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Essay: Conservatism

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The definition of conservatism in the world and in Turkey differ today. This concept is often seen as a religious phenomenon in our country, especially when it is a conservative political ideology in Europe. We will review this situation in this article and refer to the reflections of the conservative thinker and find the thinkers who are contemplating the conservative ideology of politics. We will touch on the developmental environment of conservatism, the spreading to the world and the different definition in turkey and the existence of Islamism around this thought. Finally, in the light of this information, we will examine the state policies and political structure of our country in 2002 and onwards under the title of “AKP Conservatism”.

Key words: Conservatism, ideology, politics, modern society, AKP, sociology


Conservatism is a political doctrine that emphasizes the value of traditional institutions and practices. On the other hand, Conservatism is a preference for the historical inherited rather than the abstract and ideal. In this point, we look at the term of conservative firstly. The term of conservative comes from French in terms of politically. It was born with the restoration in France. At the same time, it began to use in Germany to a political concept especially we see this term of conservative as Weber’s definition. In the UK (known as Britain), conservative and conservation are words that carries a respectful meaning. These terms are based on political life which was occur that came from the construction among the government party and opposition party.

What is Conservatism?

Conservatism is a political doctrine that promotes as a political and social philosophy which comes from traditional social institutions. Someone whose deal with the philosophy describe the term of conservatism as a traditionalist or conservative. These conservatism is actually related with the traditional institutions and it has an effective role societies because someone define the conservatism as a political thought that is dominated by an authority. Firstly we will look at the historical background of the conservatism to understand this term completely. Conservatism was born as ideologies and doctrines in the late 18th century and early 19th century. Actually, conservatism had gain a meaning with the French Revolution and it was occurred as a reaction against the political and economic changes. In this sense, conservatism based on Ancient Regimes. Conservatism had the pressures of development of liberalism, socialism and nationalism and also conservatism trying to resist the increasingly falling on power status passed to the defense of the traditional social order. However, from the beginning there are divisions in conservative thought. In the American continent, some thinkers to work on conservatism.

On the hand, conservatism reject all ideas about reform but at the same time conservatism is both autocratic and reactive nevertheless Edmund Burke was uncovered the term of conservatism in the USA and England with means of to maintain exchange. Thus, idea of conservatism was established more powerful and successful than the others. These approach was strengthened the conservatism under the name of the ‘one nations’. In the mid-20th century, these ideas began to gain powerful meaning in some countries such as America and England. Of course Keynesian economy highly effective on these developments. In the late 20th century, with the appearance of the new rights, was a kind of political terms which focuses on social issues and national sovereignty; and it was also linked with religious rights, conservatism began to suppression gradually. Thus, new rights’ conservatism based on liberal values.

Briefly, conservatism is both an ideology and a political doctrine which was based on traditional institutions and also practices. Its historical roots relies early 19th century and it began to develop with the some effects of some economic and political changes since late 20th century.

Short History of Conservatism

As an ideology, conservatism has been emerged as an opposition-rejection to Enlightenment and French Revolution (G”ler, 2007, pp. 117-118). ‘There are two main aspects for conservative state of reason; distrust to human nature and to the rootless, and emphasis to traditionalism within the concept of historical continuity’ (G”ler, 2007, p. 118) (OKUTAN, 2013). Conservative thought has an ideology that society is a living organism not a mechanic totality (G”ler, 2007, p. 143).In conservative thought there is no individual equality and no equality in the society so it is natural to have classes in the society (G”ler, 2007, p. 135). So it is a must to have classes, in order to have a stabilized society (G”ler, 2007, p. 135). The first established use of the term in a political context originated with Fran”ois-Ren” de Chateaubriand after 1815 period and the term, historically associated with right-wing politics, has since been used to describe a wide range of views (G”ler, 2007, p. 119). Conservatism concept has been used at 1830s in Germany at 1835 in England (G”ler, 2007, p. 119).The most important theorists of conservatism were Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Louis de Bonald (1754-1840), Joseph de Maistre (1754-1821), Karl Mannheim (1893-1947) (G”ler, 2007, pp. 119-120). R. Nisbet mentioned about the ‘French Revolution that removed the Catholic (religion root of conservatism)-Monarchic (state regime root of conservatism)-Aristocratic (class root of conservatism) compound with radical changes after 1791’ (Nisbet, 1997, pp. 100-101) (OKUTAN, 2013). But this compound was so important for most conservatives and for to the conservatives ‘values such as life, ownership, authority and fair liberty were removed one by one’ (Nisbet, 1997, pp. 100-101) (OKUTAN, 2013). Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) and Winston Churchill (1874-1965) were the important politicians in this tradition (G”ler, 2007, p. 124). In Germany and Italy Christian Democrats, in Japan Liberal Democrats, in USA Republicans are important conservative parties. Furthermore, it has been mentioned that conservatism in England was more liberal and stable but in France and Germany it was more rigid and radical.

