Kemalist modernism and the genesis of Turkish traditionalist conservatism

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1996
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Evin, Ahmet. O
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Bilkent University
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English
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Abstract

This study focuses on the political and philosophical significance of the dialogue between Kemalism and the nouveaux traditionalist conservative circle which emerged from within the modernist Republican elites. The circle was shaped at the crossroads of ismail HakkI Baltac1oglu's traditionalism, Peyami Safa's conservatism, Ahmet Agaoglu's personalism, Hilmi Ziya Olken's moralism and Mustafa Sekip Turn;'s Bergsonism. Throughout the study, Turkish traditionalist conservatism has been conceptualized as an historically unique philosophical and political movement. In this respect, the study deviated from the prevailing tendency to relate "conservatism" with the mode of socialization and/or political aspirations of the descending classes and/or groups in an all encompassing modernization process. Turkish traditionalist conservatism has provided an alternative understanding of modernism, which at the same time safeguarded and legitimized Kemalist institutions and structures. This understanding of modernism can be read through concepts formulated in the works of the circle concerned, for the explication of the Kemalist status quo. This body of literature was collected in the books of the intellectuals mentioned above and their writings on politics, philosophy, sociology, arts and literature, published in various journals, such as Kultiir Haftas1, Yeni Adam and insan. Apart from the fact that this group of intellectuals was priviliged as being a part of the Kemalist ruling cadre, the significance of Turkish traditionalist conservatism lies in the diffusion of its conceptual matrix to the legitimizing grounds for the political actors at various stages of Turkish political history. It is concluded that, by providing the conceptual matrix for legitimizing Kemalism with all its political, cultural and economic institutions within the process of nation-state building, this political and philosophical stand has marked the emergence of a state-centered conservative circle within the ranks of modernist-secular Republican intelligentsia.

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