Unionists and Liberals: An Alternative Paradigm

By Djene Bajalan
Submitted to Session P4953 (Politics, History and State Formation in the Modern Middle East, 2017 Annual Meeting
Ottoman Empire;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
This paper will examine the legacy of the political struggle between 'centralizers' and 'de-centralizers' in the late Ottoman period and its impact on the subsequent history of state formation in the Middle East. In recent years there has a tendency to view Middle Eastern politics in terms of the divide between the secular and religious. While this perspective is no doubt useful, I argue here that, in many ways, modern Middle Eastern affairs has also been shaped by a political struggle between those who regarded the formation of a highly centralized social and political regime as the only way to deliver modernity and those who seek greater social and political liberty within a more pluralistic political formation. I will examine the debates between these differing factions during the late Ottoman period, particular within the context of the Young Turk movement, and endeavor to highlight how these debates continue to be relevant to understand politics in modern Turkey as well as other post-Ottoman states.