Onis, Ziya & Senses, Fikret. “The New Phase of Neo-Liberal Restructuring in Turkey: An Overview”, In: Z. Onis & F. Senses (eds.), Turkey and the Global Economy: Neo-Liberal Restructuring and Integration in Post-Crisis Era. London: Routledge, 2009. pp. 1-10.
This text, which serves as the introduction to a monograph length account of the economic situation in Turkey in light of the world financial crises that occurred in 2008, offers a clear and concise synopsis of the trajectory of Turkish economic policy from the beginning of Turkey’s liberalization in 1980 to the point of the crisis of 2008. The text is most valuable in this regard: it serves to illustrate the conscientious decision of Turkish officials to open their economy to the world and how this policy of liberalization has in fact been comprised of specific stages that can be clearly delineated. In particular, the initial stage of liberalization occurs through the involvement of international organizations in Turkish economic policy, such as the IMF, the World Bank and the OECD. (Onis & Senses, 1) This period lasted approximately one decade after which “the critical turning point in Turkish neo-liberalism was the decision in August 1989 to open up the capital account completely.” (Onis & Senses, 1) The authors, however, conclude that this led to greater chaos in the Turkish economy, since the latter lacked regulation, while the macro-economy was volatile. (Onis & Senses, 1) Accordingly, one can draw from the text the conclusion that Turkey’s economic liberalization has by no means been a smooth project: rather it has been susceptible to heterogeneous change because of a lack of structural development that is found in the Western liberal economies. Whereas the authors note an improvement in stability during the early 21st century, the crisis of 2008 ultimately put an end to this period of relative constancy and growth. (Onis & Senses, 7) Namely, the initial problem for Turkey was integration with the liberalized Western economies; however, after to a certain extent reaching this goal, this left Turkey susceptible to the volatility of these same economies, such that with the economic crisis of 2008, the Turkish economy was naturally also damaged by this development.
Onis and Senses therefore not only provide historical introduction to Turkish economic policy in the last thirty years, but they also offer some theses as to reasons for instability. The text is thus valuable for both its historical and theoretical aspects.
Insel, Ahmet. “Becoming a World Economic Power: The Neo-Nationalism of the AKP”, in R. Kastoryano (ed.) Turkey between Nationalism and Globalization, London: Routledge, 2013. pp. 187-198.
Ahmet Insel, a professor of economics and Department head at Istanbul’s Galatasaray University, provides an account of how the ruling AKP party and current Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, have pursued a national and foreign policy fueled by historical references to the expansionist Ottoman empire. However, unlike the military flavored expansion of the Ottomans, the current Turkish government has realized the centrality of economics to contemporary geopolitics, and thus has pursued economic goals to secure nationalist objectives and rhetoric. For example, Insel cites government policy, according to which “international commerce is seen, ‘beyond an exclusively economic rationality, as part of a more global strategy incorporating geopolitical space.’” (191) Turkish policy as practiced and theorized by the AKP in other words has not reduced the economic to the geopolitical, nor has it distinguished the economic from the geopolitical. Rather, they view the two as continuous, such that economics is essentially geopolitics, and vice versa. Arguably, this is continuous with how world politics itself has developed: strong economies, control of resources, etc., leads to dominance in a region, for example, the case of Saudi Arabia. The goal of the AKP, that is, for “Turkey to become a world power” (Insel, 194) is therefore inseparable from an economic policy, or even more radically as Insel suggests, is entirely determined by Turkey’s economic successes. This coincides with a notion of “soft-power” (Insel, 195), whereby Turkey increases its geopolitical influence by asserting economic influence: Insel cites, for example, “diplomatic and economic initiatives in African countries, and particularly Muslim African countries” (195) as examples of this soft-power. Insel’s text thus provides insight into how Turkish economic policy is being pursued in the AKP in a manner that is entirely homogeneous with its geopolitical ambitions.
Sansoy, Selen & Stivachtis, Ioannis. (eds.) On the Road to EU Membership: The Economic Transformation of Turkey. Brussels: Institute for European Studies, 2011.
This collection of ten essays, alongside a substantive introduction and conclusion, tackles one of the most dominant themes of Turkish political and economic life in the last quarter-century: possible membership in the European Union. The editors note in the introduction that in light of recent crises in the EU, particularly in Greece, the benefits of EU membership have been more radically called into question. Namely, with economic instability in the EU, the apparent economic stability that EU membership would offer Turkey – one of the main reasons for Turkish membership – is now called into doubt.
With this background in place, the various essays in the text provide an account of Turkish and EU relations from an economic perspective. Essays discuss for example, potential economic integration (Stivachtis) and how contemporary Turkish economic policy corresponds to the goal of EU membership. (Civelekoglu) Nevertheless, the guiding thread of all the essays, as the conclusion argues, is that “there is a significant transformation underway in Turkey’s economy, be it in its public sector, labour or energy market or its investment policy.” (282) In other words, whether EU membership is actually achieved or not is a certain moot point: Turkey’s economic policy has radically changed in all sectors of the economy, thus drastically changing Turkish society.
Thus, whereas the book is immediate valuable in the depth of its subject matter concerning all facets of Turkish life, in very detailed and technical analyses, it is also important in the sense that it provides a synopsis of the changes in Turkish economic and social life. The monograph, in other words, provides a key resource to the academic who wishes to understand the diverse aspects of the Turkish economy not only on a national level, but also in the scope of international relations and particularly Turkey’s relation to the European Union.