Neoliberal transformation and professional middle classes : case of engineers in Turkey

Günal, Yeliz
This thesis aims to understand how neoliberal transformation has been perceived and experienced by professional middle classes, with a specific focus on engineers in Turkey. Neoliberalism penetrates into every field of social life by establishing its hegemony not only at discoursive/perceptual level, but also at practical/experiential level. In this respect, in an attempt to find clues for the broad question of how neoliberalism becomes hegemonic and whether middle classes constitute a social base for this project, this thesis focuses on different ways that neoliberal culture and rationality are experienced as a class practice among professional middle classes. By emphasizing that the post-1980 period’s professional middle classes have been depicted as the ‘ideal’ neoliberal citizens/subjects who are identified with the values of self-responsibility, self-governmentality and entrepreneurship, I question the mechanisms through which privatization of state economic enterprises, change in the employment structure, social citizenship practices and practices of unionization and politics are legitimized by these classes. By analyzing the fieldwork data gathered from engineers working and living in Ankara, I conclude that under the conditions of increasing precariousness in the labour market and commodification of social rights, with extreme concern of increasing their life standards and gaining status in the labor market, engineers mainly seek for individualized solutions for their problems in work life and welfare issues, which make them alienated to politics and unionization for collective solutions. Consequently, professional middle classes accept neoliberal citizen/subject role despite their social egalitarian concerns and they produce different legitimization mechanisms to cope with the discrepancy between their practices and ideological position.