Conservative thoughts deeply rooted inside history. Conservative thought is the doctrine of political and social response that break results arising from tradition. In these meaning, according to Karl Mannheim conservatism means that have become conscious of traditionalism. There is a distinction between the conservatism and traditionalism: ‘Conservatism is a traditionalism, but traditionalism is not absolutely conservatism.’ These distinction is very important to explain the formation of conservatism. Today, there are no any real political and social conservative project and, even if there is, it is the corner of intellectual and political life. In that case, what is the left from conservatism? Radical critique of modernization remained which comes from the conservatism and some subjects remained which was talked by non-conservative movements and doctrines. However, if conservative movements are live, these movements are in the form of religious conservatism like American fundamentalists. Nowadays, conservatism has philosophical and theological dimension.

Conservative Politics Ideology

Conservatism is entirely about values, according to many evaluations. The important part of these values is directed towards political, economic and political structures and institutions. However, when everyday politics is concerned, conservatism comes to the attention of the status quo. In the paradoxical situation, factors such as modesty attitude, uncomfortableness of change and fear of losing in hand are nourished. But conservatism is an effective means of power.

The limits of the human ego to this political ideology make it a good person. The person who owns the property is entrusted mainly. The property owner owns the property as m
uch as the property they own. Although it is inevitable to accept the intellectualism on the basis of ideology ownership, it was accepted as the destruction of private ownership of sociological inequality.

Some elements to identify the conservative ideology is necessary for us to define. These are tradition, pragmatism, hierarchy, authority, property:

1)Tradition, idea of conservatism comes from the traditional idea especially the world conservative meaning is maintain. Conservatism is closely related with the embedded respect for traditions. In these approach, tradition reflects the institutions and implementations which stood for the test of time. In addition it should be protect from both today generations and also future generations. At the same time, it gives a sense of belonging as social and historical. It has the merit of providing stability and security.

2) Pragmatism, conservatives emphasize that human rationality is limited because of unlimited complex world that we are living as a traditional. Because of this reason they do not trust the thought systems and intangible principles. In order to them, they attach importance to history, experience and especially need for pragmatism. In this framework, conservative people do not describe their faith as an ideology, however they describe as a vision of life or state of mind.

3) Hierarchy, In the conservative approach, social position and graduation of status are inevitable in the organic society. However, in this approach, hierarchy and equality are not cause of the conflict because society come together and they depend on each other in terms of obligations. Actually, people’s role in life and place depend on birth and fortune as a large extent. These people have a responsibility towards other and this is explain with the terms of hierarchy.

4) Authority, Conservatives suppose that authority implemented as a top-down actually they do not accept this completely. Generally they say that these people use authority against other peoples who have not information, experience and such as education. In the former years, natural aristocracy was validity but now they suppose that aristocracy or largely meaning of authority is produced by education and experience. Source of authority and virtue of authority comes from source of social cohesion according to conservatives even if because of this reason freedom occur with the responsibilities.

5) Property is most important content for the conservatives because according to them property provide a security and sovereignty to people. At the same time, property is that externalization is a state of people’s personalities. Thus, people see themselves on their home, car and so on. In this approach, we are inherited from past generations and maybe we are guardians of the property for future generation.

Conservatism in Turkey

Considering the perception of conservatism in Turkey piety are experiencing a reduced conservatism. The reason for this is that relationship between conservatism and conservatism in Turkey is not understand completely. Of course, conservatism in Turkey is far beyond detection. Continental European Conservatism because of some features such as being closeness of change, urbanization and industrialization is closed and also being conservative had expired properties today. Conservatism in Turkey today is to continuation of the Anglo-Saxon namely American Conservatism.

