Perry Anderson on Kemalism

by on June 6, 2017 at 2:14 pm in Current Affairs, History, Political Science, Religion | Permalink

One of his main points is that secular nationalism and Islamism have never been so separate in Turkey:

Tactical and transient, the new regime’s [Kemal’s] use of Islam, when no longer required, was easily reversed. But at a deeper level, a much tighter knot tied it to the very religion it proceeded on the surface to mortify. For even when at apparent fever pitch, Turkish secularism has never been truly secular. This is in part because, as often noted, Kemalism did not so much separate religion from the state as subordinate it to the state, creating ‘directorates’ that took over the ownership of all mosques, appointment of imams, administration of pious foundations – in effect, turning the faith into a branch of the bureaucracy. A much more profound reason, however, is that religion was never detached from the nation, becoming instead an unspoken definition of it. It was this that allowed Kemalism to become more than just a cult of the elites, leaving a durable imprint on the masses themselves. Secularism failed to take at village level: nationalism sank deeper popular roots. It is possible – such is the argument of Carter Findley in his Turks in World History – that in doing so it drew on a long Turkish cultural tradition, born in Central Asia and predating conversion to Islam, that figured a sacralisation of the state, which has vested its modern signifier, devlet, with an aura of unusual potency. However that may be, the ambiguity of Kemalism was to construct an ideological code in two registers. One was secular and appealed to the elite. The other was crypto-religious and accessible to the masses. Common to both was the integrity of the nation, as supreme political value.

Here is the full LRB essay, via Alex Xenopoulos.  The comments after the essay are worth reading too.

1 Anon June 6, 2017 at 2:45 pm

From the comments:
“Some Westerners simply cannot bear the idea that Islamic polities were a lot more tolerant than their European counterparts.
————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
There was massive economic, political and military bullying of the region by the Great Powers. The most damaging consequence was that people of the region were infected by European notions of ethnic nationalism, which was a major factor (along with Russian military pressure) in paving the way for the Armenian genocide.”

2 The Anti-Gnostic June 6, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Only Western countries have moral agency.

3 Nodnarb the Nasty June 6, 2017 at 7:14 pm

My personal favorite is the one where libertarians argue that the Ottoman Empire was libertarian because, you know, the millet system.

4 The Other Jim June 6, 2017 at 8:21 pm

Hey, if Tyler is libertarian, everyone is.

5 Fazal Majid June 6, 2017 at 5:33 pm

The Ottoman Millet system is not unique. Cyrus the Great’s Persian empire operated in much the same way, and nowadays India has separate personal law systems for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and so on. Even in Europe, the principle of “Cujus regio, ejus religio” was only formalized in the 1555 Peace of Augsburg.

6 Art Deco June 6, 2017 at 7:58 pm

There was massive economic, political and military bullying of the region by the Great Powers.

No, there was not. Central Asia and Algeria were treated badly. Afghanistan and Iran were never dependencies of any European power, but have been the source of no end of trouble. Afghanistan was ‘bullied’, but quite late in the day by Soviet Russia. The Yemen is currently the site of trouble. About 85% was never a dependency of any European power; the other 15% was under the light touch of a British protectorate. The principal loci of Arab revanchism in the postwar period were Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Libya. Iraq was a British dependency for all of 14 years. Syria was a French dependency for all of 28 years (over half of which they were self-governing), and Egypt was subject to patron-client relations with varying degrees of coercion over a period of 60-odd years (notionally Ottoman for most of that time, and juridically sovereign for all but 8 years of the remainder). Italy’s misbegotten tenure as the overlord of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica lasted from 1911 to 1942, and they acquired secure control only in 1928. All four sets of territories had had centuries of Turkish rule. What’s interesting is that you look at survey research of the Arab world which asks which occidental country makes the post salutary contribution to the political life of the region, the answer is France (whose rule in Algeria was far more coercive and disruptive than any other set of dependency relations between Europeans and Arabs).

