Industrial Islamism

By Utku Balaban
Submitted to Session S6698 (Global Academy Workshop - Capitalism, Islamism, and the State: Turkey’s Shifting Political Economy, 2021 Annual Meeting
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Even though Islam was an important motif in the politics of Muslim-majority countries throughout the 20th century, Islamist movements have challenged the political establishments in Muslim-majority countries only since the 1980s. Iran had its Islamic revolution in the late 1970s, while many other Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, Turkey, and Indonesia have had their “Islamic revivalism” from the 1980s onward. This simple fact draws our attention to the relationship between the global political economic transformation in the wake of the collapse of the postwar developmentalist regimes and the rise of Islamist movements all around the Muslim world. In this presentation, I first discuss how to make sense of this coincidence: the dominant approach about Islamic revivalism puts the emphasis on the resistance of the subaltern communities against the developmentalist regimes and presents the Islamist movements as a reactionary force that are argued to raise the voice of those communities in the name of an antimodernist/anticapitalist narrative. Second, I argue that Islamist movements, in fact, hijack the resentment of those communities in order to establish and govern new patterns of connection to the global economy. Last, I discuss the Turkish case, which has been for long seen as the citadel of secularism in the Muslim-majority world. As of now, Turkey has the second longest uninterrupted Islamist government after Iran. In the very same period since the early 2000s, Islamists have taken progressive steps to incorporate Turkey to the post-Cold War global political economic system and facilitated an environmentally hazardous low-wage industrial development. In effect, Turkey is not exceptional but a case that vividly illustrates how the Islamist movements have played an instrumental role in the subjugation of the subaltern communities in various exploitative labor relations within their domestic contexts for the last four decades.