Islamic Economics: The Islamic Bourgeoisie and the Imagined Community Thesis submitted to the Institute for Graduate

Studies in the Social Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Political Science and International Relations


Joseph S Doherty

Boğaziçi University 2007

Islamic Economics: The Islamic Bourgeoisie and the Imagined Community

The thesis of Joseph Steven Doherty has been approved by

Assist. Prof. Dr. Koray Çalışkan _______________________________ (Thesis advisor)

Prof. Dr. Binnaz Toprak


Assist. Prof. Dr. Murat Akan




Joseph Steven Doherty, “Islamic Economics: The Islamic Bourgeoisie and the Imagined Community”

In this thesis I examine the languge of the Islamic Bourgeoisie in Turkey as represented by MUSIAD, a business association known for its religious conservatism, to show that the Islamic bourgeoisie imparts its own meaning to the terms of capitalism and Islam in a struggle over hegemony in defining the Muslim community in Turkey today. Where liberalism and notions of community conflict, this class imagines old concepts in modern ways so that Turkish society can be Muslim and Capitalist at the same time without violating the values of either Turkish-Islamic tradition or Capitalism. This work is premised on the theory that the ideas expressed through language give shape to reality; thus, novel reinterpretations of concepts can bring about changes in social practices, particularly when the imaginaries produced through those reinterpretations become institutionalized. This is a socially relavant issue in Turkey today due to the increased access that the bourgeoisie has to media outlets and government ministries.



Joseph Steven Doherty, “Đslami Đktisat: Đslami Burjuvazi ve Hayali Cemaat”

Bu tezde dini muhafazakarlığı ile bilinen işveren örgütü MUSĐAD tarafından temsil edildiği şekliyle Türkiye’deki Đslami Burjuvazi’nin dilini inceliyorum. Đslami burjuvazinin, Türkiye’deki müslüman cemaatini tanımlama üzerinde verilen bir hegemonya mücadelesi dahilinde kapitalizm ve Đslam terimlerine kendi anlamını yüklediğini göstermeye çalışıyorum. Liberalizm ve cemaat mefhumlarının birbiriyle çeliştiği noktada bu sınıf, Türk toplumunun Türk-Đslam geleneğinin ve Kapitalizmin değerlerini ihlal etmeden aynı zamanda hem Müslüman hem de kapitalist olabilmesi için eski kavramları modern şekillerde tahayyül ediyor. Bu çalışma, dille ifade edilen fikirlerin gerçekliğe şekil verdiği, dolayısıyla kavramların alışılmamış şekillerde yeniden yorumlanmasının, özellikle tahayyüller bu yeniden yorumlamaların kurumsallaşması üzerinden üretildiğinde toplumsal pratiklerde değişiklik yaratacağı kuramına dayanıyor. Burjuvazinin medya odaklarına ve bakanlıklara erişiminin arttığı dikkate alındığında bunun toplumsal olarak anlamlı bir mesele olduğu görülüyor.



Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................................1 2. LITERATURE REVIEW .........................................................................................9 Islamic Perspective ............................................................................................11 Academic Perspective ........................................................................................14 3. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND.........................................................................22 Cornelius Castoriadis..........................................................................................22 Bill Maurer..........................................................................................................25 Cihan Tuğal.........................................................................................................28 Hegemony...........................................................................................................30 Kemalism............................................................................................................31 4. METHODOLOGY ................................................................................................ 36 5. MUSIAD MEMBER: ŞEN......................................................................................38 Time and Tradition ............................................................................................39 Lifestyle and Choice ..........................................................................................41 A Business Model for Social Development .......................................................44 Being a Member of the Muslim Community in Turkey ....................................47 Imaginary ...........................................................................................................50 6. MUSIAD MEMBER: BURHAN............................................................................54 Spiritual Reward vs. Financial Gain...................................................................54 Community in the Marketplace .........................................................................57 The Bourgeois Burden .......................................................................................60 Imaginary ...........................................................................................................63 7. MUSIAD MEMBER: AĞCA .................................................................................66 The Duality of Morality......................................................................................66 A New Social Contract ......................................................................................69 Community Expansion .......................................................................................71 Imaginary............................................................................................................73 8. MUSIAD MEMBER: ADAMOĞLU......................................................................76 The Need for Greater Religiosity .......................................................................76 An Islamic Panacea.............................................................................................78 Small Government vs. Welfare for the Rich ......................................................81 v

