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Social Theory and Later ModernitiesThe Turkish Experience$

Ibrahim Kaya

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780853238881

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846314094

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A Theory of Modernity in the Light of the Turkish Experience

A Theory of Modernity in the Light of the Turkish Experience

(p.137) Chapter 7 A Theory of Modernity in the Light of the Turkish Experience
Social Theory and Later Modernities
Liverpool University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter summarizes the topics in the earlier chapters, which led to the main argument that the existing social theory is unsound for analysing ‘later modernities’, and elaborates on the concept which has defined later modernities and the lessons learned in present-day Turkey. It concludes with the statement that Turkey must be seen as a singularized culture rather than a border country between Islam and the West, and also states that although Turkey cannot become fully a Western nation, it also cannot completely separate itself from the West.

Keywords:   European Union, social theory, present-day Turkey, Islamic countries, Western nation

On the basis of the Turkish experience of modernity, this book has thus far argued that, to a considerable extent, existing social theory is invalid for analysing ‘later modernities’. Some explicit lessons from the Turkish experience now need to be drawn in order to strengthen the proposition that the concept of varieties of modernity should be used to explore ‘other’ experiences of modernity. In this concluding chapter, therefore, I consider what can be learned from the Turkish experience for a social theory of modernity.

The Concept of Later Modernities

Since a plurality of histories, civilizations, modernizing agents and their projects indicates the existence of multiple modernities, the problematization of the assumed equivalence between modernity and the West is unavoidable. When social science accepts the West as another civilization among many, it can be recognized that ambitions to ‘totalize’ the world on the basis of Western values have had imperialist ambitions. It is because of this that Western modernity necessarily faced legitimate resistance. However, Eastern civilizations entered into an era of self-questioning partly because of the challenge posed by the imperialist intentions of Western modernity. It is undeniable that the idea of modernity in Eastern societies is imported from the West. Nevertheless, the fact that modernity first emerged in Western Europe does not guarantee that Western European countries provide the only instances of genuine or successful modernities. For example, one could show that American modernity is more advanced than European modernity, although the idea of modernity in America was imported from Europe.1

In short, modernity should not be viewed as the equivalent of the West. (p.138) Once the West is seen as a civilization among many, it is necessary to submit to the truth: the West is not the only specific context in which modernity can exist; there are other modernities. The concept of later modernities refers to an important category in terms of multiple modernities. The history of modernity could, in one way, be read as a history of tensional relations between East and West. Since Eastern modernities emerged after Western modernity, they may justifiably be termed later modernities. Challenged and shaken, the East has responded to the rise of the West with the creation of distinct modernities: those of Russia, China, Japan and Turkey. This should indicate that both earlier and contemporary modernization theories fail because original, Western modernity did not become the model of modernity for the East. I have shown that Turkish modernity, as a later experience, imported the idea of modernity from the West and, indeed, Westernized to an extent. However, the Western element in the Turkish experience does not suffice for Turkish modernity to be seen simply as the result of Westernization.

An argument for the existence of later modernities should necessarily question the convergence thesis within mainstream modernization theories. Societies in modern times do not converge, but maintain their distinctions, existing as a plurality of cultures. It is precisely for this reason that we must reject the understanding of the globalization of modernity as a diffusion of Western civilization. Modernity is globalized, but this globalization does not refer to a Westernization of the world; rather, it reflects the multiplicity of modernity. This may show that the current era is no longer dominated by the West, but that possibly a post-Western era is emerging. The post-Western era should not, however, be viewed as the beginning of postmodernity, because, as I have shown, modernity is not equivalent to the West. Therefore, even if European modernity is being dissolved, or renewed, the current era reflects the existence of multiple modernities. It should become clear that the perspective of later modernities is incompatible with postmodernist positions. Since the perspective of later modernities does not read modernity as a desire to achieve a controlled, totalized world, the existence of plurality in ideas and practices is not taken to refer to the end of modernity. Rather than understanding modernization to mean the homogenizing of distinct cultures, we should view the plurality of cultures and civilizations as an indication of the existence of distinct modernities. The concept of later modernities refers to Eastern modernities, but it needs to be observed that these modernities came about without colonization by the West; so, for example, the Turkish experience cannot be viewed in the category of postcolonial experiences. A genuine later modernity will include elements distinctive enough to problematize Western understandings of modernity; for example, in the Turkish case, the role of (p.139) women as key actors in the transition to modernity.

However, this is not an argument for antagonistic modernities. By understanding modernity as an actor between civilizations, I emphasized its capacity to change cultures. Thus, modernity is able to reduce oppositions between civilizations. However, this does not mean that modernity should be understood as undermining distinctions between civilizations and leading to a ‘global world’. Neither universalism nor cultural relativism seems to be desirable: Western universalism ignores non-Western cultures and cultural relativism can be taken to legitimate any cultural practice. Our investigation shows that not only the perspectives of globalization, but also those of relativism, need to be questioned. It is important to insist that the distinctions between modernities do not necessarily mean that there are fundamentally incompatible modernities; rather, they mean that there are multiple formations of modernity and multiple answers to questions that arise during modern experiences.

