Reflections upon contemporary Turkish democracy : a Rawlsian perspective
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In this dissertation, John Rawls’ ‘justice as fairness’ is applied to contemporary Turkey and used as a framework to reflect upon democratization process in Turkey. In order to substantiate how Rawls’ political liberalism and justice as fairness are related to democratization process in general, and to Turkish democratization in particular, first, the possible relations between Rawls’ conceptualization of ‘constitutional consensus,’ ‘overlapping consensus,’ and the basic concepts in the democratization literature are analyzed. It is argued that the initial stage of ‘constitutional consensus’ on democratic procedures (being only a modus vivendi) corresponds to ‘democratic transition.’ On the other hand, it is argued that the finalized stage of constitutional consensus corresponds to ‘minimalist’ and ‘negative’ democratic consolidation. Finally, it is claimed that ‘overlapping consensus’ corresponds to ‘maximalist’ and ‘positive’ democratic consolidation. When we apply these concepts to the Turkish case, it is seen that Turkey displays certain attitudinal and behavioral deficiencies in terms of meeting all the conditions of a ‘constitutional consensus’ by which democratic procedures would supposedly be secured; however, it is also argued that Turkey is moving closer to a ‘constitutional consensus’ as the major groups in Turkey gradually adhere to these procedures. In this regard, Turkey is depicted as a ‘borderline’ case in terms of meeting the conditions of a ‘constitutional consensus,’ which is also supported by Turkey’s recent Freedom House ratings that denote a borderline situation. With respect to the possibility of forming an ‘overlapping consensus’ in the longer run in Turkey, four major issues are addressed in the study: basic rights and liberties, social justice, secularism, and the Kurdish issue. Rawls’ veil of ignorance and two principles of justice are applied to these four issues, and their implications are discussed. It is argued that equality, reciprocity, and the use of public reason would be crucial in terms of forming an overlapping consensus on these issues. Another central issue discussed in the dissertation is the issue of socio-economic modernization that is taken for granted in Rawls’ writings, and Turkey’s opportunities for consolidating its democracy in the coming years with reference to socio-economic modernization. Based on the empirical findings of modernization theory, it is argued that Turkey’s rising income and human development levels might serve to facilitate democratic development in Turkey. It is claimed that higher levels of socio-economic development, possibly enhanced by Turkey’s EU-based reforms, might create a more conducive environment for further democratic reforms, as a result of which Rawls’ peculiar political liberalism could become gradually more applicable and more likely to be realized in Turkey. It is also argued that a more just distribution of income and wealth, which might possibly be realized through a ‘property-owning democracy,’ would be more conducive to democratic consolidation in Turkey.
justice as fairness