The crisis of Representation and Authority

by Dinçer Demirkent

A research paper developed in the Summer School “Teaching the crisis – Geographies, Methodologies, Perspectives”
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The crisis perceived after the influential protests against police attacks to the environmentalists can be read as an institutional crisis or a political crisis of institutions. Turkey witnessed the politization of a nonpolitical critique in a full flood which reminds us the story of overturning the 18th century absolutisms told by Reinhardt Koselleck in Critique and Crisis. During Gezi Park protests we faced with a politization process spread around football fans, apolitical families, secondary school canteens, village coffees, universities, etc. Such unusual synergies and protest forms emerged that there is no similar instance in the history of Turkish Republic. These synergy and protest forms revealed a range of practice that neither conventional opponent political organizations, opponent social movements could contain nor government bodies could identify and repress. The protests which began for saving the trees of Gezi Park transformed a civil commotion in an unpredictable way. Therefore it is hard for the political organizations and people thinking of politics in Turkey to make sense of and to posit what happened. How did this movement emerge? Who is the subject of this movement? In what way the subjectivity processes occurred? And the most importantly ‘what will be and what will change after this movement?’

Some responses were given to these questions in certain conceptual models. The liberal thesis conceived the movement as a reflex directed to save people’s existing lifestyle habits. They saw only ‘middle classes’ in the streets and they saw only the authoritarianism and a more conservative regime. The basic subject of the problem for the liberal intellectuals was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly raising authoritative and Islamist tone of voice. Even a liberal intellectual said that if Tayyip Erdogan gave up his angry attitudes there would be no problem (Oran, 2013). Liberals did not see a structural problem particularly in the beginnings of the issue and they thought that the crisis could be prevented by ordinary negotiating models.

It is no less troublesome to explain what happened in June for the orthodox version of Marxism in Turkey. People in the streets did not remind of a classical working class or a radical petit bourgeoisie. Their protest and politization forms were very different from classical forms. There is no pioneer political party or social class. Even unions couldn’t take a decision of a general strike because they didn’t believe that they have such a power. Likewise the protests that unions led were the weakest of the June days. But the prevalent ambiance was anti-systemic. However the Marxist analysis tried to explain the crises via familiar conceptual tools. The basic problem was the neo-liberal Islamist exclusionist policies of AKP and the subject of the movement was the foreclosed classes of neo-liberal Islamist system of Turkey (Boratav, 2013: 15-20).

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