From the above argument, it must be recognized that the world is not open to a unitary reading. Rather, in the current phase of modernity, the social world emerges as highly complex. Dualities and dialectical occurrences need to be looked at with a view that places multiplicity at the centre of analysis. No single process or realm could be considered to be the central determining, ordering or shaping feature of human practice and identity. In this respect, it must be argued that neither globalization nor localization should be taken to be the central characteristic that shapes our lives. Plurality is a condition for human action. I showed that the Turks can no longer hope to achieve a coherent society, nor can they hope to isolate themselves from the global world. Neither local cultures and practices nor global occurrences alone could be taken to define the situation.

From this observation we can conclude that neither the thesis of the clash of civilizations nor the belief in the end of history can be considered to be convincing. Fukuyama's thesis of the end of history seems particularly untenable, because in order for us to conclude that history has come to an end, there should no longer be civilizational or national conflicts. However, the world has faced and continues to face significant struggles between countries and between civilizations. The crisis of statism and the collapse of the communist bloc were the background against which Fukuyama believed that it was possible to talk about the end of history. Fukuyama's thesis therefore stems from a perspective that views the twentieth century in terms of the clash between communism and liberalism. This must refer to the idea that both liberalism and communism did settle all questions about the ultimate goals of human beings, and that when one of these modern ideals terminally fails, the other (p.140) deserves to be called ‘the optimum mode of political organization’. Thus, Fukuyama (1992: 287) writes as follows: ‘If history leads us in one way or another to liberal democracy, this question then becomes one of the goodness of liberal democracy, and of the principles of liberty and equality on which it is based’. The collapse of communism gave Fukuyama the sense that ‘liberal democracy may constitute the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the final form of the human government and as such constituted the end of history’ (Fukuyama, 1989: 4). What is most striking in this perspective for the present study is that Fukuyama can be considered as a radical Westernist since, in his view, human history is reduced to the Western path of development. He argues that ‘there is a fundamental process at work that dictates a common evolutionary pattern for all human societies – in short something like a Universal History of mankind in the direction of liberal democracy’ (Fukuyama, 1992: 48). And he goes on to claim that ‘[the] Universal History of mankind was nothing other than man's progressive rise to full rationality, and to a self-conscious awareness of how that rationality expresses itself in liberal self-government’ (Fukuyama, 1992: 60). Fukuyama (1992: 143–80) takes his Westernism from Hegel by understanding him as the first philosopher who maintained that history would inevitably end and that this end would come when the liberal state satisfied mankind's desire for recognition. By comparing Hegel with another Western theorist, Marx, Fukuyama concludes that ‘the end of history’ was thought of either as liberal democracy or as communist society. Against the Marxist view of the end of history, Fukuyama believes with Hegel that liberal societies are free from contradictions because they form themselves on the principles of liberty and equality. This is radically open to question, but my interest here is not whether communism could reemerge to provide an alternative to liberalism; rather, I want to show that Fukuyama's thesis fails because he reduces multiple histories to a single Western history. An analysis based on a concept of later modernities, such as the one provided in this book, makes it possible to challenge successfully the end-of-history thesis on socio-historical grounds.

Fukuyama understands history as a single, coherent, evolutionary process by homogenizing the experiences of all peoples at all times. He necessarily does so, because it becomes easier to talk about the end of history when a totalizing view of history is held as the starting point. The idea of one-directional universal history is both ethnocentric and Western in origin. From Hegel to Habermas, mainstream social theorists have emphasized history as one-directional in the sense that the Western way of life stands at its end. The idea of unilinear historical development in fact reached its high point in post-Second World War modernization theory, which, however, had almost disappeared by the (p.141) end of the 1970s. The collapse of the communist bloc then gave rise to neomodernization theories that have emphasized ‘convergence’ once again. Fukuyama should be seen in this light, but, even in this context, his belief that the end of history has been reached represents an extreme position. In Fukuyama's perspective, the Western liberal way of life has resolved all deep contradictions and therefore nothing is left to struggle for or to desire. This is again open to question, but even if liberal democracy had resolved all contradictions and if as a result Westerners were satisfied, could this be seen to be true for all societies in the world? Could it be said that liberalism had achieved universality? The concept of later modernities suggests that there have been multiple ways to modernity and that those multiple ways have given rise to multiple consequences. These consequences do not converge anywhere, neither under the label of liberal democracy nor under that of communist society. Both communism and liberalism are Western in their origin, and in later modernities neither liberalism nor communism emerged in precisely the way in which they did in Europe or North America. In Russia, for example, communism was not free from Russian history and that history has not come to an end, because it certainly has not found a solution to all contradictions yet. Or, for example, Turkish culture cannot be said to have the ultimate goal of achieving liberal democracy in the Western way. The multiple consequences of the multiple ways to modernity indicate that history is far from coming to an end. For instance, Ilhan (2001) argues that China, Russia and Iran aim to form a bloc whose ultimate goal may not be liberal democracy. Now, in addition, I want to pick up the case of Islamism to demonstrate that history is not at its end. Islamism is not only a reaction against the new world order, but an expression of a particular identity which, although it can be understood as modern, cannot be seen as liberal.

