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Post-Post-Kemalism, One More Time: Criticisms, Responses, Reflections

İlker Aytürk
Translated by Naomi Cohen and Ahu Şenses


This article is an attempt at stocktaking five years after the publication of the 2015 article on post-Kemalism. It also responds to critics, who filled two consecutive issues of the journal Birikim, as part of a special dossier on the post-Kemalist paradigm.

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I would like to thank Zana Çitak, Berk Esen, and Alp Yenen for their suggestions.

  • 1 As someone who has always wondered about, but has been unable to gauge, the trajectory and the impa (...)
  • 2 Two of the presentations, one in English and one in Turkish, were recorded,: (...)

1Over the past decade, the Turkish studies field has been revitalized, and its academic perspectives have diversified. After many years, we have begun to see the proliferation of books and articles that approach the subject from outside the post-Kemalist paradigm. My article titled, “Post-Post-Kemalism: In Search of a New Paradigm,” published in Birikim in 2015, was one of them, and it was met with a level of interest that took me by surprise.1 In this article, I tried to briefly express my views in 14 short pages, and, later, I had the opportunity to present and discuss them at conferences held, chronologically, at the Faculty of Political Science at Ankara University, Hacettepe, Bilkent, Koç Universities, the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), Middle East Technical University, and Bamberg Turkologentag.2 I organized a well-attended workshop based on the article with my colleague, Berk Esen, at Bilkent in 2017, and we are now preparing a book with the papers that were presented. I received many questions in every presentation that I made, and in these past five years, these questions have helped me make my thoughts clearer and more precise. I have also carefully read the suggestions and criticisms offered by Tanıl Bora, Öner Buçukçu, Can Evren, Asım Öz, and Yüksel Taşkın, who have participated in the post-Kemalism debate. As a product of this process, I published a short article titled, “What is post-Kemalism? Who is a post-Kemalist? Experimenting with Definitions” in Varlık in 2019, in which I tried to define the terms that I used (Aytürk 2019). Subsequently, Ömer Turan published a criticism in Birikim’s October 2019 issue, and later Birikim prepared and published, again, a collection of reflections on post-post-Kemalism in March and April 2020. I wrote this article both to respond to these criticisms and to say more on post-Kemalism. However, I received the April 2020 issue too late to include it in this present article. Here, I will only respond to the articles of Ömer Turan (2019), as well as of Menderes Çınar (2020) and Levent Köker (2020) from the March issue.

2Before I begin, I would like to underscore a point and bring it up here one more time. As we know since Kuhn, Foucault, and even Nietzsche, knowledge production in the social sciences and humanities is paradigmatic. Knowledge is shaped by influences from the society, time period in question, and global and local conditions in which it was produced, and it seeks to answer the big questions of its day. Already in 2015, when writing the first article, I felt strongly that the focus of contemporary studies on Turkey had to be on the far-right tradition in Turkey and, as its natural extension, competitive authoritarianism and the one-man regime that the Erdoğan Administration had been establishing (Esen, Gümüşçü 2016). Turkey has regressed in terms of even the most basic procedural requirements of democracy recently, not to mention the decline of civil society, free press, and freedom of thought and of opposition in Turkey over the past 20 years. Representatives of the Kurdish movement are being suppressed without even using the guise of the law, as was done in the past. In 2010, the chairman of the main opposition party, and in 2011 almost all senior leadership of the other major opposition party, with the exception of its chairman, were forced to resign after sex tapes were recorded and leaked, without anyone bothering to explain the source of the recordings. Finally, in the 2019 local elections, the announcement of the results by the Supreme Election Board was blocked for several hours, and the Istanbul elections – which the ruling party had lost – were cancelled due to unintelligible reasons. While our democratic criteria have already had many deficiencies in the past, even the little amount of democracy that we have accumulated over the past 150 years has been decimated, first by the AKP leadership, and then by the nationalist-Islamist coalition of the AKP and MHP. As scholars in the social sciences and humanities, we can start by trying to understand how we got to this point and why we were not able to read glaring signs along the way.

  • 3 I do not want to be misunderstood here; our research agenda in the post-post-Kemalist era will not (...)

3I would like to borrow a very Islamist term which would be perfectly fitted to express my view on this matter: It is a fard al-kifayah, or communal religious obligation, for us, scientists, to study the nationalist-Islamist coalition, or nationalist-Islamist ideas and politics – which have their roots in the Cold War period and continue to nourish the current government – with brand new perspectives.3 Some may know that scholars of Islamic jurisprudence divide religious duties in two. Those religious orders that every Muslim is obliged to fulfil, such as praying and fasting, are called fard al-ayin. On the other hand, performing a funeral prayer, for example, is a fard al-kifayah. When a Muslim dies in a town and even if only a few people perform the funeral prayer, this responsibility is deemed to have been fulfilled on behalf of all Muslims. However, if the funeral prayer is not performed at all, then all Muslims in the town will be held collectively responsible for this neglect. Since the 1980s, as the Turkish far-right – and within it especially political Islamists – expanded their spheres of influence in waves, academics in Turkey were preoccupied with other academic agendas. The post-Kemalist paradigm has blinded us to the rise of the far-right, as it has pushed us, scholars in the social sciences and humanities, to study the same period and the same actors over and over again. It has prompted us to seek the roots of authoritarian politics and tutelage only in one period (between 1908 and 1945) and always in the same political tradition (i.e., the path from Unionism to Kemalism). Other periods and actors have been dropped from the research agenda, have indirectly been exempted from the sin of authoritarianism and elevated to the status of being pioneers of democracy, which, of course, is not the case. Given that the best macro studies on political Islam in Turkey, I believe, have been penned by two authors outside of academia – namely, Ruşen Çakır and Tanıl Bora – we, academics, are collectively responsible for this negligence (Çakır 1990; Bora 2017: 415-517).

  • 4 Of course, on the condition that we do not find our selected field of research important enough to (...)

4I am not saying that Turkish studies scholars should drop whatever they are working on and only deal with this issue. But, without at least some – or even most – of us heading in this direction, it would be unrealistic for us to be able to comprehend what is happening in Turkey before our very eyes today. I can understand to a certain extent that Ömer Turan considers it necessary to keep the academic agenda free from the political conjuncture and believes that we should be able to determine our research areas independently of the current situation (Turan 2019: 77).4 But to begin with, have the post-Kemalists themselves been able to stay away from the political conjuncture? Does Turan believe that the Turkish academia has sufficiently studied political Islam, from its rise in the 1980s until the 2000s? Has a highly politicized academic routine not been established, in which an entire post-Kemalist literature appeased the rising Turkish far right since the 1980s, attacked the enemies of political Islamists, and put opponents of political Islam on the defendant’s chair? This is the point that I have emphasized since 2015: It has now become imperative for us to go beyond the post-Kemalist paradigm and to develop new perspectives. I argue that studying Kemalism and the early Republican period almost exclusively even today has diverted our attention, wasted our time, and not produced knowledge that would help us understand contemporary Turkish politics.

5Saying this does not make me a Kemalist or a nationalist/ “ulusalcı”. I am neither and have never been. Similar, I believe, to everyone who started their academic careers in the 1990s, my academic work at that point was also shaped by the post-Kemalist paradigm. I did not write the 2015 article from a Kemalist or nationalist/ “ulusalcı” perspective; I did not regard the Kemalists as justified in whatever they did or the post-Kemalists as unjustified. The article had no intention of defending Kemalism. Of course, I do not agree with post-Kemalists on Kemalism. When they look at the early Republican period, they only see the empty half of the glass. What I believe, on the other hand, is that we must take account of pluses and minuses. In fact, I think that Kemalism, certainly one of the links in the chain of authoritarianism in modern Turkish history, had the potential to break this chain, and set in motion liberating and democratizing forces. Certainly, I believe that post-Kemalists view Kemalism in a biased way – not entirely but in many respects; that they created a caricature of Kemalism which they could easily criticize; and that they held preconceived opinions when asking research questions and collecting data. But if these had been all that I wanted to highlight, I would have written an entirely different article. Back then, and still today, my aim has simply been to say, “We must urgently turn the spotlight on the Turkish right.” However much I insist on leaving the issue of Kemalism behind and invite researchers to explore the Turkish right – and I have been studying and publishing exclusively on the Turkish right over the past 10 years – I find myself in a debate on Kemalism yet again. Two of my critics from Birikim, Ömer Turan and Menderes Çınar, take issue with me directly on the interpretation of Kemalism, and Levent Köker does the same indirectly. Since the questioning comes from there, let me begin by discussing Kemalism one more time.

1. Revisiting Kemalism

  • 5 Although its main objective is to examine the impact of Kemalism outside of Turkey and in the forme (...)
  • 6 I would like to mention Niyazi Berkes here, who was the first to point out that Kemalism had starte (...)

6While the concept of Kemalism did not exist at the time, the term “Kemalists” first appeared 100 years ago in French and British diplomacy and press.5 “Les Kemalistes / the Kemalists” referred to a political cadre that emerged in Ankara, a small opposition group that displeased the Entente Powers; the same term would branch out to designate an ideology that is believed to have determined Turkish politics from then until today. So, what exactly is Kemalism? Is it a political ideology, a form of government, a developmental-modernization model, or a cultural affiliation? Is it a few of these or all of them at the same time? What period, or periods, does Kemalism belong to? Was Mustafa Kemal a Kemalist; was there Kemalism between 1923 and1938? Who are Kemalists after 1938? It is important to ask these questions because concepts are of analytical value as long as we can agree on their content. Concepts exist to make a scientific dialogue transparent, to lift the blinds around such dialogues, and to be able to quickly pass from one mind to another. Well, does the concept of Kemalism have these qualities as of today? My answer will definitely be negative. I believe that it has been a long time since we ceased to mean the same thing when we refer to Kemalism. Its supposed founder, Mustafa Kemal, did not coin it, and he insistently avoided giving it a dogmatic meaning. Following his death – in every generation and at every political turning point – new political elite groups, who were and are sometimes enemies of each other, would embrace the concept and pull it left and right. Its definition has always been ambiguous, and because of its ambiguity, it has been an object of both love and hate, making it a very pragmatically instrumental concept.6 I do not know if they agree with one another, but I cannot agree with Ömer Turan, Menderes Çınar, or Levent Köker on the content, coverage, and chronology of the concept of Kemalism.