7 Thiago Ribeiro June 6, 2017 at 9:05 pm

“Afghanistan and Iran were never dependencies of any European power, but have been the source of no end of trouble”
The Europeans invaded both countries, but Afghanistan and Iran were the sources of trouble…

8 Art Deco June 6, 2017 at 8:12 pm

The most damaging consequence was that people of the region were infected by European notions of ethnic nationalism,

Yeah, the Frogs and the Limeys Jedi mind-tricked George Antonius and every other member of the Arab intelligentsia.

9 Mark Twain/ June 6, 2017 at 2:54 pm

This dim vast mass had been glimpsed in New Jersey, daffodil flowers, in New Haven, Copley Ohio, In Pennsylvania, in interior New York, in Brooklyn, and in all cases the dim vast mass vanished quiqy.

But the day passed without other result. The next day the same. The next just the same.

10 Barkley Rosser June 6, 2017 at 3:31 pm

The main argument here is just unbelievably weak. Anderson makes it clear that Ataturk engaged in the most drastic secularization that had been seen in the Muslim world up to that time. Only states taken over the Soviets or the Chinese communists would be more secular. About the best he can claim is that at the local level in the countryside Islam persisted, but that it was put under the control of the secular state. For some bizarre reason Anderson presents as evidence of the supposed limits of secularism that there was not a social revolution involving the classes. Sorry, that is irrelevant.

There is much interesting material in this essay, but it is deeply flawed, especially when it comes to the marketing of it. It does not remotely come close to establishing its supposed main point.

11 So Much For Subtlety June 6, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Well that is not true. He does show that Attaturk’s secularization was unusual. Attaturk drove out Turkish-speakers who happened to be Christians. Calling them Greek. Just as Greece drove out Greek-speakers who happened to be Muslim. Attaturk continued to persecute Turkish citizens who happened to be non-Muslims. Just as the Turkish Deep State has continued to do so – murdering Turkish citizens of Armenian origin for writing things they do not like, closing Churches, persecuting Christians in various ways.

Attaturk did try to limit the influence of Islam on public policy. But he could not think of a community that was not formed by religion. So his “nation” was a nation of Muslims. Rather like Israel is not a Jewish State in the sense that Jewish law is central to the politics of the country or is even applied outside a very limited range of personal issues, but it is a State for Jews where ethnic identity is closely associated with a particular religion and citizens of any other religion are decidedly second class.

12 Art Deco June 6, 2017 at 8:08 pm

citizens of any other religion are decidedly second class.

No, they’re not. The one formal distinction in law which follows confession is that Christians and Muslims are exempt from compulsory military service (which applies to Jews and Druzes).

13 Holy Cow Reunion June 6, 2017 at 9:49 pm

I say again, scoresby’s an absolute fool. These people are taking high school jobs from high school seniors in order to flummox unemployment.

The real Cardiff is in Albany, and his name is George Saunders.

A legion of subtropical vagabonds blackening the red group with their black tread. Chris Farley died in
a fair as if he wore an alien spy cap on his head, there was not much guilt nor many tears shed for a fast waning fire that dies out altogether!

So what else happened here except that Josh Lyman called a huddle, and realized that Lewisburg is the cause of doom and gloom, depression and alcoholism and new London ripped off Keruoac in the attempt to defame Rowanoke, Jamestown, Salem. These places so gaudy as to rip off shame and shamble it’s pieces along the milky way. So beetle juice lives and lava lamps live and glowlights live and perilous sunglasses are mocked,, much less the sunglasses themselves but the picture taking ambivalence that their culture has created.

Peterson: latin or greek, for stone or rock these people throw shame and shade on jack Kerouac and they must be disavowed once more.

14 So Much For Subtlety June 7, 2017 at 4:10 am

Arab communities were under martial law for a decade after independence. Israel ties a great deal of welfare to military service. Other services are clearly not shared equally. As anyone can see if they go to a Palestinian settlement. Israel long banned “non-Zionist” parties which meant Arabs used to vote for the Communists because their Jewish leadership made them acceptable.

