kurmuş 2008, p. 79.
109. FN20 20. Issawi 1980, pp. 37–43; Pamuk 2008b, p. 388.
110. FN21 21. Comninel 1987; Blackbourn and Eley 1984; Mayer 1981.
111. FN22 22. Shilliam 2004, p. 59.
112. FN23 23. The transformation of the sultan’s slave into modern bureaucracy was the first step to the non-capitalist modernisation of statecraft. With the Tanzimat reforms, sultans’ ‘slaves’ secured almost hereditary rights to state office without the threat of confiscation, thus enhancing their privileged status at the apex of the state. Centralisation of taxation, modern war-making and the growing importance of the diplomatic service, however, forced them to build up a larger bureaucratic apparatus. Military and civil bureaucracy recruited larger and more provincial segments of late Ottoman society – mainly ayans, esrafs and prosperous peasants – into the lower grades of the state structure, with the modern institutions of education disseminated. It is these latter recruits who revolted against the upper reaches of the bureaucracy in the period from the 1850s to the Young Turk Revolution and made access to the state more talent-based. As a consequence, the state became even more important as a means of access to the surplus, and it became organically linked to the countryside – an important source of the peasant-based populism of the Young-Turk and Kemalist modernisation. See Mardin 2006, pp. 19–20.
113. FN24 24. Both the bureaucracy and the central military grew enormously during the nineteenth century. The number of military troops increased from 24,000 regular soldiers in 1837 to 120,000 in 1849. More strikingly, there were a half-million civil-service posts in 1900 that had not existed in 1800; see Quataert 1992, p. 218. Concomitantly, just prior to the Tanzimat reforms, ‘some 70 per cent of revenues were spent on the forces of coercion – and still many soldiers went unpaid’ (see Bromley 1994, p. 54, citing Owen 1981). One has to note that this was not an instance of ‘Ottoman exceptionalism’ either. Although the sale of offices was ended, and with state positions being opened up to talent, state-careers in nineteenth-century France also retained their importance: in 1863 the salaries of the Ministry of Finance alone consumed one-quarter of the taxes it levied (see Comninel 1987, p. 202).
114. FN25 25. For the peasant resistance against the institutionalisation of private property in land, see Islamoḡlu 2000; Inalcık 1955, p. 227. For the town-dweller resistance to the establishment of factories, see Quataert 1994, pp. 92–3. For the reluctance of the Ottoman reformers to promote industrialisation in the face of societal resistance, see Ortaylı 1978, p. 125.
115. FN26 26. Hoffman 2008. For a theoretical discussion on nationalism, see Dufour 2007.
116. FN27 27. The concepts used here are borrowed from Shilliam 2009, who provides an excellent account of the processes of subject-constitution in France and Germany in comparison to the impersonality of the capitalist subject in Britain.
117. FN28 28. Wood 1995, p. 22.
118. FN29 29. Barkan 1939, p. 237.
119. FN30 30. Quataert 1992, p. 92.
120. FN31 31. Admittedly, the issue of absence of private property in the Ottoman Empire is a contentious one (see Berktay 1987; Haldon 1993). However, it must be stressed that regardless of debates on the extent to which usufruct rights were hereditary and privatised in the Ottoman Empire, there is no disagreement that these extensive usufruct rights never turned into private property de jure. For a similar interpretation of the legal status of vakıf lands, see Barnes 1986.
121. FN32 32. Anderson 1974.
122. FN33 33. Compare Wood 2008, p. 191.
123. FN34 34. Atasoy’s analysis of the postwar world-economy is, by and large, informed by Fred Block’s reading of Karl Polanyi. For similar interpretations see Ruggie 1982; Cox 1996. Based on research on the previously unknown works of Karl Polanyi, it has been recently argued that reading postwar economy as an ‘embedded’ economic form is a severe misinterpretation of Polanyi’s original point of view (see Lacher 2007).
124. FN35 35. Watson 2007, p. 30.
125. FN36 36. Helleiner 1994, pp. 165, 173; Lacher 1999, p. 356; Panitch and Gindin 2009, p. 21.
126. FN37 37. Konings and Panitch 2009, pp. 231, 241.
127. FN38 38. For an extensive analysis of Fordism as it was practised in the Ford Motor Company, see Rupert 1995.
128. FN39 39. Maier 1977, pp. 613–14.
129. FN40 40. Boratav 2003, p. 95.
130. FN41 41. Ahmad 2009, p. 188; Timur 2001, p. 93.
131. FN42 42. Two points have to be clarified here. First, I do not mean that the cases of successful late development were achieved without state intervention. However, the state provision of subsidies in such countries as South Korea and Taiwan worked to ensure that capitalists became subjected to the rules of reproduction in the international market. Likewise, the provision of subsidies to peasants to enhance productivity was compensated for by charging the peasantry above-market prices for their access to fertilisers and consumption goods (see Amsden 2001; Amsden 1985, pp. 86–7). Second, this is not to make a ‘strong state versus weak bourgeoisie’ argument. For a critique of this widely held argument, see Yalman 2002; Dinler 2003; Duzgun 2012. My intention is simply to draw attention to the historical trajectory of the constitution and consolidation of capitalism in Turkey with a particular focus on class dynamics and property regimes. For a similar analysis with a specific focus on the developmental state, see Chibber 2003.
132. FN43 43. Milor 1989, pp. 255–6.
133. FN44 44. The Agricultural Bank-provided credits to agriculture increased almost ten-fold between 1948 and 1958 (see Oktar and Varlı 2010, p. 12).
134. FN45 45. Over 25 per cent of the total value of agricultural production was procured by the state throughout the ISI years (see Kasnakoğlu 1986, p. 132). Also, the domestic terms of trade increased in favour of agriculture by 41 per cent from 1960–1 to 1975–6 (see Boratav 2003, p. 136).
135. FN46 46. Keyder 1987, p. 131.
136. FN47 47. Pamuk 2008b, p. 392.
137. FN48 48. For instance, despite significantly lower levels of productivity, manufacturing wages in Turkey were three times the level of South Korean wages in 1974, double in 1977 and still 50 per cent higher than Korean wages in 1979 (see Keyder 1987, pp. 159–61).
138. FN49 49. For a similar critique, see Shilliam 2004.
139. FN50 50. Aydın 2005, pp. 158–9.
140. FN51 51. State support for agriculture decreased from 3.2 per cent of GDP in 1999 to 0.45 per cent in 2009. See Günaydın 2009, p. 183.
141. FN52 52. Figures obtained from the Turkish Institute of Statistics, as published in 2010.
142. FN53 53. Aydın 2005, p. 152; Keyder and Yenal 2011.
143. FN54 54. Yeldan 2006; Alper and Öniş 2003.
144. FN55 55. The Antitrust Act of 1994 filled an important loophole in the Turkish legal system, for the first time putting into operation Article 167 of the 1982 Turkish Constitution that obliged the state to prevent cartelisation and monopolisation in the economy. The Competition Board, established as an ‘independent’ institution in 1997, further strengthened the rule of competition, upholding it as a constitutional responsibility (see Sanlı and Ardıyok 2011, p. 76).
145. FN56 56. While annual privatisation income was $380 million between 1980 and 2003, after 2003 it reached $6 billion annually. Also, privatisation entered the constitution only in 1999, countering for the first time the explicit constitutional references to ‘nationalisation’ and ‘use for public good’ (see Güran 2011, pp. 23, 38).
146. FN57 57. Oğuz 2008, p. 118.
147. FN58 58. Rosenberg 1994.
148. FN59 59. Duzgun 2012.

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