  • 7 I will also touch upon the issue of “real Kemalism”, which is an even larger generalization made by (...)

7His views may have perhaps changed today, but Levent Köker wrote in his 1990 book, which highly impacted my generation, that Kemalism “has the characteristics of an abstract and integrated ideology”; that it has “more or less survived unchanged in the political and intellectual life of Republican Turkey”; and that “in the social development of Republican Turkey, it has an impressive/imposing autonomous power that goes beyond relativism.” (Köker 1990: 8). Çınar must likewise believe in a singular Kemalism that transcends periods and individuals. To give a few examples, Çınar emphasizes the “Kemalist borders” and the “Kemalist principles” that covered the entire Republican period; and he says that Kemalism was caught unprepared for the post-Cold War era, rendering itself unnecessary, which ultimately means that it did not change (Çınar 2020: 12-13).7 Turan rightly uses the concept of Kemalism much less and refers more to Kemalist actors, but in the conclusion of his article, we see him personify Kemalism by stating, “Kemalism justified coups.” (Turan 2019: 78) By questioning whether “Kemalism has done its part in democratization,” (Çınar 2020: 10) Çınar, too, seems to agree with Turan on moving Kemalism away from being an ideology and on thinking of it as an actor and agent. This point of view, which certainly cannot be limited to Köker, Çınar, and Turan, involves making Kemalism a reified, uniform, and active actor, omnipresent at every time and place, a powerful and determinant ideology that is independent of time period, movements, and people; and, of course, as such, it is assigned a negative role. This reified conceptualization of Kemalism was undoubtedly the hallmark of post-Kemalist scholarship.

  • 8 For an exception, see Uyar 2007.
  • 9 I would like to thank Emmanuel Szurek, who shared with me his work focusing on the Language Festiva (...)
  • 10 The oldest examples that Uyar could find date back to 1930 and came from Ahmet Cevat Emre and Ali N (...)
  • 11 The major exception to this is the books, magazines, and pamphlets published in French by the singl (...)

8Disagreeing with this does not mean to say that there is no such thing as Kemalism, or that it was invented from scratch by post-Kemalists. Kemalism, above all, refers to what Mustafa Kemal did from 1919 until 1938. Can the sum of those be called an “-ism” and, if so, does this sum have “the characteristics of an abstract and integrated ideology”? I would like to discuss this point briefly. It would not be very meaningful to do it for the 1920s, and as for the 1930s, either, we do not have a comprehensive quantitative study of how often the concept of Kemalism was used until Mustafa Kemal’s death in 1938.8 Based on the observation of narrow cross-sections, rather than on a comprehensive research, we can say that the term Kemalism was used relatively more frequently in the press and at the level of the party’s local organizations and people’s houses.9 It seems that the term Kemalism, as inspired by the name of the party’s founding leader, was first used in Turkish in the 1930s, when the demand arose among the party grassroots to name the revolutionary process in Turkey with an “-ism,” as an occasion for pride.10 The first entry of the concept of Kemalism – as Kamalism – into party documents is in the new party program adopted at the 1935 Congress. What is surprising here is that even after it became official, the concept of Kemalism was used much less frequently during Mustafa Kemal’s lifetime in party documents and as a party symbol compared to, for example, the Six Arrows.11 It is observed that the single-party regime, which imposed the Six Arrows on every occasion and included it in every party document, behaved much more cautiously about Kemalism, or more precisely an “-ism”. We also know that in 1935, Mustafa Kemal responded negatively to Recep Peker, who came up with a program proposal that would further solidify the party organization and ideology to resemble fascism. He said, “We will freeze up,” to Falih Rıfkı, who spoke about Kemalism in the same years. Evidently, Mustafa Kemal wanted to open up as large of a free space as possible for himself by acting pragmatically in the face of changing conditions. Therefore, he was hesitant to associate the regime and revolution with “abstract and integrated” principles, or an “-ism.” To sum up, there was a Kemalism in Turkey of the 1930s, but it had not been heard from the mouth of the person after whom it takes its name, and it is not at all clear whether it was widely used, or whether its contents were fully ascertained.

9When we turn to the CHP, which was the most important bearer of Kemalism during the single-party period, we see an even more complex situation. It was an ironic mistake to perceive and present the CHP as a monolithic party in both Kemalist and post-Kemalist literature. Publications in recent years have somewhat corrected this mistake. Indeed, from 1923 to 1950, the CHP demonstrated all of the basic features of what is called the single-party system in political science literature. The first of these features is the overlap of party and bureaucracy, or of party and state; this is a point that we studied and know better. Among the basic features, the second one that will be especially useful for making sense of Kemalism is the phenomenon of factionalization that occurs within the single-party. In the single-party and the dominant-party systems, the political arena merges with the party arena and shrinks to fit within it. In the single-party system, it is impossible to do politics outside of the party. On the other hand, in the dominant-party system, it is possible to do politics outside of the dominant party, but because those who do not join the dominant party cannot expect to rise to power, they may feel that they are beating the air. In these two systems, political elites eager to enter politics are faced with two options. If they stick to a strict ideology that they do not wish to compromise by joining the ruling party or the dominant party, they choose to stay out. The second, more popular, way is that the prospective politician joins the ruling party by dulling the edges of their current ideology to an acceptable level, without giving up on it altogether. These people then join in with like-minded people and form factions within the party. In the single-party system, the role of an able party leader is similar to that of a juggler. Just as the juggler can throw a large number of balls into the air and rotate them without dropping any, the leader must find ways to please rival factions without letting the rivalry turn into a fight, or driving any faction out of the party. Depending on the period and conditions, the leader must also be able to elevate one faction to power while keeping the other factions in anticipation.

10We know that within the CHP, as well, there were factions and affinities based on ideological differences. Both Celal Bayar, who defended liberalism in economic policy, and İsmet İnönü, who adopted etatism, were members of the CHP. The publishers of the journal Kadro, which held socialist-leaning views, as well as the editorial board of the Turkish Anthropology Journal, which we know from Nazan Maksudyan’s book, were members of the CHP. Another CHP member was Recep Peker, who was ultra-secular, likely a fascist, and who rigorously resisted the transition to democracy with the motto, “No orange trees must be planted on Mount Zigana,” and even dared to contradict President İnönü on this issue when he was İnönü’s prime minister. So was Şemsettin Günaltay, the former medrese alim, who, in order to win the 1950 elections, opened İmam Hatip schools and türbes and, also, cancelled the Independence Tribunals from Turkish law. Other CHP members include: Hasan Âli Yücel, who founded the village institutes during his tenure as minister and tried to disseminate the humanism school through translations from Greek, Roman, and world literature; the Turkist Reşat Şemsettin Sirer, who was appointed minister of education immediately after Yücel in order to undo everything that Yücel had done before, a task he succeeded in; and, likewise, the conservative Tahsin Banguoğlu. It is my turn, after Turan and Çınar, to complain about the thick brushstrokes: I believe that the post-Kemalists sometimes did not know about the many differences that found home under the umbrella of Kemalism in the early Republican period, and those who did chose to ignore them. I believe that the first thing Turan and Çınar should do is to redefine what they understand about Kemalism as an ideal type, just as I built a post-Kemalist ideal type myself. If they do so, they will be able to identify the common values that made it possible for liberal and etatist prime ministers, fascist and conservative-alim prime ministers, leftist and racist intellectuals, and humanist, Turkist, and conservative education ministers to simultaneously fit under the umbrella of Kemalism, and will see that this umbrella extends much further back in history than Kemalism, Mustafa Kemal, or the Unionists.

2. Real Kemalism?

11Since the death of Mustafa Kemal in 1938, Kemalism ceased to be confined solely to Kemal’s actions and policies. After 1938, Kemalism has not remained unchanged, or static; there have now emerged parties, movements, institutions, social groups, professional groups, factions, and intellectuals whose common goal was and is to try to legitimize and impose their own agendas, ideas, and policies by referencing Mustafa Kemal’s policies. Of course, since the ideas and policies of Mustafa Kemal changed in many respects between 1919 and 1938, we cannot muddle through without clarifying which policy of Mustafa Kemal and, indeed, which Mustafa Kemal we are referring to. Technically, after 1938, we see that actors faced with new conditions have sought to attach their new agendas to Kemalism. Some of these actors, considering their socio-economic status, level of education, patterns of political socialization, and institutional affiliations, may also be representing tendencies and political positions that are utterly distinct from those of Mustafa Kemal and the early Republican Kemalists. Therefore, if we are to determine what remains constant and what changes in the substance of Kemalism after 1938, we must certainly approach the issue from a historicist perspective. Rather than discussing an unchanged and uniform Kemalism, we must talk about Kemalists and Kemalizant actors, and even then, we must make sure those actors are periodized and their differences are specified by attaching proper adjectives to their names.

