Islamic Culture, Turkish Economy, and the Spirit of Modern Capitalism
A Blog Post by Pablo Markin.
In her article, Hatice Atilgan has critically examined the historical sociological proposition of Max Weber that in the West the Protestant work ethic was among the key causal factors for the emergence of modern capitalism with regard to “Turkey’s Islamic-Ottoman heritage and top-down modernization process […] [as the nexus of relationships that] explain the development of the modern capitalist economy and its sociopolitical consequences in Turkey” (76). In this paper, capitalism is defined “as an economic system based on the private or corporate ownership of the means of production. Private property, accumulation of capital, and competition in a free market can be central characteristics of a capitalist economic system” (77). In this respect, Weber has largely claimed “that the Protestant work ethic [based on self-discipline, hard work, and frugality, among other principles,] is mostly implemented by the Western, particularly English-speaking societies” (77-78).
As Atilgan notes, “[m]any [Islamic] countries in the Middle East established their nation-based sovereignty by the 1950s and 1960s, but they failed to achieve economic standards the Western nations had” (79). However, in the view of some economic and social theorists, “Islamic [ethical] principles can get along with capitalist ideals because even though some Islamic principles are immutable and timeless, many more are subject to changes in accord with the standards of each age” (81). In relation to Turkey and its historical development, this study suggests that “capitalistic modifications in Turkish Islamic culture led to the emergence of a new bourgeoisie-like class which is very similar to Protestants in terms of their religious lifestyle and work principles, but unlike the Westerner bourgeoise, they did not act as an innovative, liberal, progressive leading social class for Turkish society” (83).
Thus, this author concludes that, the configuration of capitalism prevalent in Turkey derives from “Turkey’s complex modernization progress history […] as a secular, meanwhile predominantly Muslim country” (83). Atilgan connects this to wider social, political and economic trends to which this country has been exposed, such as “growing desecularization all around the world and the neoliberal global economy’s endorsement for the integration of religion and entrepreneurship in Muslim world [that have] restructured Turkish political economy. Accordingly, previously excluded religious groups began […] support[ing] moderate Islamic political, economic and social changes in Turkey” (82).
By Pablo Markin
Featured Image Credits: Turkey Istanbul _DSC25509, Turkey, August 12, 2008 | © Courtesy of youngrobv/Flickr.
Atilgan, Hatice. “Social Determinants of Modernization of Political Economy in Turkey: The Effects of Islamic Culture.” Open Political Science 2.1 (2019): 76-85.