Fukuyama (1992: 45) argued that ‘for a very large part of the world, there is now no ideology with pretensions to universality that is in a position to challenge liberal democracy, and no universal principle of legitimacy other than the sovereignty of the people’. He does see Islam as a universal ideology, one that could potentially include everyone, but concludes that it cannot challenge liberal democracy. So, Fukuyama understands that in order to counterbalance liberal democracy, there must be a universal ideology that is able to reach out to all human beings. Fukuyama fails to understand that current Islamism's ultimate goal is not to create a universal world on the basis of Islamic values. Islamism rather aims to keep its distance from the West and from liberal democracy. In doing so, it develops a modernity of its own, which does not agree with the principles of liberalism. Thus, even if it is the case that all big questions are settled in the West, that deep contradictions are resolved (p.142) under liberal democracy and that Westerners are satisfied with that, this can only tell us about the end of a particular history, that of the West. In Islamic societies, the big questions are not answered yet, and this is why Islamism emerged in the final quarter of the twentieth century and continues to garner support. I would argue, therefore, that Fukuyama should consider the plurality of histories and limit his argument to Western history rather than reducing the experiences of all peoples to the Western one.

From the importance of the plurality of civilizations in shaping human identity and practice, we should not conclude, though, that the distinctions between people are purely cultural by eliminating political, economic and ideological differences, as Huntington (1997) does. In striking contrast to Fukuyama, Huntington (1997: 125) writes: ‘Alignments defined by ideology and superpower relations are giving way to alignments defined by culture and civilization. Political boundaries increasingly are redrawn to coincide with cultural ones: ethnic, religious, and civilizational. Cultural communities are replacing Cold War blocs, and the fault lines between civilizations are becoming the central lines of conflict in global politics.’ The importance of culture was certainly once neglected in social theories. To remedy that neglect, however, the discovery of the importance of culture in terms of our relations to the world should not give rise to the equally one-sided perspective that nothing but culture is the determining element of human practice. But Huntington (1997: 308) takes precisely this view: ‘cultural identities are central and cultural affinities and differences shape the alliances, antagonisms, and policies of states’. This is a one-sided perspective that does not accept the insight that the conflicts that shape change should not be reduced to the purely economic, cultural or political; and that, rather, the multiplicity of factors needs to be recognized. Certainly, emphasizing the existence of multiple civilizations as an important factor in global politics sheds light on understanding the current world era. However, what is not acceptable in Huntington's perspective is the belief that the distinctions between civilizations inevitably demonstrate that the current era is shaped by the clash of civilizations.

In the light of the concept of later modernities, it is possible to show that Huntington's thesis fails. I shall demonstrate this by means of three arguments developed in the present book. First, ‘distinction’ does not necessarily mean ‘clash’. I have shown that the concept of later modernities is not based on the idea that multiple modernities are antagonistic modernities. I have developed a perspective in which modernity plays a certain part in reducing oppositions between civilizations. Civilization or culture is important for the creation of different modernities, but, in turn, modernity does not produce overall societal or cultural stability. Modernity does not permit societies to maintain their (p.143) traditional cultural values unaltered; that is, modernity is never purely the product of a civilization or culture. I shall now pick up the case of Islamism, which is seen by Huntington (1997: 209–18) to be the most powerful opposition to Western civilization. By viewing current Islamism as an anti-Western ideology, Huntington concludes that a growing civilizational clash is emerging between the Christian West and the Islamic East. It is undeniable that Islamism means in one respect a rejection of the new world order, but this is only half of the story. I have shown that modernity alters cultures and that Islamic societies are not free from this. The analysis of Islamist women has shown that they do not purely turn towards traditional Islam as a source of identity; rather, they have developed a new identity under conditions of modernity. This new identity does not oppose the West as much as traditional Islam would do. The participation of Islamist women in the public sphere, for example, shows that under conditions of modernity women in different societies in fact share more than they would have shared in traditional ages. That is, modernity alters cultures and as a consequence civilizational oppositions are being reduced.

Secondly, the cultural element is not the only important factor in shaping human beings' lives, although it is very important that culture is rescued from its earlier neglect in social theories. Not only the cultural element needs to be interpreted in terms of the distinctions and similarities between modernities; rather, multiple factors should be analysed. Because the social world is complex, it cannot be understood on the basis of one fundamental feature. I have demonstrated that an economic and a political analysis are also necessary to explore the Turkish version of modernity. If it were true that cultural identities define all other practices and identities, it would be difficult to explain the clashes between people who are members of the same clan, ethnic group, or nation.

Thirdly, some observations on Huntington's neglect of the distinction between civilization and culture can show that the idea of a clash of civilizations is untenable. Huntington talks about civilizations as if they are blocs pitted against one another. He groups many different cultures together in a particular totalized civilization. For example, when he analyses the Islamist opposition to the West, Huntington takes ‘the West’ and ‘Islam’ as two coherent civilizations without saying a word about different cultures both in the West and in the Islamic East: he says, for example, that ‘following the 1979 Iranian revolution, an intercivilizational quasi war developed between Islam and the West’ (Huntington, 1997: 216). He continues: ‘The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not (p.144) the CIA or the U.S. Department of Defense. It is the west, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture and believe that their superior, if declining, power imposes on them the obligation to extend that culture throughout the world’ (Huntington, 1997: 217–18). On the one hand, we see here ‘the West’ understood as a totality, including both Eastern and Western Europe and the USA, and on the other hand we see ‘Islam’, including Iran, Iraq, Turkey and so on, understood as another totality. What is lacking here is a distinction between civilization and culture.