Imaginary ...........................................................................................................83

9. OVERVIEW AND OBSERVATION..........................................................................85 Summary of Those Interviewed..........................................................................85 Being Muslim and Capitalist .............................................................................90 Outlying the Community....................................................................................94 Conservatism at Work in Society.......................................................................96 10. CONCLUSION..........................................................................................................98 Suggestions for Future Study............................................................................101 BIBLIOGRAPHY....................................................................................................102 APPENDICES Interviews....................................................................................... ..................105 Interview Questions..........................................................................................106




In this thesis I focus on Islamic economics in Turkey. Islamic economics seeks to find and institute a specific understanding of justice in the economic sphere, which is intimately related to the social and political spheres. I have chosen to focus on economic relationships and attitudes within the Muslim community because understanding the economic dynamics could shed light on how the idea of a community of believers is articulated. What this community represents and the form it should take are areas of contention within Turkey. Part of the debate is centered on the ability to strike a balance between class and community. The phenomenon I am concerned with has social, cultural, political, and economic implications that reach beyond the sphere of any particular locality; however, it should be absolutely clear that this study presents no more than a moment in time with strict empirical limitations on social and cultural factors. In this work I seek to illustrate a potentially powerful minority in the Muslim community in Turkey, the Islamic bourgeoisie. This group is the economic elite of a spectrum of Turkish society that identifies strongly with Islam as a guiding force in daily life. This is a business class that has generated itself with a self-supporting entrepreneurial spirit. This group has started and maintained its own businesses in a climate of liberal market economics. The people in this group display their religious identity as a defining part of their business ethic. This identity is expressed through the products that are produced, the networks that


connect businessmen with each other, and the way that businesses are operated in reference to a particular religious understanding. The Islamic bourgeoisie, small and medium sized industrialists operating within an Islamic frame of reference, has an advantage over other actors in the community due to its financial prowess, which affords it easy access to mass media. There is a struggle over ideas that shows that the Muslim community is divided and in need of some way to acclimate itself to economic development and integration with global capitalism. The desire to define itself and others within the field brings the Islamic bourgeoisie into conflict with others claiming to be Islamic who are opposed to capitalism; moreover, it is opposed by secularists with a tradition of animosity toward Islamism. Symbols and signifiers are challenged and debated as the actors tread over their common ground, or shared space, and discover divisive boundaries between symbol and reality. These boundaries do not represent closed borders because meaning and its import travel back and forth between actors, who are borrowing, imitating, and enlarging each other’s arguments even in the process of refuting them. Instead, these boundaries are fecund environments from which the possibility of understanding and making oneself understood compels the reenactment of the search, discovery, propagation, and refutation of truth. Justice is a key concept in this discourse; however, this word is normatively bound, so within the community, which is unified neither ideologically nor geographically, justice is a contested concept. In the economic field Islamists apply their religiously inspired principles to bring justice to economic systems that they criticize for being inefficient, exploitive, and void of spirituality.


Community, ribâ, and zakat are three recurrent themes in Islamic economic writing (Siddiqi 1981). Islamists seek a balance between material and spiritual wealth so that the perceived community of believers develops as a community and the righteous receive their rewards both in this world and in the afterlife. This idea of community is central to Islamist thought because the community creates an environment that structures an individual’s behavior according to Islamic mores. The community, once properly established, would provide the individual with moral support when he is weak and moral correction when he errs. Another theme is the prohibition against ribâ (an archaic form of usury which often resulted in slavery for insolvent borrowers), which is often equated with taking interest on loans. This is forbidden because taking profit without effort or risk encourages idleness and contributes to the ills of society. The other theme is the collection and distribution of zakat, the tithe on income. This is a means to redistribute wealth and finance the provision of services to the community. The ideological position that an Islamist takes on these issues stems from his concept of justice. For example, the acceptable degree of income inequality that does not threaten the solidarity of the community depends on one’s opinion of how much inequality is just. Some say no inequality is just whereas others say that a moderate amount is morally acceptable, but there is even disagreement over what is meant by a moderate amount (Chapra 2000, p. ). I argue that the Islamic bourgeoisie is engaged in a struggle over meaning and value. It is faced with opposition from secularists and anti-capitalist Islamists. It balances its socioeconomic position with religious signification and uses its economic resources to foster a social imaginary that values both individualism and communalism.