12Menderes Çınar writes that in my first article in 2015, I see Kemalism as an early Republican ideology and overlook the Kemalism of the multi-party period, and that post-Kemalism may actually be a reaction to the extension and incarnation of Kemalism in the multi-party period (Çınar 2020: 8-9). In Çınar’s point of view, it is a mistake to put the entire responsibility for our problem of non-democratization on the shoulders of the early Republican cadres, however, he adds, Kemalism did not expire in 1950 and continued as a “political practice” and “it is one of the main contributing factors to the creation of the authoritarian conditions in which we find ourselves.” (Çınar 2020: 8). In arguing so, he coins a new term for describing post-1950 Kemalism: real Kemalism. I have thought a lot about the adjective “real” that he decided to use, because this analogy, which evokes the term “real socialism,” is far from clear or comprehensible. What could “real” mean here? As in the analogy of real socialism, shall we understand that socialist ideas voiced since the 19th century could first “really” be put into practice in the Soviet Union? Does this mean that Kemalism had existed as a collection of ideas before 1950, and that it could only be implemented, or properly implemented, after 1950? This does not seem plausible at all. Or, is there a “deep” Kemalism, to use today’s popular expression, which transcends Mustafa Kemal himself? Çınar does not define the term that he uses, or show the continuities and similarities between Kemalism in the period of Mustafa Kemal and the Kemalists after the early Republican era, nor does he construct an ideal type of real Kemalism. Therefore, we make do with a few criteria that he scattered in several paragraphs throughout his article.

13We find, at the end of the article, the first sentences that approximate a definition which would shed light on what Çınar means by real Kemalism. We read in these lines that he identifies real Kemalism with tutelage (vesayetçilik). Çınar lists “the characteristics that define real Kemalist tutelage on an analytical plane” as follows:
a) “to expect policies and politicians to validate, or check and prove, one’s own parameters”,
b) “to declare those policies and politicians that fail to fulfil that function a matter of survival and a threat to the regime”,
c) “to view, accordingly, the political, or public, sphere as the sphere of unity and affinity, and not of difference and pluralism”,
d) “to dictate that ultimately there could be only one legitimate type of political agency, as understood by the tutelary actors, and to make it difficult to institutionalize rights and freedoms for this purpose.”
(Çınar 2020: 12).

14After fleshing out the concept of real Kemalism in this way, Çınar pinpoints 1960, the year in which the army entered Turkish politics as an influential factor, as the point in time when “negative tutelage [that is, real Kemalism, İA] began to acquire a legal-institutional character.” (Çınar 2020: 12).

15I strongly disagree with Çınar’s observation that 1960 was a turning point. The Democrat Party shifted to an openly authoritarian rule after 1954, turned a blind eye to the use of street violence against the main opposition party after 1959, and established the Investigation Commission, a new kind of Independence Tribunal, in April 1960. Yet, the only thing that Çınar can say about these events, and the period in question, is that, “it was our first democratic experience that unfortunately failed,” and that it was terminated by army officers (Çınar 2020: 12). All four of the criteria that Çınar uses to define tutelage and real Kemalism, as listed above, can be easily used to describe the rule of the Democrats. So, why the emphasis on 1960? What prevented Çınar from applying the criteria he himself defined to the Democrat Party period? Perhaps, this is because he is reluctant to identify elected politicians with the tutelage system, and sees tutelage solely as a feature of the army and bureaucracy. I find it hard to believe that Menderes Çınar, whom I personally know, thinks this way; but as it is, this text seems to be a typical example of exonerating tutelage actors that are outside of the army and bureaucracy from any responsibility in authoritarianization. It is possible to expand this problem to include other right-wing governments and politicians after 1960: the Nationalist Front governments of the 1970s; Turgut Özal, who tried to control the press by using a businessman, Asil Nadir, and who campaigned for the continuation of political bans; Tansu Çiller, who, believing that the fight against the PKK required special measures, made compromises, which are extraordinary even for Turkey, on the norms of the rule of law; and of course, needless to say, the past 10 years of Tayyip Erdoğan. Do these examples not precisely meet Çınar’s four criteria? Should we then categorize these actors, and today’s Erdoğan, as real Kemalists? Çınar should either redefine the concept of real Kemalism and clarify why he attributes tutelage to only one group of actors, or stop attaching Kemalism as complement to the concepts of tutelage and authoritarianism.

16I claim that after the early Republican era, the tutelage that Çınar believes to have started in 1960 could be extended to include the period between1950 and1960, and that many civilian politicians of the multi-party era also shared the same tutelary world view. Can we even say that tutelary politics existed before 1923, or even 1908? I believe so. This time, let us discuss a new set of criteria that Çınar proposes in another part of his article. When explaining why Kemalism was criticized so severely, Çınar states that among the previous Turkish ruling classes, no other political group but Kemalists a) could “imagine the Republican regime and the principle that sovereignty rests unconditionally with the nation”, b) “tried to establish the modern Turkish nation as a political subject”, c) “and thus, aimed to change our elitist political culture.” He further states that Kemalism is valuable because it contains these goals and aspirations, but that it can be criticized because those promises were not kept and goals were constantly postponed (Çınar 2020: 10).

17Is that really the case? Let us consider whether Kemalists were really alone in this matter, or really the first. It is very important to seek answers to these questions, since I understand that Çınar calls this political practice “real Kemalism” because he believes that tutelary-authoritarian politics began with Kemalists. However, was it not the case that in the Ottoman political system, the first small steps of democratization, which were indeed major steps for the time, were already taken in the 19th century and were squashed by the authoritarian monarchs of the time? What would be the result if we moved Çınar’s last three criteria back in time to the pre-Kemalist period, particularly to 19th-century Ottoman politics? First of all, it is necessary to leave out Çınar’s first criterion, namely that of being a republic, because if our main preoccupation in this discussion is democratization, then there are monarchies, such as the UK, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, that have achieved it even without a republican regime. Next, the principle that “sovereignty belongs to the nation” is also a controversial topic. For example, there was a sovereign parliament in 19th-century England, but technically, both the parliament and the government depended on the so-called “royal prerogative” of the monarch. Since the limits of this power has never been tested since the late1600s and early 1700s, and it has become an established tradition to leave the legislative and executive rights to the parliament and government, the nation, and by extension, the parliament can be deemed sovereign. I am not even mentioning here the practices of the same century pertaining to the limits of the voting rights and the powers of the House of Lords that are not compatible with our contemporary understanding of political equality. Finally, if establishing a modern nation as a political subject is taken as a criterion in this matter, is it necessary that this nation be called the “Turkish nation”? Could it be that there had been a past attempt to build a nation under another name? Likewise, were Kemalists the first to try to change our elitist political culture?

18When I consider these questions, another period comes to my mind in which almost all of these criteria were fulfilled long before the Kemalists; namely, the First Constitutional Era. The First Constitutional Era was the period in which a regime that was still technically absolutist – despite the Tanzimat – transformed into a constitutional monarchy, albeit for a short time. Although the executive and the Sultan had already been in a de facto process of losing their legislative power starting in 1839, the Ottoman Constitution of 1876 transferred, for the first time, the legislative power to a parliament to be established by free elections. The new relationship between the ruler and the ruled meant that for the first time, the Sultan entered a contractual relationship with his subjects by enacting what had not been implemented by the Sened-i İttifak, and his subjects became citizens for the first time. (Male) Ottoman citizens, regardless of ethnic or religious differences, attained political equality with the 1876 Constitution. The constitution, as the most fundamental law of the state, enforced an Ottoman identity, which was the great dream of the Tanzimat pashas, and can be regarded as an example of civic nationalism similar to the American-style equal citizenship. Being an Ottoman was no longer confined exclusively to the ruling family, or the dynasty, and was officially redefined as the common attribute of all citizens. Ottoman citizens, according to Çınar’s second criterion, became political subjects. It is undoubtedly an important and progressive turning point in our elitist political culture to recognise the right of representation and to grant legislative power to the representatives of Ottoman citizens. We can see that Kemalists were not the first to take these steps. Now, let us look at the crux of the matter at hand and recall how the First Constitutional Era ended. The young Sultan Abdülhamit II used the chaotic environment created by the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 both to settle accounts with the Sublime Porte and to get rid of the assembly. While the cabinet formally existed throughout his rule, he restored the de facto executive power – which had shifted to the Sublime Porte as of 1839 – back to the Yıldız Palace. He closed the assembly and did not open it until he was threatened with a coup in 1908, thereby hindering the representatives of Ottoman citizens from exercising their lawful right to legislate.

  • 12 By citing Sultan Abdülhamid as an example from the pre-Kemalist period, I do not wish to give the i (...)

19We often think of the period of Sultan Hamit as a period of absolutism. Abdülhamit II made a promise to his citizens when he proclaimed the constitution, but did not keep this promise. Using Çınar’s criteria, Sultan Abdülhamit expected politics to validate the parameters that he himself had drawn, saw those who did not conform as a threat to the regime and to the survival of the state, punished diversity and pluralism in politics while imposing unification and homogeneity, and rendered difficult the institutionalization of rights and freedoms. Given that all of these happened 50 to 60 years before the arrival of Kemalism and the Kemalists, does the Kemalism of “real Kemalism” not become meaningless? Should we then substitute Hamidism for the umbrella concept of Kemalism, or real Kemalism?12

  • 13 Turan agrees with Çınar that the main, if not the only, obstacle to Turkey’s democratization is ide (...)