Essentially, breaking point in Turkey in terms of conservatism is process of February 28. Developments which was experienced in these period people who own religious sensibility have alienated the state and it was created a doubt against state government. Following this process, an approach toward liberal democracy in these circles was observed.

When we are reading this process of conservatism, we should consider the CHP’s conservatism. This kind of attitude which referred the national conservatism in Europe, it can be called as a Kemalist Conservatism in Turkey particularly.CHP conservatism is reference of the republic and secularism. The emergence of the New Right in Turkey is after the 1980s military coup. Left movement is strong and intense period of 1960-1980 with a weak anticommunist rhetoric draws the image on the right, and the rise of New Right in the 1980s, with the collapse of the USSR in accordance with the circumstances has entered into a process of change. (heywood). Conservativeism in turkey did not account for Kemalism and the Kemalist revolution. It is internalized by Kemalism when it is necessary to oppose the revolt against the nature of conservatism.

We expected to find two major streams of conservatism in Turkey. One of them was political conservatism, which would come in the form of new nationalism , be marked by anti-Western (Euroskeptic and anti-American) overtones, and be purporting to ‘conserve’ the nation-state and national values in the face of Europeanization and globalization. The second area of conservatism we expected to find was social conservatism of an Islamic variety, which would be geared at conserving the religious regulatory mechanisms in the area of sexuality, gender relations, and family values. We thought political conservatism, aiming to defend the nation-state, would be the more important brand of conservatism, and social conservatism, focused on the regulation of sexuality and gender relations, would come in second place. We were clearly mistaken in the order of importance of these two conservative streams. The results proved just the opposite. Social conservatism emerged to be the more in uential realm of Turkish conservatism, centered upon an idealized ‘holy family’, which itself was revolving around an idealized ‘woman’ who was supposed to be equal with men, but at the same time honorable (namuslu) and hard-working (hamarat). Religion appeared to be an ideology which legitimized and upheld that ‘holy family’, particularly as regards the ‘equal, honorable and hardworking’ position of women in that family structure. (y”lmaz).

Liberal democratic conservatism in the real sense began with the new right view and the period of Ozal. Many liberal breakthroughs in this period have also been reflected in the economic policy of the country. These breakthroughs have been very reactive against masses against Ozal. These reactions show that conservative people in Turkey are ambiguous. In addition, even for some, Turkish conservatism is confused with continental European conservatism and its current validity is a concept. However, after the period of conservatism, a particular European continent was destroyed by liberalism and other ideologies defended by Anglo-Saxon conservatism because of its conservative and non-political policies. The accepted conservatism in countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States today is the Anglo-Saxon conservatism. The AK Party, which has been in power since 2003, uses the term “conservative Democrat” to describe itself as “political identity”. Some say that, unlike this definition and identity, the party improves political identity of the party by party leaders and defines the AK Party as “Muslim Democrat”, “Political Islamist Party” and AK Party as Islam conservative. The AK Party said that the AK Party is a conservative Democrat and does not go after the previous party and that they are different from previous parties in terms of political identity. But even in this discourse they sometimes prove that they do what they do. For example; The decisions taken by T”PRA” and T”rk Telekom in the first years due to privatization and social assistance, which are inspired by the ”zal period, reflect applications and ideas but cannot be separated from the National Intelligence staff. They were struggling to get rid of these rumors and they said they changed the party’s staff so that the party’s stones had features we had before, and they allowed them to go back where they started. It is a good example of clarifying the complexity of a conservative conservatism of a party that is conservative and
seeks to create a new path by denying party and line. That is, when a conservative thought is needed, it is open to change and innovation, but it shows that you are not separate from yourself. And those who claim to be on the Milli G”r” line actually confirm this argument.

Despite the fact that Ozal restricted certain Republican goals and approaches, his reservations about those goals and arrangements were not educated by religious contemplations. Especially in the early Republican time frame, the Ottoman past had been consigned to the storage room of Turkish history, as those hundreds of years were considered an entire disappointment. Conversely, Ozal’s held the Ottoman past in high-respect. When Ozal was Prime Minister (1983-1991), he made key political decisions all by himself or by consulting only a few ministers and/or high-level bureaucrats. Again this pattern repeated itself when he became president in 1991. He made his decisions concerning the economy and Turkish foreign policy by consulting only a few high-level bureaucrats, sometimes even bypassing not only the relevant ministers but also the prime minister.

