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THE KEY IDEAS Of CONSERVATISM And PATERNALISTIC CONSERVATISM In TURKEY

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Writer: Ada İlyada Utkucu

This ideology wants to conserve the society and has a strong defence which is based on traditional and social order against change. However, according to some thinkers, such as Burke; the change should be gradually like step by step such reform and change could be within the structure without touching grounding factors: we can change certain things in the society to overcome our problems that we face by using the method of pragmatism. There are certain elements in this ideology: tradition, organism, and property.

The reason why we use the method of pragmatism; conservative ideology emphasis the limitation of human rationality which means our capacity to think is limited but we can change issues in our societies in order to overcome the difficulties that we experience in social and political realm.

When considering tradition, we were born in a society according to conservatism. If this is the situation, then we will all know common sense of the society, different habits in society and we share all those habits with other people, so we can identify ourselves based on shared experiences and habits that we called as tradition. To sum up, tradition is part of our identity and should be a measure against change.

According to conservatist thinkers, there is an organic society which means individuals cannot be separated from the society which is a living organism. The society is not simply of collection of individuals parts and shaped by natural factors. There is a hierarchy and authority in our societies; it is very normal because we all have some duties to fulfil, and the society should be organised hierarchically. For example, some people will serve as the head of the body and these will be the governors or politicians; some people need to function the arms of the body and they will be the workers.

Property is a very important institution in the conservatism. The reason why property is important, property creates a sense of security, confidence, and assurance so it must be protected from disorder and lawfulness. Property owners usually think that they had something to lose therefore, they will try to conserve that they have.

With the right to property, you have a stake in the society; you have an interest in the society particularly in maintaining law and order as well.

To continue with paternalistic conservatism: in this understanding, the government have the right to intervene with lifestyles of the citizens as well so here government can act like a father and it can shape the lifestyles of the society.

When considering, conservatism with the fact that authority is natural; people by themselves by acting their own interests cannot create a certain kind of authority and it is impossible because authority develops from natural necessity. Furthermore, according to conservatist views, authority of the father in the family is natural necessity and children need to obey what parents say to them. We know that in a way that we born into that family, so we know who our mother and father is.

In the paternalistic conservatism the authority of the state can be felt more with its acting like a father when comparing to new right ideology because in the new right ideology it is more about demanding of minimal state by considering worries based on economy.

Conservative ideology has also been manifested in Turkish context particularly in relation to the mainstream right-wing politics and their perceptions on gender since the 1950s.[1]After the dissolution of Ottoman Empire, as concerning secular values, Republic of Turkey presented certain civil and political rights for women citizens in 1923. Civil Code which is made by 1926 introduced right to divorce and equal inheritance in a civilized way as abolished the Islamic way of marriage and polygamy. What is more, in 1934 women were granted with right to vote and other political rights.

In order to modernize and secularize, women’s rights were seen as important part for Turkey modernization process.[2] These developments were important steps for women’s liberation for sure, however, the regime stereotyped women as nurses and teachers, given the role of the mothers of the nation, which led to another form of gendered stereotyping on women.[3]

During the republican period, women were emancipated but not fully liberated which means that women were granted with equal rights in formal terms, but there were stills cultural and social obstacles that hindered their liberation.[4]

Paternalistic conservatist perspective can be seen in recent Turkish political history. “Our party is a conservative democratic party. The family is important to us”, told President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, at a press conference held on June 9, 2011 for the announcement of the newly established ministries, where he declared that “Ministry of Women and Family Affairs” was replaced by “Ministry of Family and Social Policies”, prior to the general elections that would take place on June 12, 2011.[5]

At back then, the newly founded ministry consisted of several departments including the General Directorates of Family and Social Services, of Children Services, of Services for Disabled and the Elderly, of Social Aid and of Veterans and Families of people got deceased while serving the Turkish State, in addition to the General Directorate of the Status of Women. Erased from the name of the Ministry, the name of women was reduced to a department under the ministry.[6]

Of course, women’s rights activists criticized the government because of removing the name of women and considering women’s position along the same lines with other disadvantaged groups in community, particularly as an element of the family. Human Rights Watch evaluated this transformation as “a big leap backwards for Turkey” in terms of attaining gender equality.[7]

The family has historically been considered as the foundational unit of social, cultural and economic life. [8] The idea of “nuclear family” consisting of a pair of adults and children has critically been evaluated as a setting where capitalism and the ideological presumptions of the nation state are rooted.[9]

In the context of Turkey, the family has been instrumentalized as a significant ideological apparatus throughout AKP’s single party government since 2002.

As evident in Erdoğan’s speech declaring the establishment of the MFSP replacing the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs, the family is considered as an ideal setting where conservative politics can be implemented.[10]

To conclude, when analysing all those terms within Turkey as an example; women are defined in relation to men and the family, rather than autonomous individuals with female identities. Women are further imagined as the integral elements of the nation, property in a sense, attributed with traditional gender roles such as housekeeping and childcaring. It could be said that in Turkey, the family serves as a superstructure that function as the waiver of the existing power relations.

Bu makalede yer alan fikirler yazara aittir ve Case’in editöryel politikasını yansıtmayabilir.
Bu yazı ilk kez 8 Haziran 2021’de yayımlanmıştır.

Bibliography

Belge, Burçin. “Women Policies Erased from Political Agenda”. 9 June 2011. http://bianet.org/english/women/130607- women-policies-erased-from-political-agenda (accessed 12 12, 2015).

Carrington, Victoria. “Globalization, Family and the Nation State: Reframing “Family” in new times.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 22, no. 20 (2001): 185-196.

Çitak, Zana, and Özlem Tür. “Women Between Tradition and Change: The Justice and Development Party Experience in Turkey.” Middle Eastern Studies 44, no. 3 (2008): 455-469.

Foucault, Michel. The history of sexuality volume 1: An introduction. New York: Random House, 1990.

Heywood Andrew, Politics, 5th Edition, 2012.

Kandiyoti, Deniz. “Emancipated but unliberated? Reflections on the Turkish case.” Feminist Studies 13, no. 2 (1987): 317–338.

Kalaycioğlu, Ersin, “Politics of Conservatism in Turkey.” Turkish Studies 8, no. 2 (2007): 233-252.

Müftüler-Bac, Meltem, “Turkish Women’s Predicament.” Women’s Studies International Forum 22, no. 3 (1999): 303- 315.

Nas Alparaslan, Familialization of women: Gender ideology in Turkey’s public service advertisements, Fe Dergi: Feminist Eleştiri Edition 8, No 1, 2016.

Parsons, Talcott, and Robert Freed Bales. Family, socialization and interaction process. Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1955.

[1] Kalaycıoğlu 2007, 233

[2] Müftüler-Bac 1999, 303

[3] Nas Alparaslan, Familialization of women: Gender ideology in Turkey’s public service advertisements, Fe Dergi: Feminist Eleştiri Edition 8, No 1, 2016.

[4] Kandiyoti, 1987.

[5] Belge, 2011.

[6] Alparslan, 2016.

[7] Belge, 2011.

[8] Parsons and Bales 1955; Walsh 2003; Foucault 1990.

[9] Carrington, 2001.

[10] Çitak and Tür 2008, 463.

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