I have argued that Turkey cannot be taken to be unequivocally a member of an Islamic civilization; rather, Turkish culture can best be viewed as a singularized one, which interprets both Islamic and Western civilizations in its own way. So if we agree with Huntington that an ‘intercivilizational war’ is developing between ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’, how do we place Turkey in relation to this? When the Islamic East is not understood as a totality, however, it becomes possible to show that there are distinct cultures in one civilizational zone. Huntington (1997: 312) seems to realize this, when he advises that the USA and European countries should ‘achieve greater political, economic and military integration and coordinate their policies so as to preclude states from other civilizations exploiting differences among them’. Here he seems to consider the possibility that the West should not be seen as a totalized, homogeneous civilization. Rather, for example, the distinctions between the USA and Europe should be taken into account to show that there is no such civilization as a Western one that includes Eastern Europe, Western Europe and the USA (see Lipset, 1996). In general, however, Huntington neglects cultural distinctions within single civilizations. However, these distinctions can lead to clashes and indeed wars between nations within a single civilization. Both the First and the Second World War, for example, were fought between Western states, while the Iran–Iraq war was a conflict between two Islamic countries whose interpretations of Islam nonetheless differed greatly.

Our investigations show that the totalizing perspectives of social theory must be challenged. Adherents of both modernization theory and the dependency perspective believe that their methods for analysing the process of change are applicable to all societies. While for evolutionist modernization theory, the causes of modernizing processes in societies are mostly internal, according to the dependency perspective, the causes are fully external. While the dependency perspective is pessimistic, modernization theory is optimistic. However, we have seen that both external and internal factors are involved in the alteration of lately modernizing societies. In the course of the Turkish revolution, international pressure, the vulnerable Ottoman Empire and rising intellectuals played pivotal roles. In the alteration of societies, therefore, we should not (p.145) overemphasize one factor while excluding others. In terms of the development of a later modernity, the dependency theorists are correct, to some extent, to argue that autonomous development is required. But this development does not necessarily imply a socialist revolution. The development of a lately modernizing society is also possible according to a capitalist model. We saw that the Kemalist model of economic development is strongly autonomous although also capitalist. However, it needs to be said that this sort of political economy – both capitalist and anti-imperialist – is very difficult to achieve completely. Modernization theory is evolutionist and, therefore, explains social change by viewing the dominant value system as the adjusting sphere of society (Nisbet, 1969). However, disputes over goals are particular dynamics in defining the direction of change. In general, classic social theory's main question – how a diversified society could be held together – should no longer represent the starting point of social analysis. I have shown that the Turkish experience has been shaped by conflictual and tensional relations between different actors. There have been violent collective actions that, in turn, brought about measures to end conflicts in society, aiming to hold the Turks together by imposing a value system. However, neither Islam nor nation as an integrating element could unify Turkish society. Thus, the integration of society should not be overemphasized as the theme to be explored, although contradictions in society cannot be simply ignored. Thus, for a reading of multiple modernities, neither the integration theory of society, which assumes a social structure as a functionally integrated system, nor the coercion theory of society, which understands social structure as a form of organization held together by force, should be taken as the basis for the analysis. In both perspectives, society is seen as a whole, held together by a functional value system or by force. But, as has been shown, a modern society can in no way be conceived of as a coherent whole or as a system.

Finally, world-systems theory should be critically observed. For Wallerstein (1979), the unit of analysis is the universal historical system, the capitalist world-economy. World-systems theory assumes classes and nations to be the central actors of modernity. Therefore, ideology is seen as universal. However, as I have shown, conflicts between social actors, not necessarily coming from opposing classes or nations, play a role in shaping human practice. Reading the world in terms of a dichotomy between metropolitan capitalism and the non-Western periphery or semiperiphery does not explain how later modernities emerged, nor the fact that some of them are no less advanced than metropolitan, capitalist Western states. Contrary to the assumption of world-systems theory, modernizing non-Western states found that the problems caused by Western imperialism could be resolved on the basis of different models. That (p.146) is, neither capitalism nor socialism, as an option for the development of later modernities, can be seen as a fixed, unitary model. Rather, both are subject to civilizational contexts and modernizing agents. Therefore, multiple trajectories of modernization need to be observed, especially because self-questioning and self-problematization, rather than simply Western imperialism, are the basic dynamics for societies in the transition to modernity.

Thus, my argument for later modernities does not side with the convergence thesis, but nor does it understand multiple modernities as necessarily antagonistic modernities. This is because, as has been indicated in this book, modernity is neither the property of the West nor is it simply a dimension of Western, imperialist power. There are multiple relations of modernity to civilizations and interpretations of modernity by civilizations. Therefore, later modernities are different interpretations of the world and of the self, but they are not necessarily antagonistic.