20Certainly, we should not; we cannot. As I have argued since my first article in 2015, tutelage, authoritarianism, or the tendency to view the present moment as an extraordinary time requiring extraordinary measures, and as a result, to postpone democratization and compromise the rule of law, tendencies we see from the Ottoman times until today, cannot be attributed solely to individuals, to a single political movement, or to the political legacy of a single period. This is mainly due to the fact that there is continuity in political culture, which also applies to the May 27 Coup and beyond, a period Menderes Çınar particularly stresses in his article. Above, I have criticized Çınar for regarding tutelage as an attitude specific to the army and bureaucracy. As the examples of Menderes, Bayar, and Erdoğan show, civilian politicians can take such steps that could easily hold a candle to the tutelage of military-bureaucratic elites as soon as they feel they are able to. As a second and more theoretical criticism, I would like to ask the following: Is there any evidence that actors who wanted to establish a tutelage system over the will of citizens since 1960 have always acted on an ideological motive, and that this ideology was exclusively Kemalism? Çınar wants to have us believe that: a) tutelage is a malady that is necessarily rooted in Kemalism, and not in historical conditions, short-term agendas, everyday politics and political culture, or the interests of actors, which are not always ideological, and b) at a more theoretical level, the “determining” factor in political decision-making processes is ideology, and specifically an ideology that never changes.13 Personally, I cannot accept this claim. First of all, I do not know how to distinguish the ideological orientation factor from other factors in decision-making processes, or how to scientifically measure its relative impact, especially for the period in question. Also, facts from recent history that I know of and cannot ignore do not let me do so. The following questions immediately spring to mind: Celal Bayar had initiated the Law on the Protection of Atatürk, said that loving Atatürk is national worship, and at 9:05 on November 10, 1961, he stood in silence, in his suit, with other inmate Democrats at the Kayseri Prison. Yet, he was overthrown on May 27, 1960. Did the members of the National Unity Committee, who forcibly removed Bayar from power, and for the first time, inscribed the concept of Atatürkism in the 1961 Constitution, execute the coup on Kemalist grounds? Did Colonel Talat Aydemir, who made two attempts to overthrow İnönü governments -and almost succeeded, - attempts which, had they been successful, would have enabled him to seize the presidency and become Turkey’s Gaddafi -, find Prime Minister İnönü’s Kemalism insufficient? When different political camps claim Atatürk as their own, does that make them all Kemalists? Take, for example, anti-communists and openly right-wingers who consistently referred to Atatürkism in their political discourse, including chiefs of staff Sunay, Tural, and Tağmaç, as well as civilian politicians Turhan Feyzioğlu, Nihat Erim, Ferit Melen, Naim Talu, and Sadi Irmak. Or, at the opposite end, take those who tried to reinvent Atatürk by making him an anti-imperialist revolutionary and derive their legitimacy from him, such as Doğan Avcıoğlu, the Yön Movement, and the National Democratic Revolution Movement (Milli Demokratik Devrim Hareketi, MDD), who were the sworn enemies of the aforementioned figures from the other camp. Were all these figures and groups Kemalists? Was Kemalism the common source of motivation that mobilized both the generals of September 12, who made the Turkish-Islamic synthesis the official cultural policy of the state, and the generals of the February 28 period, who were known for their fondness for Carmina Burana? Let us come closer to the present day: Are Şener Eruygur, Vural Savaş, Sabih Kanadoğlu, and Kemal Alemdaroğlu, who I would consider “ulusalcı”, are they in fact “real Kemalists”? Are Kemalism and “ulusalcılık” synonymous concepts that can be used interchangeably; is there no need to distinguish between them?

  • 14 Ayşe Zarakol attempts to show, in a comparative way, how this trauma could (or, could not) be dealt (...)
  • 15 I see that Ömer Turan is disturbed by how much emphasis I place on political culture studies. “An a (...)

21What I try to illustrate briefly with these examples is that we must also distinguish between political culture and ideology as two different concepts. Turkey has a problematic political culture having roots in the distant past. This culture has been intensified by the trauma of war, land loss, and constant territorial contraction over the past 300 years.14 This political culture, which normalizes the state of emergency, treats politics as a matter of life and death, refuses to compromise or to search for middle ground, views opposition as betrayal and in its fight against the so-called “traitors”, tolerates violation of laws, ethical rules, and principles of fair play, and even condones recourse to violence, and finally, glorifies only those politicians who act in this manner as great statesmen, that political culture had existed long before the birth of Kemalism and cannot be reduced to it. Kemalism is, of course, one of the links in a long chain, but it is not the primary, constitutive link of the tradition. Therefore, should Turkey’s democratization continue to be our common goal and expectation, we must search for the causes of our problems not in “real Kemalism” of the early Republican period or beyond, but rather in our political culture, which should indeed be the focus of our studies. 15

  • 16 On a side note, even though I find Çınar’s reproachful warning against an essentialist approach to (...)

22Finally, at the expense of digressing, I cannot continue without mentioning Menderes Çınar’s closing remarks in the conclusion of his article. Çınar says that while democratic tendencies prevailed in the early years of the AKP, after a certain point, the party transformed into a “dense authoritarian political structure.” When citing the internal and external factors that led to this transformation, he points to how the secular/Kemalist opposition left the realm of democracy and democratization to the AKP until 2010. He adds that the CHP “did not even bother to follow a path that would reveal the deficiencies/malfunctions in the AKP’s understanding of democracy, or would push the AKP toward a more mature understanding of democracy.” (Çınar 2020: 14)16 By the secular/Kemalist opposition, he likely means the CHP of Baykal and opponents of the AKP in the army, bureaucracy, and judiciary. Without a doubt, these actors demonstrated very strong opposition to the AKP, and the anti-AKP military-civilian bureaucrats, in particular, took steps that at times transgressed the norms of the rule of law. Suffice it to recall the 367 imposition and the e-memorandum. But, is the attitude of these opponents among the factors that have prevented the AKP from democratizing? On the contrary, would it not have been more beneficial for both Turkish democracy and Erdoğan’s political future if the AKP had advocated democratization to counter its anti-democratic opponents? The AKP achieved two major electoral victories in 2002 and 2007, won over a large majority of citizens with the promise of stable economic growth and more democracy, and conducted an active foreign policy for which it had secured the support of the US, the EU, and international public opinion. Did it need the CHP, or a Sabih Kanadoğlu, to nanny it, or lend a hand to it? It is true that these opposition figures were far from serving as a democratic example for Erdoğan in those days. However, following the 2007 elections, when his power reached its apex, could it be possible that Erdoğan did not know that the only instrument he would need to neutralize these opponents was a liberal constitutional amendment package? Had he chosen to present a constitution, or a comprehensive constitutional amendment package, to the popular vote that would secure new freedoms not only to religious Sunni citizens but also to all segments of society, could he have not buried Baykal, Kanadoğlu, and others with a politically fatal blow in the subsequent elections? As I problematized in my 2015 article, Erdoğan did not take this path. Since 2008, his tactic to neutralize his opponents has not been democratization, but punishment. Therefore, I do not really understand why Çınar made the AKP appear passive. Ultimately, Erdoğan, the unchanging leader of the AKP, and the party’s councils, which still held weight at that time, were political actors and had what the West calls “agency.” Democratization means regime change, and like any regime change, is a difficult process in every part of the world. This process, once initiated, does not guarantee positive results. However, the leaders and cadres that have succeeded in democratization are duly rewarded with public acclaim. Let us set the record straight; Erdoğan and his cadres promised more democracy, and then gave up on their promise. Let us not downplay the weight of this sin that our political history will eventually put on their shoulders.

3. What is An Ideal Type, What Is Its Function?

23The issue of ideal type lies at the heart of the criticism Levent Köker posed against my call for post-post-Kemalism. When discussing my 2015 and 2019 articles, Köker concludes that I do not understand the notion of ideal type correctly, and that I construct the concept of post-Kemalism by distorting reality (Köker 1990: 16, 18). He puts forward two counter arguments to prove this. The first of these is the argument, contrary to my claim, that Kemalists and post-Kemalists do not represent two different paradigms, but are united in accepting modernization theory, and are, in other words, one nation. Secondly, according to Köker, the names that I cite as examples of post-Kemalists are not consonant with the ideal type of post-Kemalism as I define it, so post-Kemalism is a fiction that does not correspond to reality. In short, from Köker’s point of view, there is no such paradigm.

  • 17 For a number of leading studies, see Gilman 2003; Engerman et al. 2003; Isaac 2012.

24I find it difficult to respond to the first argument that the Kemalists and post-Kemalists represent two different sides of the same theory – i.e., modernization theory – and are thus paradigmatically alike. It is hard to respond because when we say modernization theory, Köker and I understand different things. Köker thinks that the roots of this theory go back to the 1950s, that it was revised by Samuel Huntington in the latter half of the 1960s, and that it survived until today in its revised form. According to Köker, Nilüfer Göle’s The Forbidden Modern (Modern Mahrem) and Hybrid Patterns (Melez Desenler), and Şerif Mardin’s works are all recent examples of this “revisionist modernization paradigm.” (Köker 1990: 20-21). We do not agree on this definition. Many academic studies since the early 2000s show that modernization theory is one of the ways in which the Cold War impacted the academic world culturally and scientifically17. As a response to the socialist regimes’ argument that they offered the most rapid and successful development model, Talcott Parsons and his young colleagues at Harvard University, in the early 1950s, began to describe modernity as liberal Western democracy, and suggested that a Western-type development model was the only way to transition from traditional to modern, especially for the Third World countries. Modernization theory proved to be very influential in political science, economics, and sociology during the 1950s and 1960s, and the first major criticisms directed towards it came from Prebisch, Baran, Frank, Rodney, Amin, and Cardoso, the pioneers of dependencia theory. In the 1970s, criticism diversified. First, Wallerstein’s theory of world systems, and then other theories from diverse fields, including post-colonialism, post-Orientalism, subaltern studies, and the big umbrella of post-modernism have rendered modernization theory, which was essentially a Cold War narrative, even more outdated. Huntington’s revision Köker refers to should also be counted among these criticisms. To sum up, I see modernization theory as a social science paradigm that was effective from the 1950s to the early 1970s, and which then lost its influence. For this reason, I cannot take the work of Göle, who is one of the foremost defenders of the thesis of multiple modernities and lump it together with modernization theory, which sets up a singular modernity; just as I cannot associate modernization theorists, who anticipated that the social function of religion would decrease in the transition from traditional to modern, with Mardin, who defended the opposite. Regardless of these, let us assume for a moment that Köker is right on this matter, and that Kemalists and post-Kemalists have a similar understanding of modernization. Does this similarity mean that we cannot distinguish one from the other and should deny the fundamental differences between them?

