Governing aging in Turkey: municipal active aging discourses and the construction of the desirable older subject

Date
2022-12
Advisor
Erman, Tahire
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Bilkent University
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English
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Thesis
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Abstract

This thesis examines active aging discourses through the lens of governmentality theory of Foucault. The focus is on how active aging discourses, which primarily promote an autonomous and productive older subject as desirable, are shaped by the broader policy and welfare context in Turkey. In the Western context, active aging functions as a tool of neoliberal governmentality which responsibilize older individuals for managing their own welfare and aging process through specific conducts and self-technologies, mainly reflecting Western middle-class values. This promote the autonomous and productive desirable older subject in response to the negative construction of aging as a demographic ‘crisis’ associated with increasing public expenditures in a neoliberal context of the decreasing roles of the welfare state. In Turkey, neo-conservativism and neo-liberalism articulate each other in a context where the welfare regime historically and still predominantly relies on family; thus, the rationalization of active aging discourses are expected to differ from those in the Western context. Focusing on the municipal discourses on active aging, this thesis looks at how problematizations of aging vary at local level. It considers how municipalities problematize aging and how those problematizations are addressed by active aging discourses. Based on in-depth interviews conducted with 15 people from 11 municipalities across the country, the research finds that population aging in Turkey is problematized in line with the transformation of families and their decreasing caregiving capacity—namely, as a care crisis. Within this framework, various distinctions and commonalities across the regional and socio-economic development level are observed and overall it is found that Turkish municipal active aging discourses promote an autonomous, self-reliant older subject as desirable in order to compensate for the decreasing welfare potential of families.

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Active aging, Governmentality, Desirable older subject, Family, Municipal discourses
Citation
Published Version (Please cite this version)