Barış Yıldırım / Rethinking the 1980 Coup and its Aftermath in Turkey from a Comparative Latin American Perspective

An Abstract of the Thesis of Baris Yildirim for the degree of Master of Arts from the Atatürk Institute for Modern Turkish History to be taken July 2004

Rethinking the 1980 Coup and its Aftermath in Turkey from a Comparative Latin American Perspective

The Turkish polity is often analyzed without a broader view of similar experiences and many writers tend to stress the uniqueness of the Turkish case, allegedly due to a unique combination of a “strong” state and a weak civil society. However, a reassessment of the Turkish experience in neo-liberalization through the lenses of the Latin American experience and the rich literature based on Latin America and East Asia are fruitful, demonstrating that the differences are not as great as assumed. Turkey may be said to lie between certain countries which have experienced a harsh military intervention and a deep restructuring of the political institutional system (resulting in political and economic stability) and others which have experienced a more ambiguous and limited political break (often resulting in political chaos and economic disaster). The comparison further reveals that the Turkish military has not been as audacious as presumed at reforming the political institutional system and transforming the economic development model. The element of continuity of the pre-1980 political tradition is evident in the experience of the coup and especially in the resulting political institutional framework. The state’s capacity of social penetration and transformation continues to be limited and ambiguous. This might account for the rather unstable economic experience of the 1990’s in Turkey, and explain how and why this supposedly exemplar student of the IMF in the 1980’s, turned into its scapegoat in the following “lost” decade.