Richness: “Rich” in research agenda, “poor” in literature
TANIL BORA - NECMİ ERDOĞAN
This editorial introduces the theme of, and touches on the articles in, the issue. Reviewing the Turkish literature, it sets a research agenda on the political and cultural aspects of richness in Turkey. It raises a series of research questions about the political and cultural processes in which the rich are involved, the ways in which social-class positions and hierarchies are articulated with gender, national identity, ethnicity and religion; the relationship of “economic capital” with political, cultural and symbolic capital and possible transformations therein; and the ways in which the rich represent themselves and “others” (especially the poor). It also notes the significant absence of the so-called “hostility to wealth” in present-day Turkey.
Businessmen and society
The starting point of my book State and Business in Modern Turkey whose Turkish version was first published in 1995 was this question: “What kind of a ‘dominant class’ is this that it is so helpless and timid before state policies which in fact, we are told, it gears in terms of its own interests; so insecure about the legitimacy of its own wealth; so hesitant and reluctant of being seen and talking in public?” However, in the last decade businessmen started to address the public and felt much more secure than they have ever been. In this article, I analyze the ways in which businessmen position themselves and their modes of treating “the problems of the society”, especially poverty in this period. Today, businessmen propose to create employment by dropping wages and taxes and by making concessions in social rights and labor standarts in order to solve the problem of poverty and this proposal is expressed through the guise of “national interests”. And here too, it becomes possible to defend national interests and businessmen’s interests as overlapping interests because the idea of alleviating poverty by creating employment attracts those who do not know what poverty is. When they chime in about the problems of those without any job or social security, they in fact aim at civil servants and workers who are not content with their wages and working conditions, who benefit from “generous” rights of pension and health. The aim of this paper is to analyze the implications of the interests of the businessmen and the modes of defending these interests for the whole society, beyond such conceptions of “national interests” and in accordance with a conception of social interest which puts at its center the protection of human rights with all its legal, political and social aspects.
Observations on the class-based“factorial and asset income distribution” in Turkey
AHMET HAŞİM KÖSE – YİĞİT KARAHANOĞULLARI
This paper aims to present the distribution of factor and asset incomes with respect to social classes. The study uses the data set “Household Budget Survey 2002” prepared and published by the State Statistics Institute. First the class positions of individuals are specified and then using the individual class positions the class positions of families are specified by reference to the class positions of the spouses. The theoretical basis of the study rests on the Marxist class analysis and hence adheres to the operatonalization of class categories in accordance with individuals’ positions in the social relations of production. Therefore individuals are placed into working class, petty bourgeoisie, capitalist and peasant class positions and their fractions. Property ownership is taken into account in the differentiation of individuals occupying the same class positions. Property and asset ownership is especially significant in the specification of the class positions of families.
“Affluence” in Turkish novel
In the first century of Turkish novel, money does not occur as a theme; the abstracted forms of capitalist relations of production appear only through superficial stories, affluence is rather treated through values and political issues. The growing phase of capitalism can account for that. But in the Turkey of the 21st century, where the articulation with the world capitalist system is completed and the process of integration with the EU is head on, we are witnessing an imagery where poverty, the poor and class inequality is either excluded from or marginalized in literature, material wealth and private property have become unquestionable facts, an imagery which still neglects the laws of capitalism. The reason why the theme of affluence, which started to appear only self-consciously after the 80s has become all-too-pervasive in the 2000s is that wealth is constantly presented with all its glamour in media representations and has come to be seen as the only way of living worth to talk about. Literature has charged itself with the task of relieving the tension of not leading such a life, not with the task of deciphering it. Literature is, like commercials, now a magic mirror which blends desire with the object, but which only allows for staring, imagining and desiring and thereby suppresses the feeling of revolt. The main concepts in the Turkish literature of the 2000s are freedom, beauty and the will to power, which is in fact a will to affluence.
Poverty and enrichment in the eyesof new middle classes
This article analyses the evaluation of poverty and enrichment by the new middle class members in the symbolic boundary work they operate to situate and distinguish themselves from other social categories. In other words it deals with the relative significance of poverty and affluence in the construction of a certain sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ by the new middle class professionals and managers. In the first section the conceptual framework within which the social representations of poverty and wealth can be related to social classes is presented. It states that as the socio-economic processes underlying the creation and the forms of poverty and wealth are not independent from those that determine the formation of social classes; the definition and the social representations of these phenomena should be considered in relation to social classes. Throughout the second and third sections, the research from which the data is recuperated as well as the social context that has allowed us to attribute a specific importance to new middle class members as the new salaried bourgeoisie and the ideal typical new individual of the neo-liberal discourse is introduced. The data has shown that for the new middle class members, poverty and enrichment do not constitute barriers and boundaries in themselves, but that they are the necessary and insufficient conditions of a distinction strategy. The opposition, when there is one, is neither directly towards poverty nor wealth but they are rather translated into cultural and moral terms. The possession or lack of economic capital is, then, a necessary but insufficient condition for being scaled at the higher strata of the social space. The popular classes, or as called by the respondents, the varoş, are associated with a certain fatalist, traditional and arabesk culture. They are suspected of not being able to adapt themselves to urban life and are supposed to have very different values and ways of life, or habitus, than the respondents. This translation of poverty into cultural terms includes in fact an exclusionary attitude towards the immigrant population.
