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The Making of Neoliberal Turkey

by Gorkem Altinors on November 30, 2017

The Making of Neoliberal Turkey edited by Cenk Özbay, Maral Erol, Ayşecan Terzioglu, and Z. Umut Türem, focuses on the various aspects of neoliberalisation in Turkey since the 1980s. The volume provides an empirically rich material for students and readers of Turkish politics, and also it offers an alternative reading of state-society relations with its unique neoliberal governmentalisation approach. The editors of the volume highlight that, as coined by the French philosopher Michel Foucault, governmentality is defined as the process in which the traditional axes of politics are sidelined while new spaces and sites for both governance and resistance are emerging (p. 6). They argue that the mainstream and traditional frameworks on power and protest in Turkey fail to understand and explain the social dynamics in Turkey (p. 2). On the other hand, the concept of governmentality is a useful departure point for an analysis that provides a healthier understanding on the role and capacities of the state in Turkish society (p. 3) because power in neoliberal Turkey has been multiplied and decentralised through capillaries of everyday life but it simultaneously has been unified under various state apparatuses and local governments (p. 7).

The volume consists of twelve intertwined and connected empirical chapters. The themes and the cases of the chapters cover a variety of concepts from the construction of competitive subjectivities to migration, from masculinity to health care, and from tobacco markets to biotechnology. The concept of neoliberal governmentality is the connecting point of the chapters. The specificity of the chapters suggests that the book aims to reach mainly academic readers.

It is safe to point out that the book is well edited, well written and empirically satisfying. Both the editors and the contributors succeeded in their goal to review the neoliberal transformation of Turkey with the Foucauldian perspectives. The volume signifies an important contribution to the literature of both Turkish politics and Foucauldian studies. The arguments that are developed in the book and in its chapters, are plausible and convincing. One minor criticism could be done on its theoretical background. Although the concept of governmentality provides a useful tool to overview the power relations that are decentralised through everyday life and unified under the state, the book does not satisfyingly cover the peculiar transition from hegemonic to authoritarian neoliberalism under the AKP government in Turkey.

All in all, The Making of Neoliberal Turkey is noteworthy in the application of the Foucauldian concept of governmentality to Turkish politics and it provides empirically rich research for its readers.

Gorkem Altinors
Dr Gorkem Altinors is an Assistant Professor in politics at Bilecik Seyh Edebali University. He holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Nottingham where he was a research assistant at the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ). His research interests include Critical IR/IPE, neoliberalism, authoritarianism, populism, Eurocentrism, Islamism, and MENA politics. His contributions are published on Mediterranean Politics, Turkish Studies, Political Studies Review, Capital & Class, Progress in Political Economy, and LSE Middle East Centre Blog. His forthcoming book The State and Society in Modern Turkey: From Kemalism to Islamism will be published by Brill, Historical Materialism Book Series.

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