My study of the Islamic bourgeoisie is centered on one particular group which is active and well recognized within Turkey, Mustakil Sanayici ve Is Adamlari Dernegi (MUSIAD). It should be noted that the word mustakil means independent, so the idea that it is a Muslim organization is only implied in the organization’s name. This business association was formed in 1990 as a means for Muslim businessmen to network and pool their resources in what they perceived to be a hostile social, political, and economic environment dominated by an anti-religious military state and a state sponsored industrial bourgeoisie. Its Islamic nature is rooted in its identification with Islam as an organizing and motivating force. MUSIAD explains its business ethics and approaches in religious terms. The members of this association are primarily small and medium sized businesses, many of which are based in Anatolia. The secular standard maintained throughout the greater part of the twentieth century in the Republic of Turkey owes its vitality to a military with a strong domestic presence and an industrial bourgeoisie identifying with state ideology under the banner of Kemalism. Taha Parla (2004), Cağlar Keyder (1987), and Umit Cizre Sakallioğlu (1996) have argued that these secular forces, which once hegemonized such concepts as modernity and democracy, have sought from their inception to define Islam and Islamic groups in such a way that they could be relegated and tamed. The Kemalist attempt to shape religion was part of an overall objective to unify Turkey through social and cultural homogenization. However, from the secularist attempt to create a politically docile religion the fusion of politics and Islam arose in the social imaginary of the populace. In exploring the struggle over meaning and value between secularists and the Islamic bourgeoisie I discuss the


ways in which these actors have contributed to the development of each other’s meaning through criticism, suppression, and co-optation. Likewise, the Islamic bourgeoisie exists alongside other Islamists who reject not only the secular order but also the capitalist system. For example, Cihan Tuğal refers to one Turkish writer who likens capitalism to the Islamic equivalent of the Anti-Christ (Tuğal 2002, p.101). In their efforts to define themselves and each other they generate new contradictions and open new possibilities of reality for the other to find meaning in. I explore the constructive process that these actors are engaged in. This discussion is based on the notion that there are varying degrees of what it means to be Islamic and that the capitalist is more or less Islamic than the anti-capitalist. In this competition over symbols and significations one actor must choose to accept what the other sees as an Islamic precept or redefine that precept in a way that coincides with his own modality. The Islamic bourgeoisie is one result of a process that includes the actions and ideas of a multiplicity of actors inside and outside of the bounds of Islam as a key for selfidentification. It is a living phenomenon still open to change and development; however, this study does not propose to speculate on the future of Islamic business in Turkey. I am attempting to give a clear description of a group that emerged in the last decades of the twentieth century so that the economic dynamic in the study of political Islam receives full consideration as one factor influencing and being influenced by others in a matrix of relationships which may be perfectly visible or concealed within a mire of dogma, language, and ideology in both the community and the academic endeavor to understand it.


Focusing this study on the Turkish context requires one to address the place of the Turkish state within society. This means examining state ideology and its invasion of the social consciousness. Turkey has had an enduring secular tradition due in large part to the success of state ideology in appropriating Islamic symbols. Ultimately, however, the state could not eliminate Islamic sentiments from society. It is necessary to view the Islamic revival in Turkey as a reaction to state policies, which at times have been oppressive and at times encouraging. The competition over symbols indicates that the meaning applied to those symbols is contestable and apt to change under the right conditions. In other words, there is no fixed relationship between a social symbol and the reality it is supposed to represent. Although this creates room for a flat denial of truth, seen more positively, it represents the possibility for inquiring minds to encounter an increasing number of horizons from which one may attempt to improve himself and the world. The evolving nature of social symbols and their meanings is a significant part of this work. Interpretation stands alongside imagination as an operation whose performance locates meaning. The imagination links reality with non-reality, things and the symbols and words used to represent those things. This work considers the social significance of the imagination and the constructions of the social imagination, which spawn and structure new modes of social behavior and, thus, new realities. The struggle to define social relationships is a hegemonic struggle. In their bid for political power social actors seek to dominate the field so thoroughly that any opposition employs the same language and concepts as the dominant in political discourses. The dominant exists within a framework to which the subordinate acquiesces. In this work I


