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July 26, 2013


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Patrick S. O'Donnell

Re: "...the most potent and crucial site of resistance against the State." This sounds as if the protests are essentially anarchist in nature, and thus not against "neoliberal capitalism and consumerism." Would it not be more accurate to say "against the regime," or "the government." There's a distinction between "the State" and the government that is worth recognizing and preserving here. Do not many of the protesters imagine a democratic government and corresponding vibrant democratic civil society less beholden to neoliberal capitalism? Governments come and go, while the (modern, nation-) State (for better and worse) perseveres....

Patrick S. O'Donnell

One reason why nonviolent civil resistance is of late so often strategically successful is that it avoids direct confrontation with a conspicuous feature of the modern State stressed by Weber: its monopoly on the means of violence (and thus steers clear of the conditions of egregious asymmetric warfare).

As for the explanatory significance of “bodies,” this too is related to the logic of nonviolent resistance movements wherein the “moral, physical, informational, and commitment barriers to participation are much lower” than those for violent insurgency. The masses seem to intuitively understand this logic. In the words of Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, “nonviolent campaigns facilitate the active participation of many more people than violent campaigns, thereby broadening the base of resistance and raising the costs of opponents to maintaining the status quo.”* When repression is invoked in such cases, it backfires, “encourage[ing] loyalty shifts among regime supporters, and provid[ing] resistance leaders with a more diverse menu of tactical and strategic choices.” Regime elites are more like to find civil resisters as credible negotiating and bargaining partners than violent insurgents.

There are precious few (but no less valuable for that) examinations of the Arab uprisings that reference, let alone rely, on the literature dealing with (in the words of the subtitle of the book by Chenoweth and Stephan) “the strategic logic of nonviolent conflict.”

* See their book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Resistance (Columbia University Press, 2011).

Seval Yildirim

Dear Patrick, thank you for your thoughtful comments and the suggestion for the book- I will be sure to look at it when I return to the US.

I agree with you that there is a distinction between the State and a regime/government, and maintaining such a distinction is useful and at times necessary in certain contexts. I think in the context of the Gezi protests, the protestors did not have a uniform complaint. Though initially the protests were framed around environmental concerns over the upcoming demolition of a park, after excessive police violence, they turned into a much broader coalition of interests. I will expand on this further as I report back on my conversations. Among the protestors, there are certainly groups who oppose the current regime and would like to see a return to the Kemalist status quo as it existed ten years ago when the current party first elected to the government. However, there are also many other groups/individuals who are concerned about the State, in the sense of continuous patterns of socio-political, economic and legal injustices that have been present since the founding of the Turkish Republic (and some since the Ottoman Empire times) regardless of the various political affiliations of the governments since. In fact, in some ways, the current Erdogan government has broken some of these instances of status quo (such as the military dominance/interference in civil politics) but in many other ways injustices continue or have become worse (such as gender justice related issues). In other words, for some groups who have always been peripheral to Power in Turkey, the protests are against the State, and not just the particular government.

As for your comment about the significance of bodies- I am interested not only in non-violent protests, but also in violent protests as a matter of human dignity, if the State continuously engages in unjust conduct (such as decades of physical, cultural, linguistic, religious, economic subjugation or genocide) and leaves no meaningful means to peacefully challenge it through legitimate channels. I think at least in Turkey we see a combination of both peaceful and violent resistance (in the case of the Kurdish minority's armed resistance for the last three decades) as I will discuss in my later posts.


"What is more symbolic of neoliberal capitalism and consumerism taking over a country than the spread of shopping malls?"

Isn't the spread of shopping malls most plausibly attributed to the incredible economic growth (and thus growth in wealth) Turkey experienced in the last decade or so? Increases in wealth are naturally followed by increases in opportunities to spend that wealth, and has nothing to do with "consumerism" or "neoliberal capitalism" per se. I bet that a lot of new shopping malls sprang up in Saudi Arabia after oil prices rose dramatically in the 1970s, and I'm also quite certain that S.A. would not have been accurately described as a home for "neoliberal capitalism."

And by the way, you lose all credibility when you refer to "justifiable" protests against the Zimmerman verdict, when it's nearly impossible to find anyone actually familiar with both the relevant law and the proceedings of the trial who thought that Zimmerman was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Insofar as Turkey is accurately described as the MENA nation that has most closely conformed to the Anglo-American model of capitalism (beginning in the 1980s, but more vigorously in the 1990s), now globally entrenched as “neoliberal capitalism,” and inasmuch as it has faithfully observed many of the commandments of the Washington Consensus and adhered to structural adjustment conditions and programs dictated by international financial institutions, we can indeed attribute its aggregate growth in wealth to neoliberal capitalism. Turkish Islamists have succeeded in this regard where the former (secularist) military-bureaucratic-entrepreneurial elites could not. Islamic capitalists have proven to be economically neoliberal with a vengeance. Recall that it was the Welfare Party (Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was a former member of the party) that “nurtured strong ties to the IMF and World Bank.” In the words of Clement Henry and Robert Springborg, “Islamic capitalists in Turkey are ardent free marketers, wanting the state to be dramatically downsized.” The Party also “privatized at a faster pace than any other government in Turkish history.”

