The Mutations and Crisis of Neoliberalism in Turkey

By Sumercan Bozkurt Gungen
Submitted to Session S6698 (Global Academy Workshop - Capitalism, Islamism, and the State: Turkey’s Shifting Political Economy, 2021 Annual Meeting
In the last decade, many observers have suggested that neoliberalism falls short of representing some significant changes in state-market relations in countries of the global South. A post-neoliberal turn, they argue, is evidenced by the increasing state involvement in economic management through industrial subsidies, mega infrastructural projects, state banks, protectionist tariff policies, and the like. In Turkey as well, the contention that neoliberalism has become a misnomer to describe the country’s development strategy has gained ground due to the intensified discretionary state interventions in the economy. In this paper, I argue that although there has been a shift in the 2010s, from a rule-based/technocratic economic policy-making to a more discretionary and coercive mode of governance (characterized by new forms of state interventionism), we have some important reasons to be cautious about declaring neoliberalism dead in Turkey. The paper discusses these reasons focusing on changes and continuities in the investment promotion regime, wage policies and labour regulations in Turkey during the Justice and Development Party governments. Its main contention is that the Turkish case provides solid evidence for the need to reconsider the positive correlation often made between the rule of law, limited state interventionism, democratic governance and neoliberalism.