25As for the claim that I put post-Kemalists in a Procrustean bed, cutting off their arms and legs, or stretching them so that they fit the description in my head... After writing the 2015 article, this was the topic that generated the bulk of the questions and criticisms during every presentation I made. Was I not generalizing too much? How could I put people from so many different schools of thought, ideologies, and even educational backgrounds together into one post-Kemalism cluster? However, from the very beginning I defined the ideal type of post-Kemalists as those who agree on the diagnosis and treatment of our democratization problem. The post-Kemalist diagnosis is that the source of Turkey’s all current problems can be reduced to the errors made between 1908 and 1945, that is, to the policies of Unionists and Kemalists. Their method of treatment, then, rests on recognizing (and sometimes urging others to recognize) actors who have been left out of what they call the “Kemalist centre”, and who challenge this centre (such as the Kurdish movement, the AKP, and the Gülen movement), as pioneers of democratization in Turkey, and on supporting these actors’ policies (e.g., identity politics). This support could include written, spoken, or artistic, works, as well as regularly participating in the activities of these actors, and in some cases, even personally taking part in their organizations. I continued to reflect on this in the light of the questions I received, and added another feature to the definition of the ideal type in my 2019 article: While the different groups that criticized Kemalism remained isolated in their respective spaces without entering into dialogue with each other until the 1980s, after 1980, these different fronts have united, and coalitions have been formed between post-Kemalist members of the liberal, liberal-leftist, Islamist, and Kurdish movements. In addition, in my presentations, which I listed at the beginning of the present article, I divided post-Kemalists into several cross-cutting groups. The first group includes academic post-Kemalists, such as Mardin, Tunçay, Ersanlı-Behar, Göle, Parla, and Köker, who proposed the terminology and basic arguments of post-Kemalism, and who, while being aware of the political connotations of their arguments, did not deal with politics per se. The second group is the post-Kemalists who, while also having an academic background, rather prefer to make their voices heard through the press as public intellectuals, translating the academic arguments of the first group into political language, as well as publicizing these arguments. In the last group, I placed the most numerous cluster of post-Kemalists, ranging from columnists to business people, to think tank analysts, and naturally, to politicians, who have vulgarized the post-Kemalist discourse, acting solely on political utilitarianism and disregarding academic diligence and coherence.

26When debating whether post-Kemalism and post-Kemalists exist as an ideal type, the names that Köker asked about, and that I mentioned above, certainly belong to the first group. From among this group, Köker calls into question the case of Parla, in particular. He is justified to ask this question. Based on his books on the political culture of the single-party era, Parla can be regarded as one of the most important originators of the post-Kemalist jargon. However, since I do not know where Parla stands in politics and what his attitude is towards the Kurdish movement and political Islamists, question marks arise, as Köker also emphasized, regarding the post-Kemalist treatment that he would prescribe. In fact, the same can be said to a certain extent about Şerif Mardin, as well. But is this not exactly where we can utilize the comparative perspective that the ideal type approach provides us with?

27Köker asserts that there was no “development” in my thoughts from 2015 to 2019 (Köker 1990: 15). That is true, if he defines development as abandoning my call for post-post-Kemalism; I have not yet encountered arguments that would dissuade me from my views. However, it is not that I have made my final remarks and closed the debate. As I explained, I continue to reflect and debate, and I would like to define the ideal type in a much more detailed way. Frankly, I still believe that the most appropriate framework for bringing about the most productive dialogue in the post-Kemalism debate will take shape around the ideal type. If we could create a post-Kemalism ideal type that is impeccable and rational enough to not correspond to any particular post-Kemalist in reality, and inclusive enough to allow, in line with human nature, every post-Kemalist to remain an exception in one or more ways, then we could compare individual cases and attitudes with the ideal type and find common ground for further discussion. I find it more useful to think within the framework of the ideal type, but I am not trying to contribute to Weber studies, or social theory. I must leave these approaches to those who know about them much better than I do, and I impatiently await the result of new conceptualizations based on the works of Agamben, Arato, and others.

4. Turan and Criticism of the Early Republic

28I must start by saying that Ömer Turan’s article includes the most comprehensive criticism I have ever received in the post-post-Kemalism debate. In fact, I am in agreement with Turan on many issues. Turan also admits that we must, from time to time, question the ways in which we may be looking at our respective fields of research from within our own epistemic community, or from a formulaic perspective. While most of our recent history has not received the academic attention it deserves, he, too, is aware that there has been a “literature saturation” for the early Republican period. He responds to my call for the examination of non-Kemalist tutelage actors by saying that “it should be noted.” (Turan 2019: 68, 77) As far as I can see, Turan and I differ on our answers to three macro questions:
1) Are there analytical categories (ideal types) that can be called post-Kemalism and post-Kemalists, or am I just inventing something that does not exist?
2) Was the early Republic a break from previous periods in our recent history, and was it overpowering enough to mark a new epoch and determine what was to come in the following periods?
3) Should we continue researching and writing on the early Republican period with the same pace and intensity?

29I have briefly touched on the third question in the preceding parts, and I may further dwell on it later. I will, on the other hand, answer the first two questions in detail. However, before moving on to these answers, I would like to address and clarify a point that I personally find offensive in Turan’s generally constructive and useful criticism.

a. Who Am I and Does It Have Anything to Do with the Topic?

  • 18 After the Greek side rejected the plan, I have now become hopeless about a settlement in Cyprus bas (...)

30Based on what I have written, Turan makes some assumptions about who I am and where I stand in academia and in politics. Even though we have never met, he confines me to a Kemalist (and, I suppose, a nationalist/ “ulusalcı”) identity on the basis of these assumptions. Thus, he trivializes what I have said in the post-post-Kemalism debate by stigmatizing my words and positioning them in a place where I do not personally stand on our ideological map. I can illustrate this with two examples. The first of these relates to what Turan said about the academics and intellectuals who supported, for a long time, the AKP government’s various policies. Turan asks me the following question: “Does it discredit what a writer says about Kemalism if that writer favoured a solution in Cyprus within the framework of the Annan Plan, declared support for the Kurdish Peace Process that started in 2013, or made a statement against the 2008 court case to close the AKP?” (Turan 2019: 71). There is a sub-text to this question: Based on the fact that I proposed a concept called post-post-Kemalism, Turan thinks that I am actually defending Kemalism, and consequently, assumes that he knows how I would see the three issues in his question. But he is mistaken. Let me answer his question right away; it certainly does not discredit what the writer he described has to say. If that were the case, what I have said would not have been taken seriously by Turan, to begin with. I supported the Bürgenstock Consensus and the Annan Plan with great hope.18 I did not make a public statement against the case to close the AKP in 2008, but I often spoke against it in my lectures. The solution process in 2013 is a more complex issue. I never believed in a solution that would be agreed upon and imposed on us by two autocrats, one in the palace and the other in prison, who communicated with each other behind closed doors through intermediaries. But I suppose, this would not be enough to make me a nationalist/ “ulusalcı”. I believe that the current status quo in the Kurdish issue cannot be maintained, and that the problems should be resolved by compromise in a highly representative constituent assembly to be elected with the promise of a solution where a commission/parliamentary committee will bring together all parties concerned. Being libertarian, reconciliatory, and a democrat should not be seen as the reserve of post-Kemalists after all.

31The second example is even more curious. Turan quotes a sentence that I wrote in footnote no.18 of my first article in 2015: “The point where I depart from post-Kemalism is this: I find almost every problematic course of action undertaken in the period between 1908 and 1945 that we are critical of to be also present before 1908, and after 1945.” Turan first quotes this sentence verbatim, but then adds the somewhat fervent question, “What does it mean that every problematic course of action existed before and after [the period in question]?” and accuses me of downplaying the Dersim Massacre and the Armenian Genocide (Turan 2019: 73). I would like to draw your attention to the transformation of the phrase “almost every problematic course of action” in my sentence into “every problematic course of action” in Turan’s hands. The fact that Turan first quotes me correctly and then incorrectly in consecutive sentences, all on the same page where he questions my “intellectual/ academic diligence” shows how perception can sometimes play tricks on us. Of course, I do not intend to hide behind the defence that I said “almost every”, and not “every.” Turan is right to ask for more detail on this topic. I used the phrase “almost every” when writing the article precisely because of these two tragedies. However, instead of saying “almost every,” I should have mentioned these two events by name and discussed them extensively, as I will do shortly, because neither the Dersim Massacre nor the Armenian Genocide fits into the “almost every”. This is one of the issues that I could not go into detail in that article, where I discussed 40 years of academic literature and offered an overview on many topics in merely 14 pages of the Birikim Journal. Turan insists on interpreting my sentence in a cynical way. Yet, if we are undecided about the intentions of a writer we are reading and suspect that they have skidded into a terrain that is not academic, or even ethical, can we so hastily accuse them of understating genocide, as in this case? Especially if we do not know this author personally, should we not first take a look at what they have written and done in the past in order to form an opinion? When we level such severe accusations without doing so, does this not actually mean that we are digressing from the subject – namely, post-Kemalism –, and making the author the subject of discussion instead, that we are discrediting the author and thus trivializing their views? Turan is doing me an injustice, trying to reduce me to a denialist.

b. Bold Brushstrokes?

