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Civil society debate in Turkey: a critical analysis

Onbaşı, Funda
This thesis analyzes the debate revolving around the concept of civil society in Turkey with reference to academic literature. It argues that despite the seeming variety of approaches to the concept of civil society, there is an underlying commonality among the widespread usages of the concept. These seemingly different approaches in the end become the versions of the same hegemonic view. This, in turn, causes a vicious circle in the civil society debate in Turkey. The basis upon which this hegemonic view is built are the central premises of the liberal idea of civil society. With its constant reference to the strong state-weak civil society dichotomy; to the ‘ideal’ of civil society as a checking mechanism over the state; and to a particular understanding of pluralism without antagonism and with an emphasis on consensus, this view underlies the majority of scholarly works in Turkey. However, important aspects of civil society are ignored by this hegemonic position. In order to render the concept of civil society a useful analytical tool there is a need to underline that state and civil society do not exist as distinct entities and that the relations characterizing civil society are not characterized by the liberal idea of harmonious pluralism but by uneven power relations resulting in inequalities as well as marginalization, exclusion, and silencing of some in the society. Thus, the Marxist conception of civil society can open the gate for a more fruitful usage of the concept of civil society for socio-political analysis.