Inadequate financial regulation, vulnerability to external economic forces, and capital flight did lead, not surprisingly, to periods of economic instability and crises, the IMF’s “stabilization” program in fact making things worse for the country from 1999-2001. Ties to the global neo-liberal capitalist economy were fully assured when the government called upon Kemal Derviş of the World Bank to be its minister for the economy, whereupon he proceeded to introduce IMF-supported “structural” reforms. Most of the leading economic indices slavishly favored by neoliberal economists showed marked improvement, while unemployment remained rather high (it has decreased of late). Gender, class, and regional inequalities (e.g., an east-west polarization) persist, with some worsening as a result of economic growth. But of course there is no intrinsic link between economic growth, its mode of expression in the material and signs of conspicuous consumption, and the spread and consolidation of non-elitist models of democratic governance. It is the latter that cherish the full spectrum of (constitutionally mandated) Liberal rights and are capable of nourishing the norms and practices of deliberative democracy. Hence, one plausible reason at least, for the protests.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

What indicates the aforementioned need for norms and practices of deliberative democracy (as these have been discussed in works by folks like John Dryzek and Robert Goodin, among others)? Consider the following from Ömür Harmanşah at Jadaliyya:

“The Gezi Park Movement will be remembered as a successful mass movement of youth activism whose main purpose has been to reclaim public space in the cities in Turkey and the rural countryside, a political ecology that is under threat from the government’s neo-liberal utopias of development and capital intervention. The protestors on the streets have proven that they care deeply for their environment and have put themselves at risk in reclaiming their rights to the public space in Turkey.

The movement erupted at a moment of deep frustration among the educated and young urban crowds across the country, following a series of radical interventions by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government against public space and human ecology. These include the decision to construct a third bridge across the Bosphorus; the ruthless opening of the Turkish countryside and its riverine landscapes to the construction of numerous power plants and hydro-electric dams; Prime Minister Erdoğan’s personally favored project of a massive new canal to connect the Black and Marmara Seas, and the opening of the canal’s environs to the construction of a new urban landscape; the recent consolidation of the ministries of public works (Bayındırlık) and environment (Çevre), which practically removed the checks and balances between urban development and environmental protection; and the gradual selling of Atatürk Orman Çiftliği, the forested landscape and modernist farm established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to secure a massive green space in Ankara and illustrate exemplary agricultural practices.

The examples are endless. According to news reports, Erdoğan’s canal project will open a currently forested landscape to development that will feature hotels, shopping malls, a convention center, a new airport, and housing complexes. The proposal is basically to build a new Istanbul beside the old one. With this project, Erdoğan connects himself with Ottoman imperial projects of opening similar canals between the Marmara and Black Seas: the historical precedents of such a project go back to Süleyman the Magnificent and his architect Mimar Sinan in the sixteenth century.”

Matt Lister

I'd hope it's obvious, but the "Matt" commenting on this post and the one about Charleston isn't me, even though I usually post just under my first name.


O'Donnell: I'm not an expert re Turkey, and I have no interest in disputing whether Turkey's economic model is properly described as "neoliberal" or not. What I disputed is that shopping malls spring up because of the ruling government's economic ideology, as opposed to because there is more wealth around to spend, some of which inevitably goes to consumer goods.

The author wrote: "What is more symbolic of neoliberal capitalism and consumerism taking over a country than the spread of shopping malls?" But put another way, if an additional $3,000 per capita annually simply fell from the sky on Turkey, this would lead to more more shopping malls regardless of government economic ideology, so long as that ideology allowed shopping malls to exist.

I don't know what motivated the Turkish protestors, but usually when people are protesting in favor or environmental amenities, it's (1) because their wealth has reached a point where economic growth is not as prominent a concern as in the past; and/or (2) because of a revolution of rising expectations, where successful government breeds naive optimism that if x has improved, surely the government can also improve y--even when x has improved largely because the government got less involved in x.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

As money does not fall from skies, the point I made was that the economic ideology is largely and directly (hence, causally) responsible for the economic policies that generated the wealth in question. I would agree in the main with the proposition that a certain level of material affluence and economic security allows for attention to be directed at political concerns that reflect a wider array of interests and values than previously in evidence. And while I believe there is something to be said to the revolutionary implications with regard to the thwarting of rising expectations (after Tocqueville’s ‘paradox:’ subjective discontent and thus the likelihood of rebellion or revolution and the objective grounds for such discontent may be inversely related to each other; of course those who are very poor can and often do rebel, but revolutions require resources and forms of leadership unavailable to the very poor with the most objective reasons for rebellion and revolution), I’m not quite sure of the relevance of your second formulation (in particular, the part that states ‘even when x has improved largely because the government got less involved in x’ is not true in our case), at least as it might apply to the Turkish situation. Certainly the government was directly involved in the economy: it is not laissez-faire when you implement policies and programs of neoliberal provenance (Philip Mirowski has well explained this). I believe it is generally true, however, that increased prosperity generates more discontent (the creation of ‘new needs’ as Marx says; in addition, there’s the increasing perception and salience of ‘relative’ poverty and inequality), especially in the case of abruptly or arbitrarily thwarted rising expectations.