32Returning to the post-post-Kemalism debate, one of the issues where I diverge from Turan’s views concerns whether or not the category I call post-Kemalists exists. Turan begins his criticism by objecting to my decision to build an ideal type. He argues a) that I did not “enter into a reasonable dialogue with any of the authors I call post-Kemalists (in terms of both taking into consideration the entire body of their writings and proceeding with concrete references) (Turan 2019: 68)”; b) that I put social scientists and humanities scholars in the same box, despite the fact that their “methods, levels of analysis, the relationship they establish with social reality, and the way they reach generalizations starting from individual cases are so different (Turan 2019: 68-69); c) that some of my criticisms of the post-Kemalists had already been expressed before me, and that I ignored these criticisms, including, in particular, those that focus on the centre-periphery model (Turan 2019: 69-71). In sum, according to Turan, when “[l]iterature criticism is made with such thick brushstrokes, a picture emerges in which the level of detail is entirely lost (Turan 2019: 68).”

  • 19 While we are at it, let me also briefly respond to Turan’s criticisms for “exaggerating the power o (...)

33When I read Turan’s criticisms, I was immediately reminded of similar criticisms from another discussion, and after a while I remembered who this discussion involved. Turan will not like the comparison, but his criticisms against me bear a striking resemblance to Bernard Lewis’s criticism of Edward Said’s Orientalism 35 years ago (Lewis 1982). Of course, Orientalism was a book of hundreds of pages, and not a 14-page article that could not elaborate on many topics in detail, but despite all of the detailed discussion undertaken in Orientalism, Lewis still claimed that Said was misrepresenting the Orientalists (“Silvestre de Sacy was a great scholar, and Said was smearing him; Said was wrong, Philip Hitti was such a great friend to Arabs!”; “Despite all of their differences, how could the English, French, Dutch, German, and Russian Orientalist traditions be treated the same way?”). Said, let alone putting social scientists and humanities scholars in the same box, brought together Orientalist university professors with missionaries, statesmen (Lord Cromer), and even literati (Chateaubriand, Nerval, Naipaul, Conrad) under the umbrella of Orientalism. Besides, Orientalism was already eliciting criticism from both inside (“The International Congress of Orientalists had even changed its name in 1973!”) and outside (Anouar Abdelmalek and Marxists). So, what was new about Said’s work? Now, in light of these similarities, I wonder, if we could bring Said back to life to sit among us, would Turan ask him the same questions he asked me? I don’t think so; I believe he’s just asking me.19

  • 20 If Mardin’s academic career had one overarching goal, it probably was to develop an alternative to (...)
  • 21 I must add here the articles of Galip Yalman written in the late 1990s, which I discovered only rec (...)

34I do not understand why Turan discussed at such length the criticisms that have long been made against the centre-periphery model20, a model Mardin, inspired by Shils, brought to Turkey in the early 1970s. Of course, Mardin never vulgarized this model; he was a scholar who had too much respect for his subject matter to simplify/vulgarize it. The centre-periphery model became banally ubiquitous in the 1990s and 2000s, when it was stripped of its scientific quality and started to be used to legitimize political agendas. Mardin cannot be held responsible for its newly acquired status. At the most, we may wonder why he did not spoke out to object to the crude use of his model. Yet, Turan must have overlooked the fact that I actually drew attention to Mardin for his book about Said Nursi, rather than his centre-periphery model. I think that this very influential book perfectly reflects the academic atmosphere of the 1980s. I still believe that as reflected by how he coined the term “neighbourhood pressure” in 2007, Mardin would not have written such a book in the 1990s and 2000s when criticism of modernity went to excesses and politicians having roots in political Islam came into power, or that even if he would have written such a book, it would not have been in the same tone. Furthermore, as in the case of the criticism of the centre-periphery model, what difference does it make if certain premises and claims of the paradigm I call post-Kemalism have been disputed in the past? I am also aware of the works that go against the current by questioning certain aspects of the paradigm without giving the latter a specific name, opening it up for discussion, and planting into people’s minds the first seeds of reservations regarding the paradigm. I even mentioned some of these critics – namely, Rıfat Bali and Yüksel Taşkın – in my 2015 article. But let us be reasonable; I am talking about a giant body of post-Kemalist work that includes thousands of academic and semi-academic books and articles, and tens of thousands of newspaper columns, television and radio programs, documentaries, movies, plays, music, plastic and visual art works, contemporary art productions that have been heaped on us on a daily basis over the course of many years, as well as non-governmental organizations, post-2002 state institutions, and state and other kinds of funding provided for post-Kemalist project research and publication .21 Turan, on the other hand, only mentions the articles of Demet Dinler and Onur Bakıner, and the 105th and 127th issues of Toplum ve Bilim. I leave it to the readers to evaluate the gap.

35Another criticism posed by Turan is based on the claim that I did not engage in a dialogue with the names I listed among the academic founders of the post-Kemalist paradigm by giving concrete references to their work, that I did not discuss in detail what I found valid, or flawed, in the works of these authors, and that I did not take into consideration their complete works. I will not respond to the claim of not paying attention to the entirety of their works because it is difficult for us to agree on this. In his other criticisms, Turan is only partly right because he expected to find so many things in a 14-page article. I was not able to engage in a critical dialogue with each of the names that I mentioned in 2015 on a subject-by-subject basis, and I will not be able to do that within the limits of this article, either. However, since Turan spoke specifically about Erik Jan Zürcher, let me try to explain my point through this example.

36Zürcher has made invaluable contributions to Turkish political history studies since the early 1980s, and is undoubtedly one of the few most original and most pervasively influential names in this field. His most important contribution to the literature was the ways in which he exposed the undeniable permeability and continuity between the late Ottoman Empire and the early Republic, which Kemalist historians had swept under the carpet as much as they could. He put much emphasis on continuity and insisted on treating the Unionist period and the early Republic as a monolithic bloc. This insistence led, in the eyes of his academic followers at least, to what I think is a problematic result; seeing the Unionists and the single-party era Kemalists as identical. I say problematic because while I definitely adopt Zürcher’s argument of permeability, the uniformity thesis raises questions for me. I am not an expert on the Union and Progress period – my knowledge on that subject is based entirely on secondary literature – so I cannot make the comparison myself and express an opinion. However, I believe that this comparison should be redefined outside the post-Kemalist paradigm.

  • 22 It would not amount to a perfect example of the dialogue that Turan expects from me, but before clo (...)

37My main objection to Zürcher is on the Progressive Republican Party (TCF). Since I do not have access to a library at the moment, I cannot show it in detail, but as is known, Zürcher claims that the TCF is a liberal party. He bases his claim on the discourse of the party leadership and particularly on the party program written by Cavit Bey. He repeated this claim in a workshop held in Paris in the summer of 2019, and I objected to him there, as well. The problem here stems somewhat from confusion about liberalism, or from the failure to distinguish between economic and political liberals. First of all, let us pinpoint Cavit Bey’s liberalism: I would not object to the idea that Cavit Bey could be an economic liberal who did not have the opportunity to implement his views during the Unionists’ rule. However, I do not think that it is possible to characterize a figure who remained a Unionist between 1913 and 1918 as a political liberal. Secondly, what weight did Cavit Bey carry in the party, and to what extent did his program reflect the ideas of the party leadership? How realistic is it to expect the generals – who constituted the top brass of the TCF, and had completed, just like Mustafa Kemal, their political socialization in the final period of the Ottoman Empire – to be liberals, or political liberals for that matter? It is true that in their statements, TCF leaders proposed liberalism and moderate policies against Mustafa Kemal’s consolidating authoritarian rule. However, was this liberal and moderate discourse an ideological stance that the pashas actually wanted to implement, or was it a situational tactic that they chose to use to keep Mustafa Kemal in check and to narrow down his room for manoeuvre? Do we have any evidence that reinforces the first option? As far as I can see, the pashas were uncomfortable with Mustafa Kemal’s rise to the position of sole decision maker, and instead demanded a collective decision-making mechanism in which they also would take part, - a mechanism that had initially been the most original – and most surprising – aspect of the previous Unionist government. In any case, if Mustafa Kemal had not unilaterally abandoned this model that the pashas had continued to hold onto during the War of Independence, nobody would have thought of becoming a liberal. As a third and final point, I would like to remind that the party had a hidden but very powerful wing that included Unionists who embraced the use of violence in the face of political exigencies and extraordinary circumstances, and some of whom already had blood on their hands. In sum, when we have before us so much information that would make us doubt that the TCF is a liberal (and democratic) party, why does a professional historian like Zürcher use his discretion to choose to not doubt it? I think that there is a post-Kemalist predisposition behind this preference. In my view, Zürcher wishes to be able to say that there was a liberal-democratic alternative to Mustafa Kemal and the CHP, but this alternative was strangled in its infancy by Jacobin Kemalists22.

c. “Bad Boy Turk”23

  • 23 I apologize for using Nurdan Gürbilek’s book chapter title out of context; I would not have done th (...)
  • 24 For a new academic contribution to the debate on Nutuk, see Yasemin İpek’s doctoral thesis submitte (...)

38I have pointed out that Turan admits that there is a saturation of literature for the period between 1908 and 1945. However, Turan says that despite this saturation, topics from this period have not yet been exhausted, and that some historical events still await academic treatment (Turan 2019: 70). He then gives a few examples of the issues that await research: The Mount Ararat Rebellion of 1930; the process in which Jewish, Armenian, and Greek communities renounced the rights granted to them by the Lausanne Treaty; and finally, an editorial critique of Nutuk.24 The examples that he chose to mention did not surprise me. When it comes to the understudied issues of the early Republic, Turan does not think of the peasants who made up more than 80% of society in 1923, or what happened in villages and the countryside over the following 27 years. He does not wonder about the transformation and restructuring of the bureaucracy during the transition from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic; military-civilian relations; how the judiciary was institutionalized and to what extent it was independent; the micro-level patronage relations that the CHP established locally, and many other great unknowns. Instead, he asks, “How many monographs do we have on the 1930 Ağrı Rebellion?” Is it possible to write a monograph, let alone several ones, on the Ağrı Rebellion when we still do not have a satisfactory biography of Fevzi Çakmak based on Turkish and foreign archives, or even a monograph on the army during the one-party period? Would Turan be satisfied with such a monograph when we are yet to shed light on the characteristics of the relationship the army had with Mustafa Kemal, the government, the party and the civil bureaucracy, as well as the relationship between the army, the party and the civil bureaucracy, on the one hand, and local actors, on the other, not only in the context of Ağrı but also in other provinces with a large Kurdish population, and in the rest of the country?

