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The political economy of the state and social forces, changing forms of state-labour relations in Turkey

by Önder, Nilgün

Abstract (Summary)
The dissertation is a study of the Turkish political economy since the end of the 1970s, with the focus on state-labour relations. It argues that despite the political regime changes in Turkey in the early 1980s (overthrow of democratic institutions by a military coup in 1980, and the passage to padiamentary civilian mle in late 1983), there were fundamental continuities in the Turkish political economy and the substance of state policies through the 1980s. Neoliberal restructuring of the economy, suppression of labour demands by direct state intervention in industr├Ćal relations as part of this economic restructuring, and marginalkation of labour's representation in the state, characterized both the military regirne of 1980-83 and the subsequent period of parliamentary civilian rule. Thus, unlike most of the writings on the recent wave of dernocratization, this study examines the issue of the continuity in the form of state despite the poIitical regime change in the context of the Turkish case. The dissertation also shows, however, that the type of political regime was stili important. It had an independent effect on the development of social forces and the particular nature of their interactions with the state. It argues that the passage to the parliarnentary civilian regime ushered in important changes in the dynarnics of organized labour-state relations, although these changes took place within the overall continuity of the state's anti-labour policies and practices. Whiie the military regirne had relied on authontarian corporatist arrangementsto control and discipline organized labour, the principal aspect of the civilian govemment's policy towards the working class in the post-rnilitary era was to delegitimize and further weaken trade unions and, at the same tirne, to elicit the political support of workers as voters or citizens through an "hegemonic project ." After studying gradua1 changes in the trade union rnovement's strategy and actions in relation to the state and employers, the dissertation argues that the state's persistent anti- labour policies and its fiequent direct interventions in the system of industnal relations in favour of employers inevitably generated counter-reactions fiom the labour movement. These counter-reactions took the fom of the union leadership's adoption of a more active stance in defending labour interests, and rank-and-file militancy at the end of the 1980s. 1 argue that there was an important attempt at a new social settlernent inclusive of Iabour and other subordinated interests, but without abandoning the neoliberal economic strategy of the previous decade. However, this attempt failed because of the structural contradictions of the neoliberal economic mode1 in Turkey, diminished autonomy for government policy as a result of the Turkish economy's fiirther integration into, and dependence on global financial markets, and reluctance of Turkish capital to make some concessions to Iabour interests. This study situates Turkey with the context of the global political economy, and systematically examines the nature of relations between the Turkish state and major domestic social forces on the one hand. and international institutions and major western states that Turkey has close relations with, on the other. It argues that pressures ernanating fi-om the world economy and the international state system were crucial in shaping the Turkish political economy during the penod examined. It also shows, however, that international influences and presstires on the Turkish state were not uniform, and that they were important to the extent that they affected the domestic balance of political power and shaped dominant ideas. Unlike most studies in the area of International Political Economy, the dissertation pays close attention to international labour organizations, and especially the ILO, with respect to their influence on the Turkish state conceming the protection of labour nghts. The IL0 was an important source of " extemal pressure " on the Turkish state, as well as a significant international forum for the Turkish labour movement-
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Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:01/01/1999

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