The Lessons for Present-Day Turkey

Modernization is a political issue. To build a modernity is to control an entire population. This, in turn, implies a political programme such as nationalism. Thus, a project of modernity is necessarily a political project. Since a political project, in the first place, means a systematic attempt to alter the existing social reality, a project of modernity needs to be read as a disciplining phenomenon. The belief that society can be reshaped by a political project is grounded in a view of society as an autonomous entity regulated by internal laws, rather than by God or nature – laws that can be fully explored and grasped by human reason. As we have seen, Kemalism reflects this feature clearly. That is, Kemalism was an intervention into society in order to create Turkish modernity. The need to manage society, however, poses a challenge to political projects. The ‘disciplining’ of a population may be attempted through violent revolutionary movements or by means of formalization on the basis of law. Law is an essential carrier of discipline: by means of law, the state can reinterpret social reality to serve its own ambitions. Kemalism should be read in terms of both revolutionary and legal change. For radical social change, a break with the old regime on the basis of political revolution was required; formalization through law was then needed to ensure the legitimacy of the post-revolutionary regime. In these ways, modernizing agents reinterpret the social reality. However, as we have seen, there is no single answer to the problem of disciplining people; rather there are different projects for doing so.

As part of my argument for the varieties of modernity, I have analysed the specific characteristics of Kemalism as a disciplining project. Planning and (p.147) controlling came to be the two basic tools used by Kemalist actors, because ‘reasonable’ agents thought of themselves as having the right to alter society. Kemalism distinguished itself by imposing discipline for the further goal of liberation. The Kemalist revolution was not a bloody revolution in the sense that it did not emerge as a socio-political movement of a particular social class, as in the case of the revolutions of France and Russia (Skocpol, 1979). Since the Kemalists regarded their revolution as an emancipating project of the whole nation, the regime that they founded after the revolution of 1923 became a unique form of authoritarian regime. From the beginning, a limited plurality was included in the Kemalist polity. It was precisely because of this characteristic of Kemalism that the alteration of social reality became a very difficult process, leading to clashes between the modernizing state and factions within society. Law was viewed as being able to alter social reality; reforms were legitimated by the power of the law. But this led to clashes between law and tradition. Thus, the Kemalist project reflects, first of all, that a project of modernity means the disciplining of the population.

However, Kemalism cannot be conceived simply as a disciplining project, because it was also a liberating movement. The tenets of secularism, republicanism, populism, revolutionism and nationalism were important for the sake of liberty. Secularism, for example, provided opportunities for women to enjoy participation in the public sphere, while nationwide education allowed Islamic actors to reinterpret Islam as a political religion. Thus, even if a project of modernity aims to modernize the socio-cultural world on the basis of a specific conception of modernity, its own reforms provide opportunities for the people to interpret the world and themselves in different, perhaps conflicting ways. And the tensions between liberty and discipline were to give rise to new events; that is, the Kemalist project, like any conception of modernity, was open to different interpretations. Kemalism could be conceived of as an outlook; it did not intend to impose a closed system of thought on the polity and society in the long run. Although Kemalism is still interpreted differently by different political actors, bureaucratic elites converted Kemalist thought into a state ideology. It is basically for this reason that the Kemalist project has enabled both disciplining and liberation. We have seen this particularly through examining the relations between state, society and economy in Turkey.

In analysing the specific configuration of state, society and economy in the Turkish experience, we saw the importance of the radicalization of oppositions in society. I showed that the rise of Turkish society, the Turkish economy and the Kemalist state indeed depended on the creation of dualities. For the sake of radical social change, Kemalism aimed to create oppositions, because revolution was assumed to require radical disputes over the system. This feature is (p.148) specific to the history of Turkish modernity. For instance, emphasizing science as the only true guide to life radicalized some existing dualities between Islamic scholars, the ulema, and the rising modernist intellectuals in the 1930s. This duality did not disappear but, on the contrary, has played a fundamental role in the history of the Turkish republic. Therefore, it is difficult to analyse the Turkish experience without considering the radicalization of dualities. It becomes clear that relations between state and society can be summarized in terms of the tension between liberty and discipline. The analysis of twentiethcentury Turkish history shows that the whole century was a struggle between liberty and discipline.

In the analysis of the relations between the state, society and the economy, we noted that the realms of the social world are not separable from one another, although they possess a degree of autonomy. Rather, the state and society have the power to shape each other, while the economy crucially shapes relations between people in society as well as those between the state and society. In particular, Turkish society and the Turkish state cannot be viewed as independent of the economy, which has played a constitutive part in shaping twentieth-century Turkish history. Both administration (the polity) and production (the economy) are dominated by instrumental rationality, so that the ‘system’ to a great extent dominates the actors. That is, economic power, in terms of labour, exchange and consumption, and political power, in terms of the regulation of society, the maintenance of boundaries and geopolitical activity, have partly shaped modern Turkey. Therefore, it is important to insist that to be modern is to face a paradoxical situation. Human beings are overpowered by the rule of law or formal rationality, yet they have the opportunity to fight to change their world in order to make it their own. On the one hand, the ‘system’ – administration and production – aims to standardize practices and identities on the basis of formal rationality, but, on the other hand, it is also under conditions of modernity that human beings have the opportunity to create their own identities without being completely determined by the system. It is for this reason that the masses once excluded from the modern system can now participate in the modernity of Turkey. People who were once outside modern discourse – Kurds, Islamists, leftists and so on – now express an irrevocable plurality. The best example of the current configuration could be the existence of multiple television channels. Until the late 1980s, there was only state television, but now there are several private channels that reflect this irrevocable plurality. This is to say that, under conditions of modernity, plural world-interpretations cannot be eradicated, even if totalizing attempts are made using physical power.