39I exclude Turan when I say this – I can see that his research interests are wider – but since the 1990s, themes of identity, diversity, and the ways in which diversity has been suppressed have come to the forefront of Turkish historiography. In this process, the understudied yet critical topics, some of which I have mentioned above, have been pushed to the side-lines, or left to historians of Turkish revolution (inkılap tarihçileri). These themes rose in popularity partly to follow the latest trends in Western historiography. It is clear, however, that the main factor was post-Kemalism, a paradigm that has penetrated and dominated, for the past 40 years, not only our historiography but also all other disciplines of social sciences and humanities, and post-Kemalists’ desire to face the past and reach a moment of catharsis. After such a traumatic turning point as the 1980 coup, the emergence of a redemption literature that analyses and questions the historical background all the way down to the foundations is not something unique to Turkey. As I tried to show in 2015 with the example of Israel, it can be seen as a sign of political maturity. On the other hand, we are getting less and less scientific as this trend becomes ossified and permanent, and as it increasingly determines the research agenda. We see the emergence and increasing prevalence of an academic tradition/narrative where the history of Turkey and Turks is reduced to atrocities committed by them towards their own nation and to others, and where such topics are regarded as the only ones that are worthy of academic curiosity and research. Turkey and Turks certainly have plenty of evil and sin in their modern history, but now after 40 years is it not time for scholars in social sciences and humanities to ask themselves why they have constantly been examining the same themes? When we fail to ask this question and continue to persistently vilify – I am saying persistently because Turan is uncomfortable with the word “appetite” – Turks, does this not entail the risk of excluding them from the normal human species, as it were, and portraying them rather as Middle-earth Orcs?

40I believe this is where we should discuss the Armenian Genocide and the Dersim Massacre. Turan looks at these two examples and says that we do not see similar cases before or after the period between 1908 and1945, and based on Tilly’s perspective on state-transforming processes of war, he regards the nearly 40-year period in question as the “founding moment” of Turkey’s recent history (Turan 2019: 73). This is clearly an argument of rupture because, according to Turan, the one-party period should not be treated as ordinary as any other period from our past. If what I have written before gives the impression that I think that the period between 1908 and 1945 is ordinary, I must have expressed myself incorrectly. I do not think so; the years in question contain many specificities. Especially the long decade that started with the Turco-Italian War in 1911 and ended in 1922 is almost a period of dystopia. It has had long-term effects that are still waiting to be examined, without being labelled and disparaged as the Sèvres Syndrome. Here, Turan and I look at the same information and come up with two different interpretations. He chooses to emphasize ruptures whereas I choose to emphasize continuities. Above all things, I claim that the political culture has not changed, or if it has, it has been a very slow process. On a historical trajectory that stretches from the Turkish-speaking peoples in the very distant past to the Ottoman Empire and then to the Republic, neither the everyday life nor the political culture seems to have undergone the kind of Zivilisationsprozess that Elias has described at length. We live in a society where the use of sheer force in daily life and politics is still seen as legitimate by masses on the right and left, despite the level of progress achieved in democratization, multi-party politics, modernization and Westernization, and integration with the EU. Just because we have been governed since 1950 by civilian politicians who have derived their legitimacy from the ballot box does not change the fact that we are captivated by civilian pashas who bang their fists on the table.

41Turan asks, “Let us leave aside the period before; which event are we to choose from after 1945 that could rival the scale of collective violence and social engineering involved in the Armenian genocide or the forced population exchange?” He then adds: “Let us ask the same question for the 1937-1938 military operation in Dersim: How many thousands of civilians were killed by state forces within the scope of that operation, and has there been a massacre of a similar scale after 1945?” (Turan 2019: 73). Fortunately, genocides do not happen every other day, but I would like to remind Turan of the oppression of Kurds in the eastern and south-eastern provinces after 1980, including in particular the tortures, missing persons/unidentified murders, village evacuations, and forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, which were actions that were attempted to be legally justified as part of the fight against the PKK especially in the first half of the 1990s. Do these actions not constitute a case of social engineering that is much broader in scope than what happened in Dersim? And was it not the case that these all happened in an era of changing international norms and newly-defined human rights that cannot be compared to those of the 1930s?? There is more. If we are not comparing numbers, then the events of September 6-7 in 1955, and the Maraş and Madımak Massacres can be counted among the moments when the same political culture manifested itself. Even today, militant activists from the far right, some working covertly and some overtly, do not hesitate to openly declare that they have lists in their hands of people to be slaughtered together with their wives and children. If we assume that we are going into a new period of dystopia, does the existence of these lists not scare us all?

42In the discussion on “before/after” Turan surprised me especially with his attitude towards the “period before.” “Let us leave aside the period before,” says Turan (2019: 73). I had to read this fragment over and over to understand why he said it. How can Turan suggest leaving aside the period before when the phrase “inspiration from historical sociology” is included both in the title of his article and in the subheading of the section from which I cited this quotation? Do we not need historical sociology precisely for these kinds of analysis? If we are not going to use historical sociology here, then what is the point of it, anyway? Charles Tilly, to whom Turan turned to substantiate his arguments, traces the root causes of the success of the nation-state all the way back to the disintegration of the Roman Empire. Turan knows this better than I do. So why are we leaving aside the period before? In his footnote to this sentence fragment, Turan repeats a fact that we all know too well: genocide is a modern phenomenon, and only the modern state apparatus has the means to commit genocide. It is true that it was in the 19th century that the modern state was established in the Ottoman Empire, and that the Tanzimat constituted an attempt at large-scale institutionalization and modernization in the late Ottoman period. However, it was in and after the Second Constitutional Era starting in 1908 that the most radical transformations took place. The “political party”, as a new form of organization, offered the Union and Progress movement brand new opportunities in recruiting and mobilizing human resources. Through the party, the government was able to penetrate much deeper into society, and at the same time, to acquire new instruments of social control, oppression, and violence. At this point, we must distinguish between what was new post-1908 and what continued from before 1908. My claim is that the tendency to easily resort to violence and the desire to control, pressure, and isolate political rivals and society from decision-making mechanisms have always existed as a part of the political culture and cannot be confined to the Unionist movement, or to Kemalism. Forced settlement and mass displacement were common methods of doing politics in pre-Ottoman and Ottoman times; if, alongside large-scale massacres and cases of collective punishment that can be counted in dozens, we could also observe other cases with relatively limited dimensions, it was mainly because, as Turan stated, of a lack of infrastructure, logistics, and penetration. What makes the post-1908 situation new is that for the first time, aspirations and inclinations were matched to a great extent with necessary resources and instruments. This is exactly why we need historical sociology – that is, to reveal these turning points and patterns of continuity. Turan points this out, but then does not follow through.

5. A First Step Beyond

43When analysing the root causes of Turkey’s problems in democratization, we should widen the scope of our research to include both post-1945 and pre-1908 periods, so that we may at least be able to look into Sultan Abdülhamid’s rule, and probably also into earlier periods. This will require a serious revision in modern Turkish studies. Once such a revision is achieved, every problem in Turkey will no longer easily be reduced to the familiar four, namely the nation-state, nationalism, secularism, and the army. Instead, we will be able to confront issues that have been created not only by these four usual suspects but also by their counterparts, i.e., forms of political organization other than the nation-state, politics of diversity and identity, Islam and Islamism, and civil politics, respectively. For many of us, this will mean abandoning the mantras of the last 40 years. I am excited to set foot on new territory, and I hope that I can transmit this excitement to readers.

44Before penning this conclusion, I reread what I had written in all the previous sections. I noticed that I had touched on too many topics to fit into one article, and had often digressed from the main problematique I wanted to adhere to. This was inevitable, as the questions of my critics set the framework for my writing. However, I am happy to be able to engage in this dialogue. I would like to thank the editorial board of the Birikim Journal for allowing for further reflection and writing within the scope of what, I believe, has been a very fruitful discussion by devoting a dossier to it that spans two issues.

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Aytürk, İlker (2019). “Post-Kemalizm Nedir? Post-Kemalist Kimdir? Bir Tanım Denemesi”, Varlık 1337 (February), pp. 4-7.

Bora, Tanıl (2017). Cereyanlar: Türkiye’de Siyasi İdeolojiler, Istanbul, Iletişim.

Çakır, Ruşen (1990). Ayet ve Slogan: Türkiye’de İslami Oluşumlar, Istanbul, Metis.

Çınar, Menderes (2020). “Kemalizm, Post-Kemalizm, Reel-Kemalizm, Post-Reel Kemalizm”, Birikim 371 (March), pp. 7-14.

Clayer, Nathalie; Giomi, Fabio; Szurek, Emmanuel eds. (2019). Kemalism: Transnational Politics in the Post-Ottoman World, London and New York, IB Tauris.

Engerman, David C. et al. (2003). Staging Growth: Modernization, Development, and the Global Cold War, Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press.

Esen, Berk; Gümüşçü, Şebnem (2016). “Rising Competitive Authoritarianism in Turkey”, Third World Quarterly 37, pp. 1581-1606.

Gilman, Nils (2003). Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America, Baltimore and London, Johns Hopkins University Press.

İpek, Yasemin (2018). “Autobiography and Conservative-Nationalist Political Opposition in Early Republican Turkey”, Turkish Studies 19, pp. 139-165.