But I agree most problems are not in the law. Israel handed over pretty much all the land it stole from the people they drove out of the country at Independence to the Jewish Land Agency. Which refuses to lease land to non-Jews. Hence it is not the Jewish state that is discriminating. It is a quasi-State agency. Clever.

15 Art Deco June 9, 2017 at 8:46 pm

. Israel long banned “non-Zionist” parties which meant Arabs used to vote for the Communists because their Jewish leadership made them acceptable.

The Communist Party, Agudah Israel, and Poaeli Agudah Israel were all non-Zionist parties and all in the Knesset from 1949 onward. Constitutionally Arab parties were in the Knesset from 1951 onward. The Arab Communists were in the Knesset from 1965 onward.

Arab communities were under martial law for a decade after independence.

The border zones were under martial law. Do you have a complaint concerning something that’s been a provision in law in the last 50 years?

But I agree most problems are not in the law. Israel handed over pretty much all the land it stole from the people they drove out of the country at Independence to the Jewish Land Agency.

You never stop lying, do you?

16 Art Deco June 6, 2017 at 3:35 pm

You mean secularism wasn’t rejected by the Turkish public, it was never tried? And everyone who writes on Kemalist ideology and practice for general audiences has completely misunderstood it and needs to be set straight.

His theses seem awfully stereotyped.

17 Ray Lopez June 6, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Boring. Orientalism is it’s own specialty. Frankly it’s like critiques of modern literature: unintelligible to the non-specialist. Keep in mind (and I speak as a Greek citizen) over in Turkey and Greece there are rumors that to most people who don’t live there don’t make any sense, like, for example, some Muslim cleric in the Poconos, Pennsylvania is running Turkey behind the scenes (Gulenists). Sometimes the rumors even have a basis in truth, e.g., the CIA, who is blamed for all kinds of stuff in Greece, where during the 2004 Olympics in Athens, it and/or the US embassy was probably behind a spate of phone buggings of high-profile officials, set up with inside help at Vodophone Greece, that resulted in one suicide / murder(?).

Bonus trivia: the Ottoman empire got close to two-thirds of their revenue from taxing Greece, which explains why they were so reluctant to part with it in the 1820s.

Bonus trivia II: Alex Xenopoulos means, in Greek, “Alex the son of the Foreigner”.

18 Thanatos Savehn June 6, 2017 at 5:02 pm

The Xenopoulos Easter Egg caught my attention too. Maybe the Greeks are trolling the Turks or maybe the Turks are hinting at reconstituting the Janissary.

19 Nodnarb the Nasty June 6, 2017 at 8:21 pm

Poor Cowen! Do you think he got trolled?

Barry Stocker (Istanbul Tech) has owned the discussions about Turkey over the last 14 months, but he’s also slept on by those who should be paying attention.

20 Art Deco June 6, 2017 at 3:50 pm

I’d never heard of Perry Anderson. What was his dissertation on? It does not appear on GoogleScholar and his office site requires you request his CV via e-mail. He appears to have been editor of New Left Review for 20 years and then landed a position at the New School for Social Reserach ‘ere landing a ‘distinguished professorship’ at UCLA. Funny how two decades as a red opinion journalist gets your foot in the door and and how current affairs seem never to have dimmed anyone’s sense of the perspicacity of Prof. Pinko.

21 The Cuckmeister-General June 6, 2017 at 4:10 pm

What was your Dissertation? A string of comments on The Money Illusion?

22 Art Deco June 6, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Cuck-old-doodle-doo!

23 msgkings June 6, 2017 at 8:14 pm

Out of desperation, I’ve tried sex with roosters.

24 The Other Jim June 6, 2017 at 8:22 pm

Best 10 seconds of msgkings’s life.

25 Nodnarb the Nasty June 6, 2017 at 8:25 pm

You didn’t answer his question…

(Anderson is Benedict’s younger brother.)

26 Art Deco June 6, 2017 at 8:01 pm

Hi Scott. Gracious as usual.