For a reading of multiple modernities, the various possible configurations of (p.149) state, society and economy are important indicators. The relations between liberty and discipline can provide clues as to the characteristics of the modernity under investigation, as can analysis of how the state in question conceives of itself and how the society in question presents itself. For instance, the Leninist state regarded itself as proletarian, yet a very distinct Russian experience has been written in world history. Turkish society, to take another example, was unable to present itself as either fully Islamic or fully Western, leading to a unique experience among Islamic and Western countries. The formation of the economic sphere also needs to be examined carefully to point out some of the distinctions between modernities. For instance, the Turkish bourgeoisie cannot be seen as similar to Western ones. In this, of course, the forces that define power relations in a society are an important factor. Since power was not purely determined by socio-economic criteria in the Turkish experience, the Turkish capitalist class could be conceived of as a product of a state-centred political project, and this feature distinguishes present-day Turkey from Western countries.

History showed its power, particularly in terms of the actors of Turkish modernity. In the history of the Turks, autonomous intellectuals, such as the ulema, had already acted as carriers of models of cultural and social orders, and thus their emergence from the Kemalist elite as modernizers should not be surprising. I argued that the emergence of Kemalist actors as the main agents of modernization was directly related to the historical background of Turkey. History provides possible options for human action and, therefore, it is an inescapable power that plays a pivotal role in shaping the modern experience. Without considering the power of history, it is impossible to analyse presentday Turkish society. As has been shown, for example, the role of the military cannot be explored by looking simply at power relations: the historical mission to protect democracy, assumed by the military as its duty, has also been an important factor. The importance of history in the shape of Turkish modernity, however, cannot be taken to mean that no break occurred in the Turkish experience. Without such moments of rupture, modernity cannot emerge. Although history played a part in the emergence of the Turkish project of modernity, new ideas – such as that of a democratic republic – were introduced by the Kemalist actors playing another constitutive part. Thus, for a reading of multiple modernities, both continuity – the power of history – and discontinuity – the creativity of social actors must be emphasized. In the Turkish context, it can be seen that Kemalism did not achieve an absolute break with previous history; it did not bring about a completely new Turkey – a Western nation.2 Equally, Kemalism cannot be understood as aiming to change the natural evolution of Turkish society by bringing about a revolution for the sake (p.150) of Westernization.3 Rather, both continuity – the power of history – and discontinuity – the power of the project – should be invoked to demonstrate the proposal that Turkish modernity is neither a Western modernity nor a product of Turkish tradition.

On this basis it can be argued that some of the main problems as well as the achievements of present-day Turkish society are connected to the two basic principles of Kemalism: secularism and nationalism. Of course, more recent actors and projects are also responsible, but the founding principles of Kemalism have been interpreted as important factors in the emergence of the Kurdish question and the problem with Islamism, as well as in providing opportunities that have been enjoyed by the Turkish people. Kemalism, on the one hand, aimed to dissolve the social ties between people for the sake of delocalization. On the other hand, it aimed to bring people together on the basis of nationalism and secularism. Although the Kemalist regime cannot be seen to have aimed at institutionalizing secularism and nationalism as closed ways of thinking about society and the polity, both secularism and nationalism came to be subject to different interpretations by political actors. Secularism has been viewed as the most important principle of the Turkish republic by neo-Kemalist actors. This has not only brought about some serious clashes between secularists and Islamists, it has also been exploited by right-wing political parties for political ends. When a political project uses secularism as an overemphasized guide to life, an opposing project may turn Islam into a political religion, attempting to use the religion to ‘colonize’ the polity for its own ends.

It may seem that there is a contradiction between my argument in Chapter 5 for the compatibility of Islam with modernity and my discussion in Chapter 6 of the tension-ridden relations between Islam and modernity. Since modernity is never simply a product of tradition, but always requires modernizing agents, it should be clear that conflict will always accompany the emergence of modernity. In the Turkish case, the conflict between Kemalism and some parts of Islamic society should not be understood in terms of Islamic actors, from the beginning, rejecting modernity. In contrast, as I have shown, Islamism, as against Kemalist modernity, proposes a different sort of modernity. It could be conceived of as follows. First, Islam should not be understood as a civilization that rejects modernity; rather, the possibility of a different interpretation of modernity in Islamic societies should be considered. Secondly, insisting on the compatibility of Islam with modernity does not mean that modernity can be conceived of as a necessary result of the evolution of societies. Rather, the agency of modernization needs to be emphasized. On the one hand, I have shown that Islam cannot easily be regarded as an anti-modern civilization, but, on the other hand, I have emphasized that there are high (p.151) tensions between Islamist and modern actors. This means that an analysis of Islam and Islamism should question perspectives of Islam as anti-modern, postmodern or traditionalist. The Turkish experience indicates that Islam, or rather the Islamic East, cannot be regarded as a coherent whole; rather, there are distinct cultures within Islamic civilization, such as the Iranian Shia culture. However, I have insisted that the Turkish case cannot be conceived of as simply an Islamic culture. Rather, the singularization of Turkish culture must be emphasized. Turkey should no longer be understood as a border country between Christianity and Islam; rather, it represents a culture that has always borrowed from the outside without being colonized or assimilated.

