Against its modernist grounds: rethinking clientelism
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This thesis is an attempt to highlight an arbitrariness and vagueness in the academic usage of the concept of clientelism. It is argued that these deficiencies in the usage of the concept arise from a bias inherent to its very definition within the framework of the modernisation theory's thinking back in the 1950s and 1960s. Clientelism first emerged as a tool of analysis in the anthropological studies of small traditional communities. Later it was transported to political science to be used in the study of the politics of "developing" societies. These societies had institutions such as bureaucracies and political parties, which were "modern" institutions in terms of definition but which, functioned differently from their counterparts in the societies of the West. Clientelistic model was utilised by political scientists mainly to account for this deviation. Even in contemporary studies, scholars of clientelism tend to view clientelism as essentially a feature of the non-modern societies despite studies which acknowledge its existence in societies with various levels of development. In this thesis we explore and problematise the roots of the concept of clientelism in modernisation thinking and the evolution of it from anthropological studies to political science. We also investigate the perception of clientelism by the students of Turkish politics to provide an example to this bias. Turkish studies of clientelism are marked by a vague use of the concept; not all similar political behaviors and processes are identified as clientelistic, while those political behaviors and processes that are accepted as legitimate parts of the political system in another society, are condemned as clientelistic in these studies. This thesis argues that this arbitrary and vague use of the concept in Turkish studies arises from the particular state-society articulation in Turkish society understood as a cleavage between the "modern" center and the "traditional" periphery. A study of the state society interaction in the American political system is provided to highlight the difference between the two societies.