New representations of wealth in space: Gated communities in Istanbul
JEAN-FRANÇOİS PÉROUSE – A. DİDEM DANIŞ
In recent times, one of the most significant upper class residential forms in Istanbul has been gated communities that are mostly located in the urban periphery. The gated communities in Istanbul built by private construction companies offer a well-developed infrastructure and various services exclusively to the well-to-do residents, which in turn makes possible for these residential communities to withdraw from the public domain. These new gated communities are also known as ‘security islands’ due to the high walls surrounding them, sophisticated surveillance and monitoring technologies and guards 24 hours on duty.
In this article, we analyze various actors that play a role in the spread of gated communities in Istanbul. We investigate the relationship between social and spatial transformations by presenting examples from three remarkable sites of the new gated communities in the outskirts of Istanbul: Göktürk-Kemerburgaz, Bahçeşehir-Büyükçekmece and Beykoz. In the first part of the article, we provide the historical evolution of gated communities in the last thirty years. The two principal actors in the emergence and spread of these private residential areas are local municipalities and developer firms. Upper class gated communities are generally built in new lands that have been recently upgraded from a village status to a second rank municipality (belde belediyesi). This administrative transformation has been a pull factor for investors who are attracted by the legal and administrative vacuums in these new lands that smooth the process of getting construction permits or bypassing urban laws.
The main marketing strategy of the developer firms, who are competing to attract a limited number of wealthy clients, is to emphasize ‘elite and privileged lifestyle’ that one is supposed to acquire by dwelling in these houses. In the second section of the article, we analyze the four distinctions promised to the inhabitants of the gated communities in Istanbul. Physical, cultural, social and functional distinctions that are promoted in these communities offer a new lifestyle and identity for the new upper classes that emerged out of the socio-economic transformations of the 1980s in Turkey. Feeling a need to increase their social status in line with their recently enhanced economic level, upper classes put the accent on physical and social distance to the rest of the society. This socio-spatial closure represents an attempt to attain a higher status, and thus new gated communities become the brand new symbols of status.
The tempting image of gated communities, which presents one of the most striking manifestations of social and spatial fragmentation in Istanbul, is swiftly spreading to middle and lower-middle classes as well. However, these new communities that are based on principles of self-sufficiency and estrangement from ‘the unwanted others’ indicate the destruction of the urban public space ideal and hinder interaction and communication among different groups in society.
“Elite” residents of an “elite” district: Teşvikiye-Nişantaşı
The focus of this essay, which was written as part of a study on the residents of Teşvikiye-Nişantaşı, is the measures by which the rich identify their “affluence”. This question is elaborated by using Bourdieu’s concepts of social, cultural and symbolic capital.
The processes of identity construction and the forms and strategies of defining the concept of affluence are drawn from data provided by the interviews with residents of Teşvikiye-Nişantaşı. The interviewees generally emphasize being “established”, in other words to be an “old” resident of Nişantaşı or Istanbul, or having a proud family lineage; “manners” (at this point the economic situation becomes a secondary issue); habits and principles which one maintains and defends; being “civilized”; being “Western” or at least having a world view which is congruent with Western notions.
The residents of Teşvikiye-Nişantaşı express their affluence in a middle/upper-middle class manner, socially and culturally rather than economically. In this essay, the processes by which the residents construct their identity through their “difference” from and “superiority” over others will be analyzed through Bourdieu’s concept of “distinction”.
Large scale contracting business as a tool of getting rich in Turkey
Considering the fact that civil work investments comprise almost seventy percent of the fixed capital investments in a country going through the process of urbanization and becoming capitalist, it is easy to understand the significance of large scale contracting business as a tool of getting rich in Turkey. The Turkish construction contractors coming into the scene in railroad constructions right after the proclamation of the Republic, particularly after 1950s, began to flourish with the introduction of the contractors graduated from the technical universities and gained experience at the public institutions. These contractors having excelled their technological capabilities through the NATO tenders, have reached the level to render construction services in all specialization fields such as highways, dams and ports by the 1970s.
Large scale tenders have always been subjected to the suspicion of “corruption” and “misconduct” ever since the railroad investments made by the Ottoman Empire. Such allegations have varied from hundred million dollar spending splurges to the political and bureaucratic pressures on the process.
In the distribution/sharing of such wealth gained through construction tenders, the traditional and modern ways were intertwined. With this wealth, the bourgeoisie tastes such as the interest in arts, began to become visible.
The position of beauty parlours in the modern body culture: The case of Ankara
This study is about women who visit beauty parlours. It examines their perceptions of the body and their attitues towards beauty parlours. The empirical data of the study has been collected through interviews and participant observation with 100 women visiting 16 beauty parlours in different districts of Ankara-Turkey. Based on this empirical data, the study argues that rather than being turned into cultural victims of the capitalist society and having their bodies colonized by modern body culture, women harness the beauty parlours to their own legitimate ends and intentions. In addition, the beauty parlours moderately regulate and re-construct the appearance of their clients and prepare women’s bodies for the stage of life according to the patterns of modern body culture. It is certain that the improvement of our understanding and knowledge about the modern body culture necessitates that richer, comprehensive and long-term researches should be made.