9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN29 Social Theory

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 The Sociology of Intellectuals and Intellectual Production Building AA, AA.328

Civil Society Debate in Turkey: Discursive Struggles among the Intellectuals attempting at the Construction of Neo-liberal Truth Regime?

The Western civil society literature is dominated by a dichotomic model of civil society vs. state (Keane 1988; Taylor 1990; Walzer 1995) which neglects the fact that the sphere of civil society itself can be an ambivalent and contradictory because of the cleavages, tensions and conflicts between different groups in it (Chandhoke 1995). The contradictory character of civil society sphere which is driven through power relations has been also widely neglected in the Turkish academic landscape. By the time, particularly since the widespread popularisation of the concept in mid 1980s civil society became to be used synonymous with a sphere within which different social groups coexist and live with each other peacefully and harmoniously representing the only source of democratic potential against a totalitarian centralist kemalist State.
Beyond the questioning of this simplistic and non-critical notion of civil society, this paper aims at analysing the civil society debate in Turkey, making use of Foucauldian critical discourse analysis approach, putting it in the frame of discursive and knowledge praxis of academic and public intellectuals. Accordingly the appearance, the rise and intensive usage of the civil society concept by the liberal intellectuals, academicians and journalists in Turkey, since 90s but also ongoing in 2000s in the political public sphere, will be examined in the framework of ?democratisation debate? and neo-liberal re-structuring of state-society relations in the aftermath of 1980 Coup D`etat (Yalman 2002; Erdogan &Üstüner 2002), that means as part of discursive strategies of construction of a neo-liberal truth regime in Turkey. Drawing on the Gramscian notion of Intellectual complemented by Foucault's discourse analytical approach, this paper interprets civil society debate in Turkey as struggle over societal meaning, and struggle over contested political realities among intellectuals competing for the validity of their version of social-political reality and therefore striving for discursive dominance. Thus, putting the struggle over the definition of social reality, i.e. the political discourse produced by the academic and public intellectuals in the centre of analysis, this paper aims at a better understanding of the complex relationship between power-intellectuals-knowledge production and the dynamics of this relationship.