World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Facets of Neoliberal Transformation (062) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE, 20 / 9-11 am

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Middle East Technical University (Turkey)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Galip Yalman

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: This panel is intended to provide a forum to discuss the social, political, economic and institutional changes which have been taking place in a specific context, namely, Turkey under the impact of the complex and multidimensional processes of transformation. It is planned to bring together participants working on different aspects of these processes of transformation by providing a critical analysis of the new tendencies of change and/or challenges in diverse spheres of the Turkish social formation. They will be focusing on the changing dynamics of state-society relations in Turkey as well as on the internationalisation of specific policy regimes during the last decade. The latter is to be given special importance as the key players in policy regimes increasingly tended to include those from outside the country as sources of policy ideas, policy design and implementation. In this particular instance, there is a need to articulate the ways in which the international actors such as the European Union and/or the IMF and the World Bank emerge as key players which change the rules and the structures of policy making in the country. There is yet another dimension of restructuring of the state which had a consequence, perhaps not anticipated at the time but furnished by the debates among the Western liberal intellectuals such as multiculturalism and the politics of recognition. This is the substitution of class-based politics with identity-based politics in the post-1980 period. The panel will underline the constitutive role played by the Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalk’nma Partisi, AKP) in this most recent phase of neoliberal transformation.

Chair: Dr.Nesim Şeker, Middle East Technical University, (Dept of History, METU)

Paper presenter: Galip Yalman, Middle East Technical University, (Dept. of Political Science and Public Adm. METU), Coping with Neoliberal Transformation
The age of globalisation was supposed to bring economic growth, prosperity and stability for the participants of the post-Cold War international economic order. But ironically, it has been plagued with a series of financial crises which not only posed a threat to the stability of the financial system, but more significantly, wreaked havoc with the contention that the policies of financial liberalization in general, of capital account liberalization in particular, would constitute the lynchpin of political and economic stability. The Turkish case provides an interesting example to analyse this process, which has been one of living through political and economic crises having been subjected to the political and economic conditionalities of the EU and the IMF respectively. It provides a highly illuminative case to articulate the ways in which the EU and the IMF emerge as key players which have changed the rules and the structures of policy making in a crisis-riddled country.
This paper aims to provide a critical analysis of both the IMF’s responses to crisis conditions and the process of Europeanization in the Turkish context which together have shaped the process of neoliberal transformation in general and the restructuring of the state in particular with the alleged aim of furthering democratization in Turkey and putting the economy on the path of stability and grow. The Turkish state has been getting restructured along neoliberal lines since the early 1980s, a process which has been closely shaped by the state’s persistent necessity for debt-recycling, the set political, economic and legal agendas to adopt the EU acquis, and relations with the IMF and the US.

Paper presenter: Zulkuf Aydin, University of Leeds, Dept. of Development Studies, Identity Politics and the Changing Nature of the State
Since the AKP’s ascendance to power in 2002, high hopes have been pinned on the fact that the long-lasting and well entrenched state tradition in Turkey was gradually giving way to more democratic politics, leading to the gradual replacement of the dominance of state elites with those of political elites. There has been a euphoria that changes in the nature of the state have already been set in motion, leading to further consolidation of democracy and ensuring the recognition of ethnic and religious rights. To a certain extent, satisfying the requirements of the Copenhagen Criteria through rapidly introduced laws and the direct representation of Kurdish identity politics in parliament through the Democratic Society Party, gave some credence to the optimism regarding the changing nature of the state. This paper aims to challenge this optimism by arguing that despite the emergence of identity politics in Turkey, state elites are still quite powerful vis a vis the political elites and the closure of the Democratic Society Party on 12 December 2009 is strong evidence for this. Although the political elites have improved their power in decision making, they have not been able to completely pacify the power of the state elites who consider some of the democratic reforms as threats to territorial integrity and secular regime.

Paper presenter: Ergin Yildizoglu, Middle East Technical University, (Centre for European Studies, METU), Neo-liberalism and Political Islam
This paper will focus on Political Islam and its symbiotic relationship with neo-liberalism. Political Islam is a social movement which has been originally founded by a certain type of ‘marginal intellectuals’ as a vehicle to political power, through the gradual imposition of a ‘truth regime’ and ‘bio politics’, based on, or derived from a particular interpretation of Islam. Neo-liberalism is a mode of economic regulation introduced as a form of crisis management during the financialization phase in the structural crisis of international capitalism. The symbiosis was possible, because, despite of all their acute differences, they nevertheless had converged at the last instance on an anti- Enlightenment, anti modernist platform. They have discovered each other first in the 1990s than in the late 1990 when the Greater Middle East Project was first became part of the agenda of the United States, the hegemonic power in the world economy and political system. Neo liberalism and political Islam have provided each other with two sets of very valuable services. One is on discursive level the other on political practical level. The paper will focus on two examples of this symbiotic relationship: One is the experience of The Muslim Brothers in Egypt in the 1980 and 90s, and the other is the experience Political Islam in Turkey in the last 20 years culminating with the assumption of power by AKP in 2002/03.

Paper presenter: Emre Uckardesler (Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada), "Conservative Welfare Regimes in Global Times:
Social Policy Transformation in Turkey"
This paper analyzes social policy transformation in Turkey by employing comparative welfare regimes and critical political economy frameworks. Looking at the division of labour between state, market, and households, the paper first delineates the historical Turkish welfare regime as deep but narrow conservative-corporatist type. Conservative welfare regimes are identified with inegalitarian and fragmented social policy schemes dividing the population across class, status and gender lines. The social insurance model of Turkey reflected the bias towards civil servants and skilled labour force. The paper, then, analyses the social policy reforms during 2000s. It depicts motivations and ideas of social policy actors and evaluates the reforms in health care insurance, pensions and social assistance. It argues that there have been attempts, informed by social-liberal bureaucrats, to ameliorate the fragmented structure of Turkish welfare regime and introduce a wider coverage/access. Yet, these attempts have been constrained by concerns about financial sustainability, and their potential effects have been dwarfed by larger neo-liberal economic policy, high unemployment and informal sector. Furthermore, following the Supreme Court’s veto from solely the perspective of civil servants, the new package did not only maintain more aspects of conservative regime, but also the government slackened the measures that aimed to facilitate wider coverage/access. In social assistance regime, there has been inertia because the government operates a parallel social assistance regime via municipalities and grassroots in return of electoral gains. The main oppositional voices in Turkey, however, have been restricted with mythical notion of social state allegedly existed in Turkey before neo-liberal times as well as with a work-conditioned conception of social policy instead of universality.