27 msgkings June 6, 2017 at 3:53 pm

You don’t suppose Perry Anderson would like to date a decrepit Mercatus employee?

28 The Cuckmeister-General June 6, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Hey Art Deco you cuck, you’re barking up the wrong tree I’m the one doing the sock puppeting.

29 Jack June 6, 2017 at 4:43 pm

Wonder if this guy is really entitled to an opinion on the subject — is he for example fluent in Turkish? Can read source documents in the original or does he have to depend on others to tell him what documents say?

30 The Cuckmeister-General June 6, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Well come on now, if you say someone has to speak the language to be a Country expert then you’re saying like almost all the Russia or Middle East “Experts” in Washington are just full of shit?

31 Cptn Obvious June 6, 2017 at 5:39 pm

They are!

32 Art Deco June 6, 2017 at 8:04 pm

He’s passed off as an ‘intellectual historian’ or a ‘sociologist’. He appears to have spent most of his adult life as a professional Marxist. He appears to be selected for this sort of work because he can turn in copy on time and make the specious sound smart, not because he has any background studying the region.

33 Edgar June 6, 2017 at 6:39 pm

“The Osmanli Sultanate, as it expanded into Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries, was indeed more tolerant – however anachronistic the term – than any Christian realm of the period.”

An interesting assertion given that there are no written records of the Ottomon Empire until the 15th century. But, at any rate, one might note that in 1315, before the Ottomans began building their great slave armies, King Louis X of France decreed that any slave setting foot on French soil was free. Yes, it took a while for Europe reject the Roman Catholic tradition of persecution, but it was in the 15th and 16th century that European thought threw off this yoke and advanced sufficiently so that the concept of separation of church and state could be formulated by Thomas Helwys,in the early 17th century: “If the Kings people be obedient and true subjects, obeying all humane lawes made by the King, our Lord the King can require no more: for men’s religion to God is betwixt God and themselves; the King shall not answer for it, neither may the King be judge between God and man.” As the West rushes headlong into submission, those who would dissent may still take inspiration from Helwys and from the great Baptist legacy generally. http://www.learnthebible.org/thank-the-baptists-for-freedom-of-religion.html

34 Sam Haysom June 6, 2017 at 6:50 pm

This is all pretty immaterial. European kingdoms were largely homogenous (not always the case) kingdom formed from one people. Meanwhile the Ottoman Empire was a you know sprawling empire composed of a bunch of people violently conquered by outsiders. A Muslim in Spain could correctly be seen by a Christian Spaniard as an outside force forcibly imported into Spain via blood thirsty conquest. Meanwhile a Christian in Istanbul has been minding his own business when a bunch of barbarians from the Altai mountains swooped in an conquered them. Why on earth would we give Muslims points for being somewhat tolerant of the people they conquered? The ottoman Turks were super crappy people regardless of how well they occasionally treated non-pagan infidels.

35 Thiago Ribeiro June 6, 2017 at 9:07 pm

“Muslim in Spain could correctly be seen by a Christian Spaniard as an outside force forcibly imported into Spain via blood thirsty conquest.”
Those blood thirsty Jews in Spain, too.

36 Pensans June 7, 2017 at 9:45 am

Always about the Jews.

37 The Other Jim June 6, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Well I’m just glad we’ve stopped pretending that Islamists have not conquered Turkey, and we have moved on to the “Actually Turkey has always been pretty Islamist” phase.

Still wrong, but you’ve conceded the point, which is always nice.

38 Miguel Madeira June 6, 2017 at 11:05 pm

“This is in part because, as often noted, Kemalism did not so much separate religion from the state as subordinate it to the state”

And what is the big difference from, lets say, secularism in France (where churches were nationalized)?

39 Kass June 7, 2017 at 4:00 am

“in effect, turning the faith into a branch of the bureaucracy. A much more profound reason, however, is that religion was never detached from the nation, becoming instead an unspoken definition of it.”
Looks a lot like Uvarov’s Triad from XIXth century.

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