As the “liberal conservatism” as we have seen in the past years in the third and the current period (Akar”ay, 2008, p.) In the evolution of Turkish conservatism, which the government has applied as the official ideology on the intellectual focus of “intellectuals”, which is called “Turkish-Islamic synthesis” (Cemrek, 2011, pp. 643, The Elders, 2010, p.211-221), which we call the “political Islamic vision” that we call “liberal conservatism.” Direct religious faith, global and national socio-economic developments(Ta”k”n, 2009, pp. 398-399). In sum, it can be argued that the change created in the conservatism of the concept of “moderate Islam” moves away from the revolutionary spirit of political Islam and the claim of change (Tu”al, 2010, p.138). When viewed from this angle,”Turkish-Islamic synthesis” can also be interpreted as Kemalist secularism and political Islam; Compromises under the compelling influence of globalization. Therefore, the Turkish-Islamic synthesis is not a break from the understanding of Kemalism’s cultural nationalism, but is the continuation of symbolism (Ta”k”n, 2009,s. 398). The prominence of this period is the name of the AK Party’s “conservative democratic” view of the idea of modern Islamic conservatism, which plays a decisive role as a creative factor in the AK Party’s ideological foundation and political practice. In other words, the AK Party and its “conservative democracy” design, Turkish Islamism Third Generation “(Inceoglu, 2009, pp. 96-99) In terms of expanding the legal and ideological boundaries stemming from the secular character of the press,besides bringing legitimacy to Islamism, the Islamist movement tends to reconcile with liberal democratic values in the face of this utilitarian benefit. In this way, the transformation of Islamism goes beyond the normal path to support the EU membership process (Bezci & Mish, 2012, page 5), can be saved from hegemony of Kemalism.

The conception of conservatism, which the AK Party has redefined as a unique identity by adding democratic identity, appears to have escaped from anti-Western, anti-imperialist radical religious thought and discourse of political Islam and in particular the Milli G”r” tradition as a stage of Turkish conservatism (Yilmaz N., 2005, 617). In this regard, the AK Party is a partisan of Islamism that has been stripped of political demands of Islamism, by giving up Islamist politics (Y”lmaz, N., 2005, pp. 615, 617). As a matter of fact, those who found the AK Party as the ideological program of conservative democracy, those who determined that Islamism was based on the “ideological” defeat, were former “Islamist” members who preferred to go to more popular organizations under a different roof. edited by (Yilmaz, N.2005, pp. 615-617) gives the impression that the understanding of conservatism, political Islam out of it, and in particular the traces of radical religious thought and discourse of the tradition of National Opinion. In this context, the background of conservative democracy thought represented by AK Party politics can refer to the existence of a theological local cultural heritage originating from Islamic belief rather than a “European” conservatism as an ideological structure and rhetoric. The AK Party deputy Burhan Kuzu, who is serving as the Constitutional Law Expert and the President of the Constitutional Commission of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (AKP), said, “Allah will multiply the Constitution not to vote.” (“In the Constitution”, 2012) or AK Party Bursa deputy H”seyin ”ahin “(“The Second Prophet”, 2010), directed towards the AK Party Ayd”n’s former Provincial Chairman ”smail Hakk” Eser’s Tayyip Erdo”an. , Are examples that point to this background. Such religious-themed examples are frequently observed in every layer of the AK Party discourse as the headscarf issue is turned from the party administration to the base.

The basic historical feature of the AK Party, both as a political organization and as power, can be summarized as the political actor of leaving the state-centered traditional political situation based on the “supreme state” thought taken over from the Turkish-Islamic culture to the modern civil society concept. The main reason for this is the transformation of civil society from the state to the past, the emergence as an active actor in the political arena, thus increasing the political participation and the transformation of the political system towards democratization and democratization (Ko”al, 2012a). And that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, especially the party staff, has been interpreted in a way that depends on the mind and action of the part…

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