will discuss the theoretical issue of capitalism as a possible hegemonic mode with which religiously motivated Muslims are forced to reconcile. All of the issues raised above contribute in varying degrees to the formation of individuals and communities. Some of these aspects of society may favor individualism while others might favor communalism. It is my contention that the Islamic bourgeoisie is a hybrid phenomenon with both individualistic and communalistic features. In the work that follows I will describe this hybridization and its significance. This approach involves first identifying the operational material and cultural elements. Then, it involves locating areas of agreement and disagreement, mutual reinforcement and conflict, between the material and cultural realms and within each of these realms taken individually. My focus is on the Islamic bourgeoisie as it is represented by the Islamic business association MUSIAD. Therefore, I will define the material structure in which this class finds itself, and I will outline the symbolic framework through which it finds meaning. This will show the Islamic bourgeoisie’s formation in relation to social-economic institutions and processes and in relation to the non-Islamic bourgeoisie, the Islamic proletariat, and the Islamic movement in general. These relations will expose areas of struggle, agreement, and compromise over material and cultural concerns. After analyzing these areas it should be clear that ideas and opportunities can lead to action and that in the course of such action, new ideas and opportunities arise. To answer my question I will focus on the areas of material and symbolic compromise, which are informed by areas of agreement and conflict. I will explain how such compromise came into being and why it is significant for the Muslim community in


Turkey. My purpose is to better understand the bourgeois Muslims and create a fuller picture of what this social-economic class represents.




The inspiration for this study stems from my reading of Recognizing Islam by Michael Gilsenan. Gilsenan presents a broad study of the forms that Islam takes in various contexts. A current of class conflict flows through his work as he explores power relations operating through diverse spaces. He shows that through Islam some people find ways to improve their material conditions, and others discover ways of interpreting the world that allow them to justify their social status or lack there of. By taking a holistic approach that considers material and cultural issues, Gilsenan is able to express the complexity of the relationship between religion and society (Gilsenan 1993). The works of Cihan Tuğal and Bill Maurer make up the bulk of my theoretical approach in this research project. Cihan Tuğal explicitly articulates an approach that synthesizes cultural and material factors in order to demonstrate the struggle over meaning within the Islamic movement. Tuğal dismisses ideas that religion is simply a tool for social domination, a tactical framework for resistance to domination, or an apolitical oasis from reality (Tuğal 2002, p.87-90). Thus, he rejects the notion that Islamism is simply a class movement that would follow the same course as Third World nationalisms. He appreciates the conception of Islamism as the product of historically defined socio-economic processes; however, he points out that this approach does not account for the existence of a popular imagination that serves to legitimate political action in the name of religion. Drawing from the work of Cornelius Castoriadis, Tuğal


states that the imagination of a human being is a force that divides social realities such as the relations of production from the sign system that represents such a reality. If a change in the imagination becomes an institutionalized marker for socialization, the social imagination evolves and elicits a corresponding change in social practice. By examining Islamist print media in Turkey he goes on to show that the socioeconomic gap between Islamist rich and poor is a source of conflict in the Islamic movement which intensifies as the actors compete in defining capitalism in reference to an imagined ideal of justice. Bill Maurer writes about Islamic banking and finance as a means to explore the inability of language to ever truly capture its object and to criticize academic methods and writings that do not recognize the extent of the creative process in which they are engaged directly and indirectly with the social phenomena they are studying. For Maurer, Islamic banking is analogous to the positivist academic pursuit of knowledge (Maurer 2005, p.111-115). Both represent a failure in terms of their ability to produce their promised results. Islamic banking recreates capitalism by fetishizing the commodity and money forms with religious value. Likewise, positivist academics produce a glut of information without yielding any new knowledge. However, he does not fault either of them for their efforts. In fact, his work carries an overall positive tone that suggests that random, novel, and unforeseen consequences may arise from what appear to be the most insignificant events. Thus, the evolutionary process of the generation and regeneration of meaning continues.


The Islamic Perspective

Before continuing with a review of the literature that studies Islamic economics from the outside, I would like to summarize the mainstream position of those who study the subject from inside the discipline. Some Islamists are especially critical of capitalism and others are critical of socialism; however, the “alternative” path that mainstream Islamic economists favor is the market economy with limited government regulation. This may appear to be very similar to economic systems in the West, but Islamist writers differentiate themselves from Western economists by emphasizing moral as well as material values. It is worth noting that Islamic economists are well versed in the language of the conventional economics taught in the West, and that they equate economic survival with the survival of the Muslim community itself. Thus, efficiency becomes a virtue that must often be weighed against other Islamic injunctions that could threaten the movement’s long term survival. Maurer points out that M. A. Mannan and Muhammad Nejatullah Siddiqi, both following in the footsteps of Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi, are the most widely cited writers in the field of Islamic economics (Maurer 2005, p.30). A brief look at their work with contributions from other significant writers in the field provides an overview for the mainstream Islamic economic thought treated in this thesis. At the root of the Islamic project is the recognition that social and economic issues are treated in the Koran and derived from the traditions of the prophet. In other words, Islamic law extends to the field of economics so that the Islamic community may find economic justice. However, as Mawdudi writes,


