Looking Beyond Neoliberalism: Tragedy of Turkish Peasantry and the New Populism

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Mustafa KOC, Department of Sociology, Ryerson University, Canada
Metin OZUGURLU, Ankara University, Faculty of Political Sciences, Turkey
This paper deals with impacts of policy changes in three different agricultural sectors in Turkey since the 1980s where Turkish state has switched from and import substitution model of industrialization to a model of export promotion. This period was also characterized with further integration with global economy, decline in real wages and unionization and depeasantization. Many observers correctly pointed out the role of neoliberal ideology and policies adopted by the domestic elite, state bureaucracy, as well as penetration of global capital and the role of international financial institutions in this process.

By looking at the impacts of policy reforms in sugar beets, tobacco and animal husbandry this paper examines the domestic and foreign dynamics in the demise of peasant farming in Turkey since 1980s. While we will identify the role of neoliberal reforms adopted under various governments during this period, we will argue that neoliberalism has become a misnomer, an overgeneralized explanation for complex political processes.

The paper argues that by looking at different sectors and policies, we can examine the complex factors behind depeasantization. The paper will explore the complex convergence of actions and priorities of political elite, domestic bourgeoise, transnational capital industrial and financial capital in depeasantization. It is also argued that changes in policies would also trigger complex new dynamics with unintended consequences triggering a series of new developments.

The paper also explores the role of nationalism and populist politics in political legitimacy and stability by diverting the attention of the victims of the “neoliberal” assault to presumed internal and external enemies, a process that has been happening in many parts of the world in recent decades.