Nationalism provided the means for the militant nationalists to attain power. Nationalist ideology was not viewed as one option among many ideologies, but was, rather, interpreted as guaranteeing the legitimacy of the governments of Turkey. Nationalism was not only emphasized as a principle, but was written into the constitution as inseparable from the nature of the Turkish republic – which relates directly, for instance, to the current problem of the Kurdish question. The Turkish-Islamic synthesis has been overemphasized as a guiding principle for Turkish governments over the last two decades. This is the main reason why oppression and corruption are currently rife: a sort of ‘legitimizing nationalism’ has been corrupting the state and oppressing the people. It seems that nationalism is inseparable from the desire for power. The Turkish state has been colonized by nationalist sentiments and by a particular Turkish-Islamic culture, resulting in the ‘true republic’ remaining merely a distant possibility. How, then, can the people in Turkey live together peacefully?

Against the nationalists, whose primary values are the spiritual and cultural unity of the people, patriotic values – the republic and a free way of life –should be emphasized. Patriots may ascribe importance to Turkey as a particular country, but they should not attempt to force one way of life on its entire population. The republic could be interpreted as guaranteeing freedom for living different ways of life. For the nationalists, freedom does not matter, because their ultimate goal is to unite the people under the label of the Turkish-Islamic synthesis. Thus, solving some of the main problems of Turkey may require a patriotic perspective that emphasizes the right of all the people in the country to live their lives as citizens without being oppressed by a denial of political, social and civil rights. Cultural oneness does not make a republic stronger, particularly because it does not privilege freedom. In other words, it may be considered that the republic does not need cultural but political unity, which guarantees each cultural or ideological world the right to express itself. However, the republic needs to defend itself from internal enemies because a (p.152) particular culture might try to colonize the state, in turn leading to the elimination of plurality by ‘state terror’.

The perspectives that celebrate ‘difference’, division and incompatibility also need to be problematized. Humanism is currently about the right to ‘difference’, but why difference has to be privileged needs an answer. Clashes could easily emerge in vulnerable countries like Turkey if arguments for the rights of difference become exaggerated. Neither without solving the Kurdish question nor by insisting on separation can Turkish democracy be developed. Further democratization indeed implies the resolution of the conflict between the Kurds and the ultra-nationalists of Turkey.

The perspective that emphasized that the Turkish nation had to adapt itself to Western civilization is challenged by the fact that Turkish society retains peculiarly Turkish characteristics. This book has shown that the modernization of Turkey cannot be seen merely as Westernization. This is not only because the Kemalist interpretation of modernity was different from that of the West, but also because the features of Turkish society were not undermined by Western values; rather, dialectically, the West has been interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, the West has always provided a criterion for Turkey to check itself against in terms of whether its goals have been achieved. Yet, on the other hand, the West is interpreted as the negative external power to which reactions have emerged. Today, many Turks, from politicians to people on the street, claim that Turkey should be accepted by the European Union, while, at the same time, the West is seen as taking a negative attitude towards the Turks. This may be so because Europe has played an important part in the shaping of twentieth-century Turkish history and identity. It is assumed by some that Turkey is Westernized, while other observers argue that Turkey is far from being a European country. However, an alternative argument would insist that Turkey does not correspond to these two views because it is not a member of a clearly defined civilization. Thus, for a reading of multiple modernities, external forces should neither be excluded nor should they simply be insisted on as negative. In modern history, relations between societies and between civilizations have increased. It is easier for societies to know one another by means of modern telecommunications technologies and, therefore, in a society's identity-formation, its relations with other societies, positive or negative, play an important part in modern history.

Military and political power played the principal reordering role in the Ottoman Empire, but the Kemalists aimed to create a multiplicity of social actors. As we have seen, this Kemalist ambition has to some extent been achieved. No longer can the military and the polity alone be viewed as defining the situation; there are other players involved. However, in Turkey, power (p.153) cannot be merely defined by socio-economic criteria, but is still directly related to politics and the military. Currently, the generals still have their voices heard, while some civilian politicians aim to break the power of the military in terms of the nature of the regime. In considering multiple modernities, the forces that determine the configuration of power relations in a particular society should be analysed, since they provide valuable information about the form of modernity in that society.

