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Lessons from Turkey


Over at my other digs, Kindred Winecoff is running a series called “World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism” (which, unfortunately, he’s decided requires an acronym). They’re all ‘good’ (if you don’t calculate values of ‘good’ based on scariness quotient), but I found the most recent one—Gizem Zencirci‘s “Lessons from Turkey: Populist Nationalism and the Threat to Democracy“—particularly unsettling.

We’ve all been watching Trump put together a cabinet composed almost exclusively of people who think that government works best when it maximizes opportunities for corporate rent-seeking in education, social welfare, and social insurance; and that government transfers are terrible affronts to liberty, except when they maximize economic inequality. If you’re like me, and looking at this pattern and at the overall GOP agenda, you’ve probably been thinking that Trump’s coalition isn’t long for this world.

Well, as much as we can draw lessons from radically different contexts—which is to say, who knows? we’re all in the dark right now—Turkey should give us pause.


Another way in which the Turkish case resembles populist nationalism elsewhere has to do with AKP’s anti-establishment and anti-elitist stance. Since 2002, the AKP has represented voters from the Anatolian heartland including agricultural masses, religious groups, and the urban poor who felt excluded and repressed by Westernized urban elites. But, although the AKP uses the language of “the people” to legitimize its political rule, actually the party is largely supported by the Islamic bourgeoisie who, when compared to the rest of the population, enjoy certain class-based, ethnic and religious privileges.

Anyway, go read.

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