Isaac, Joel (2012). Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Köker, Levent (2020). “Post-Kemalizm ya da ‘Eleştirel Olmayan Eleştiri’nin Eleştirisi”, Birikim 371 (March), pp. 15-24.

Köker, Levent (1990). Modernleşme, Kemalizm ve Demokrasi, İstanbul, İletişim.

Lewis, Bernard (1982). “The Question of Orientalism”, The New York Review of Books 29 (June 24), pp. 49-56.

Turan, Ömer (2019). “Yeni Bir Paradigmayı Beklemek ya da Tarihsel Sosyolojinin İlhamı”, Birikim 366 (October), pp. 67-79.

Uyar, Hakkı (2007). “1930’lar Türkiye’sinde Kemalizm Algılamaları”, in Güngör, Nazife (ed.), Atatürkçü Düşüncenin Bilimsel ve Felsefi Temelleri, Ankara, Gazi Üniversitesi Yay., pp. 157-171.

Yenen, Alp (2018). “Elusive Forces in Illusive Eyes: British Officialdom’s Perception of the Anatolian Resistance Movement”, Middle Eastern Studies 54, pp. 788-810.

Zarakol, Ayşe (2011). After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

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1 As someone who has always wondered about, but has been unable to gauge, the trajectory and the impact of the publications that I care about, I would like to share the data I have regarding this article. My work on “post-post-Kemalism” was born as a conference paper, and has had an interesting career. While it was planned to be published in the book where the conference proceedings were collected and was likely to stay there, it also appeared in Birikim at Tanıl Bora’s request. It is impossible to know how many times the printed text has been read, but the copy I uploaded to the Academia website as a Word document has been regularly read and downloaded, within a range not exceeding 2,000-3,000 total views, for the two years following 2015. I uploaded the PDF copy I received from Birikim to the same site in early 2017. I think that the interest shown in the article from 2018 to 2019 has risen in parallel with the political environment in Turkey. As of April 6, 2020, it seems that the two copies of the article on this site have been viewed and read a total of 18,238 times and downloaded 2,043 times by 1,416 registered members and an unknown number of unregistered readers. I should note that most of the activity on the article files has taken place in the last two years.

2 Two of the presentations, one in English and one in Turkish, were recorded,: ;

3 I do not want to be misunderstood here; our research agenda in the post-post-Kemalist era will not be limited to the Cold War era and the Turkish right alone. As I have said before, there is a great need to revisit the Tanzimat, the Hamidian autocracy, the Unionists, and the one-party period with new perspectives.

4 Of course, on the condition that we do not find our selected field of research important enough to explain every period and every issue!

5 Although its main objective is to examine the impact of Kemalism outside of Turkey and in the former Ottoman territories, a new book, compiled by Clayer, Giomi, and Szurek, brings the debate around the concept of Kemalism to a new dimension, especially in the introduction: Clayer, Giomi, Szurek 2019; For the UK aspect/nexus, see Yenen 2018.

6 I would like to mention Niyazi Berkes here, who was the first to point out that Kemalism had started to be perceived as a strict ideology, and who criticized this tendency.

7 I will also touch upon the issue of “real Kemalism”, which is an even larger generalization made by Çınar.

8 For an exception, see Uyar 2007.

9 I would like to thank Emmanuel Szurek, who shared with me his work focusing on the Language Festival ceremonies in the 1930s and 40s, and showed that the word Kemalism was used in ceremonies, ceremony preparations, pre-ceremony correspondence, and post-ceremony reports.

10 The oldest examples that Uyar could find date back to 1930 and came from Ahmet Cevat Emre and Ali Naci Karacan.

11 The major exception to this is the books, magazines, and pamphlets published in French by the single-party regime because the expressions Kemalist and Kemalism were widely used in French, unlike in Turkish.

12 By citing Sultan Abdülhamid as an example from the pre-Kemalist period, I do not wish to give the impression that problems began in the 1870s. This issue can be traced back to a much earlier period. Is it not fitting to interpret the Sened-i İttifak debate of 1807-1808 in the same way, with Mahmut II and the palace bureaucrats on one side and the local ayan on the other? Already, from the late 1500s until Mahmut II’s reign, Ottoman politics can be interpreted as a tug-of-war. At one end of the rope were the sultans and palace bureaucrats who wanted to re-centralize, and reform the tax system and the army in order to eliminate the threats coming from the north, west, and east. At the other end were janissaries, the ulema, and local ayan/notables who wanted to preserve a looser style of administration, dreading the power of the palace.

13 Turan agrees with Çınar that the main, if not the only, obstacle to Turkey’s democratization is ideological, and that the problematic ideology is Kemalism: Turan first points to the “decisive role” of Kemalism (Turan 2019: 78), and then presents it as “one of the main reasons” (ibid.) for the obstruction of democratization.

14 Ayşe Zarakol attempts to show, in a comparative way, how this trauma could (or, could not) be dealt with based on the examples of Turkey, Russia, and Japan: Zarakol 2011.

15 I see that Ömer Turan is disturbed by how much emphasis I place on political culture studies. “An analysis based only on culture (and therefore, a culturalist analysis)” rightly worries him (Turan 2019: 73). However, I hope he does not think that I believe that there is an unchanging essence to cultures, or that I propose an analysis based on such stereotypical conceptions as “Arabs are such and such”, or “Greeks are such and such”. Let me clarify my position: I believe that the fear of being accused of culturalism by the post-modern, post-structuralist, post-colonial, post-Orientalist academia undermines cultural and political cultural studies, and leaves the study of political culture in the hands of those who work from a culturalist perspective. However, political culture can be and actually is well studied within scientific methodology, using quantitative methods for the current and recent periods, and scientific and non-essentialist methods provided by historical sociology for the more distant past.

16 On a side note, even though I find Çınar’s reproachful warning against an essentialist approach to Islamism appropriate, I believe that this warning should be directed primarily to Islamists, and not to secular individuals, as is always the case. I have not known or read a single Islamist who does not approach Islam in an essentialist way.

17 For a number of leading studies, see Gilman 2003; Engerman et al. 2003; Isaac 2012.

18 After the Greek side rejected the plan, I have now become hopeless about a settlement in Cyprus based on compromise. I would describe the attitude of the EU after the referendum as impudent, for lack of a better word.

19 While we are at it, let me also briefly respond to Turan’s criticisms for “exaggerating the power of academic criticism” and “overestimating the power of an academic/intellectual perspective.” What I claim is not that the post-Kemalist paradigm has given rise to the AKP authoritarianism, but rather that it facilitated such authoritarianism by giving it encouragement, strength, and legitimacy. If I am exaggerating, I may be exaggerating just as much as Said exaggerated the influence of the Orientalists.

20 If Mardin’s academic career had one overarching goal, it probably was to develop an alternative to the leftist paradigm that became increasingly prevalent in Turkish academia from the second half of the 1960s to the 1980s. I do not think that his goal was to respond to Orientalists, or to the perpetrators of the 1960 coup, as Turan suggests.

21 I must add here the articles of Galip Yalman written in the late 1990s, which I discovered only recently.

22 It would not amount to a perfect example of the dialogue that Turan expects from me, but before closing this topic, I must address the issue of Ersanlı-Behar and ethnic nationalism. Turan says that I used a rather vague expression in my 2015 article, and based on this, concludes that I find Ersanlı-Behar’s account of ethnic nationalism problematic (Turan 2019: 71-72). It made me wonder if I had misrepresented myself, and I went back to check, as readers may do, too. What I said was that Ersanlı-Behar “reminded everyone of the ethnic nationalist background” that gave birth to the language and history theses, and “paved the way to question” the theory of civic nationalism. I do not know what is a “rather vague” expression here; if I did not agree with Ersanlı-Behar, I would have preferred expressions such as “claimed” or “argued.” If Turan looks back at my 2015 article, he will see that I expressed in that article that I agree with many arguments of the founders of academic post-Kemalism. Let me repeat, I agree with Ersanlı-Behar’s analysis of ethnic nationalism, but Turan’s statement that “even though it was built on a series of paradoxical syntheses, there is currently a consensus that Turkish nationalism is an ethnic type” compels me to dwell more on this issue. First of all, I do not find acceptable the idea that we have settled this topic once and for all and left it behind. We, scholars in social sciences and humanities, like to question paradigmatic consensuses; we are even more interested in the “paradoxical syntheses” mentioned by Turan. I have always thought that post-Kemalist nationalism studies attribute to Turkish nationalists a clarity of mind, lucidity, precision, and inner consistency that I do not think they possess. Therefore, the issue of paradoxes deserves more attention, and it is not yet time to drop the subject. I would also like to note that ethnic and civic nationalisms are also ideal types; they are not found in their pure form in nature. We may find civic elements even in Japanese nationalism, which is deemed the most ethnic, just as we may find ethnic elements in, say, Canadian nationalism, which probably constitutes the most prominent example of civic nationalism. Therefore, it would be more fitting to place all nationalisms on a scale with the ideal type of civic nationalism at one end and that of ethnic nationalism at the other. I think that Turkish nationalism has been oscillating between the center and the ethnic nationalist end of the spectrum since the early 1900s.

23 I apologize for using Nurdan Gürbilek’s book chapter title out of context; I would not have done this if it did not reflect the content of this sub-section so well.

24 For a new academic contribution to the debate on Nutuk, see Yasemin İpek’s doctoral thesis submitted to Bilkent, as well as her following article: İpek 2018, 139-165.

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Electronic reference

İlker Aytürk, Post-Post-Kemalism, One More Time: Criticisms, Responses, ReflectionsEuropean Journal of Turkish Studies [Online], 35 | 2022, Online since 31 January 2024, connection on 16 April 2024. URL:; DOI:

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İlker Aytürk

Bilkent University, Istanbul

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