Three types of collective action have taken place in the Turkish experience: the competitive (the Turks competed with Western economies in the 1930s); the proactive (most movements aiming to extend modernity to the masses have been proactive); and the reactive (reactionary movements against modernization have emerged from within traditionalist groups). Most social movements concentrate on the possibility of extending modernity towards groups and classes that were once excluded from the system. And modernity as a tension between liberty and discipline emerges particularly when social actors who aim at extending liberty and opportunity face the brutality of the polity or of the army. Particularly, leftist movements for liberty were countered by the militant nationalism of the Turkish state in the 1970s and 1980s. Social movements in modernity can be viewed, in general, as being of two kinds. One is futureoriented, critical of the existing social order and proposing an alternative order to be attained in the future. This sort of movement employs arguments against both the present-day social order and the past in order to propose a better order for the future. Such movements are necessarily utopian, but it is this utopian characteristic that has played an important part in the transformation of society, although the idealized future has not been fully attained. The other type of social movement is past-oriented in that the past is idealized in comparison with problems faced in the present. In its aim of returning to a lost ‘golden age’, this type of movement is also utopian. A past is invented because of the problems that emerge under conditions of modernity. However, precisely because the idealized past is privileged under conditions of modernity, these movements cannot be understood as anti-modern movements, any more than future-oriented movements can be. Both socialists and Islamists operate within the institutions of modernity (for example, the universities).

It is also important to note that present-day Turkish social movements are not nationwide as before; rather, regional movements appear to be more important. For example, the people of a small city in the Aegean region, Bergama, have been protesting against the pollution in the region caused by a foreign-oriented gold-mining company. Or, for example, in Zonguldak, another small city, workers have been striking for their rights in order to prevent the state from closing the state firms in their region. But at the same time there are (p.154) global social movements that Turks are involved in. For example, green movements in Istanbul are organized by Europeans and Turks together. It is clear, then, that neither localization nor globalization alone could be taken to define the situation. In analysing a later modernity, the critic needs to consider the specific characteristics of social movements and what they reveal about the society in question. For example, the Turkish Islamist women's movement seems to show that, in Turkey, a consensus about the meaning of modernity has not and cannot be achieved.

Finally, we can describe Turkey as civilizationally dual, but this should not be taken to mean that Turkey is simply a border country between Western and Islamic civilizations. Rather, as has been indicated, these dual characteristics in Turkey should be understood in terms of a singularization of culture. That is, the division between the West and the East cannot be used as a vantage-point for analysing Turkish modernity. Turkey includes features from both Islamic and Western civilizations, but these features take on new forms: the Turks in Anatolia interpret both Western and Islamic values in their own ways and, therefore, they are neither fully Islamized nor are they Westernized. From this point we can go further, to say that civilizational particularity can play an important role in defining the power of a modernity. Compared with other Islamic societies in the Middle East, Turkey experienced an easier process of modernization, and its singularized culture played a great part in this process. However, this is not to say that Turkish culture did not resist Kemalist innovations at all. Rather, for a reading of multiple modernities, the clash between modernizing agents and contextual realities must be viewed as important. As the Turkish experience indicates, the idea of modernity is imported from the West by modernizing agents in later modernities, but this cannot be assumed to mean that later modernities undergo a straightforward process of Westernization. The dialectical relations between modernizing agents and contextual realities lead to the fact that modernities differ from one another.

There still remains the difficulty of defining the place of a singularized culture such as Turkey within the global arena. The European Union is widely assumed to be the final door through which the Turks will pass. However, at the same time, it is said that it is almost impossible for the Turks to become members of the Union. One may argue that an alternative exists: turning back to the 1930s. Many non-Western societies were forcibly Westernized, while Kemalism acknowledged the Western way of life without becoming a colony of the West. That is, autonomous development was the driving force of the Kemalist project. It was in these terms that the Kemalist revolution was a worldwide revolution: liberation movements in the East, such as that in India, took the Kemalist victory over Western imperialism as their model. After gaining its (p.155) political independence, Turkey practised a foreign policy that opposed the imperialism of the West, close, to some extent, to the Soviet Union. During the period between 1923 and 1938, Turkey was an autonomous country that was not controlled by the Western bloc. One might argue, then, that it is still possible for Turkey to be neutral and independent as it was in the early phase of the republic: Turkey may leave Europe and move, as the early republic did, closer to the Russian Federation, playing a crucial role in economic co-operation in the Black Sea region. Moreover, the new Turkish-speaking republics take Turkey seriously as their model for their own reconstruction. A neutral Turkey could also become a creative country in the Middle East (Ahmad, 1993).

Nonetheless, it is generally believed that Turkey's future will be shaped in and by the European Union. Both arguments, in fact, constitute parts of the truth: as has been indicated in this book, Turkey must be conceived of as a singularized culture rather than as a border country between Islam and the West. For example, it should not be surprising that Turkey is seen as the model of modernity for other Islamic countries while at the same time Turkish membership of the European Union seems very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. I would argue that Turkey can neither become a completely Western nation nor can it isolate itself from the West.


(1.) It should be insisted again that, in this book, ‘the West’ primarily refers to Western Europe.

(2.) For a counter-argument, see Eren, 1963.

(3.) For a counter-argument, see Özel, 1992.