Oliver Loewy

Interesting and thoughtful musings! Keep posting, please. (And to the Whittier students who lack hope: it is precisely the thoughtful insights on display here which should infuse you with hope that law is useful for something other than making a buck.)


Oliver Loewy: you have GOT to be kidding. That's one of the most clueless comments I've ever read on this forum, and believe me, that's saying something.

Whittier grads must make a buck (although a sizeable portion will have to do so in a non-lawyer job, which are also difficult to scrounge up) so they can pay their student loans and, you know, living expenses. I don't see how this is supposed to give Whittier students any kind of "hope" whatsoever.


Surely these comments can be moderated for relevance to the opening post, right? Nobody equates TFL with a public streetcorner where anyone can shout their ravings as much as they want, at least nobody that I know. Troll hijacking is one of the sadder cultural developments of the internet age . . .


So . . . no, they can't be moderated for relevance?

Patrick S. O'Donnell

The post in no way imaginable manner raises "trivial concerns," nor does it treat its topic "in a silly superficial fashion." The guest blogger is under no obligation whatsoever to "provide[]...insight into the legal system," as the possible subject matter of the blog is far wider and more interesting in scope than that: there are other blogs more focused on such matters. I agree with the call for moderation as to relevance, as most of the comments were completely off topic and should have been deleted. I was reluctant to join in this part of the thread, but the above comment changed my mind. What utter nonsense...and it's not at all surprising it comes from an anonymous commenter.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

In this case, what Patrick thinks happens to be right, and what anon prof thinks is sheer nonsense. As Patrick provided reasons for why he disagreed with what others said, you might have addressed those, and not made an abusive ad hominem argument in response. What is "trivial and superficial" are comments that have nothing whatsoever to do with the subject matter of the post, subject matter that treats topics that are timely, important, and substantive, as anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about the Middle East, the history of Turkey, the nature of democracy, the role of protests in would-be democratic regimes, the questions raised by various forms of Islamic politics, the role of neoliberalism in the contemporary world, and so forth can appreciate. Instead, anonymous trolls have shamelessly indulged in the muck and mire of character assassination, sour grapes, resentment, mean-spiritedness, and irrelevance, with all the cyber-cowardice typical of such miserable creatures on this and other well-known law blogs. You are not privy to the reasons why Professor Yildirim was asked to guest blog here and I'm fairly certain they lacked conditions that required or obligated her to speak to topics you and others deem dear to your dark hearts. As as a private person, public citizen, and an academic, Professor Yildirim is perfectly free to share her thoughts with readers of this blog on matters she finds interesting and important, as a matter of well-tempered intellectual judgment, the exercise of which is clearly foreign to several of the commenters here. You might do more than sigh: better to apologize for a blatant display of bad manners and willful ignorance and crawl away quietly, your fingers free from the keyboard for at least several days as proper penance.


"Don't criticize what you can't understand.”
― Bob Dylan


Prof. Yildirim has been brave enough to contribute by evaluating protest in face of water cannons and tear gas. There is no basis for the statement that Whittier is paying for this nor that the school's students are being deprived and if Anon and Anon Prof have a scintilla of proof in this regard, produce it--you cannot. More critically, why the hostility? Your simple point is that only bread and butter practice and procedure counts so any attempt to understand other legal systems is a waste. Rest of us disagree because (1) those systems are worth understanding because they are part of the international community in which we all live and (2) insights like those from Prof. Yildirim provide a lense through which we can see the flaws in our own legal systems. Anon and Anon. Prof, bravely hiding behind your hidden status while making ad hominem attacks--you've made your point (myopic as it is). Let Prof. Yildirim make hers so that the rest of us can learn from the discussion.


Dan, Al, other grown-ups: where are you? You have invited Prof. Yildirim to post on this blog. That the scum of the earth, i.e., anonymous commenters, want to harass her goes without saying. But why are you permitting this? These people have nothing to say. Delete their comments, and ban them. Let them go back to some other cyber-hole.

Seval Yildirim

I want to note that I will delete all comments (past and future) that are not related to the substance of my posts, especially if they include personal attacks (against me or others) and/or are made anonymously. None of the ad hominem attacks here deserve a substantive response, but I do want to note that the internet does not provide all factual information about one's personal or professional life.

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