politics : culture : economics

Turkey’s morbid interregnum

In Turkey on August 14, 2010 at 4:07 am

A quote from Antonio Gramsci has been running around my head over the past few weeks. I’m sure the reason it has resurfaced in my mind now is that it seems so particularly apt here in Turkey:

The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appears.

Turkish politics are deeply polarised, with sharply divergent views as to what might be dying and what might be trying to be born here. Arguably, this divergence is at the root of current disputes about the government’s proposed changes to the constitution.

But I wonder whether the most useful timeframe within which to consider Gramsci’s quote isn’t a longer one than generally frames discussion of September’s referendum.

To this way of thinking, Turkey has been living through an interregnum for many decades. Since 1938, perhaps. Or since 1946, when multi-party elections began a transition to democracy that has never been properly consolidated.

To this way of thinking, democracy is that which has not yet been able to be born in Turkey. Authoritarianism is that which, though it may perhaps be dying, is by no means dead yet. And the morbid symptoms in the meantime? Unfortunately, as anyone who lives here knows, there are indeed a great variety of those.

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