For establishing economic justice, Islam does not rely on law alone. Great importance is attached for this purpose to reforming the inner man through faith, prayers, education, and moral training, to changing his preferences and ways of thinking and inculcating in him a strong moral sense that keeps him just. If and when these means fail, Muslim society should be strong enough to exert pressure to make individuals adhere to the ‘limits.’ When even this does not deliver the goods , Islam is for the use of the coercive powers of law to establish justice by force (Sididiqi 1981, p.13).

This is a social project that aims at the total transformation of society, starting at the level of the individual and bolstered by the state. The basic philosophy of Islamic economics is characterized by this concern for society with the ultimate goal of performing God’s will. Included in this philosophy there are two important points stated clearly by Siddiqi. First, “The will of Allah constitutes the source of value and becomes the end of human endeavor” (Siddiqi 1981, p.5). This plainly removes the mystery of value by putting it in absolute, undeniable terms. Once accepted, this should remove the temptation toward speculation, which is forbidden, and obliterate any notions of radical redistribution of property based on the labor theory of value. The second point is that “The entire Universe with all its natural resources and powers is made amenable to exploitation by man, though it is owned by Allah and Allah alone” (Siddiqi 1981, p.5). Thus, a person is only acting as a caretaker endowed with the privilege of utilizing the material at hand. This emphasizes the notion that all of humanity stands equally before the judgment of God with nothing but his past actions to prove his worth. Siddiqi writes that within the Islamist literature there is agreement over the basic economic philosophy but disagreement over the just distribution of wealth and the relations of people that result from or promote such a distribution, including acceptable measures of social control.


M. A. Mannan presents a comparative study in economics that essentializes capitalism, communism, socialism, fascism, and Islam so that he can differentiate Islamic economics from other economic forms. However, he states quite clearly at the outset of his comparison that conventional economics and Islamic economics share the same basic approach to the issue of scarcity. The main difference between these kinds of economics, he continues, is in the choices that economic actors make. In conventional economics, choices are dependent on the whims of individuals acting in their own interests. In Islamic economics, on the other hand, economic actors operate according to the dictates and guidance of the Koran and Sunnah (Mannan 1983, p.3-4). In addition, Mannan claims that Islamic economics discusses economics as it should be, unlike conventional economics, which describes economics as it is. By conventional or modern economics one can understand that he is referring specifically to the Western study of economics which perpetuates capitalism. Both Mannan and Siddiqi take time to criticize capitalism and socialism. Siddiqi states that capitalism’s emphasis on self interest is harmful for social unity and an impediment to market efficiency (Siddiqi 1981, p.46). Socialism, which would nationalize property, is not acceptable because the right to own property is linked to freedom. Furthermore, Siddiqi claims that Socialism is undemocratic. These things limit the spiritual growth of humanity (Siddiqi 1981, p.52). On the positive side of their criticism, Capitalism is compatible with democracy and respects the individual’s right to own property, and socialism is at least philosophically guided by a humanistic spirit. Therefore, Islam seeks to create what is basically a capitalistic society tempered by socialistic ideas and institutions (Mannan 1983, p.58).


M. Umer Chapra is in agreement with this general attitude towards capitalism as he addresses the welfare-state. He recognizes that the welfare-state had humanitarian goals; however, he claims that too much government regulation has led to market inefficiency and a movement calling for a return to stricter liberalization. Ironically, this has a striking similarity to the conservatism found in the West. Chapra ultimately advocates a welfare-state with a market system supplemented by moral self-discipline, family values, and social solidarity (Chapra; 2000, p.372). Whereas Chapra recognizes the need for state regulation due to human weakness, Siddiqi emphasizes the need for individual moral transformation so that one lives his life in service to society. Siddiqi holds that there is consensus amongst Islamist writers, including Chapra, that employers and employees should engage in labor relations in a spirit of cooperation and justice in which hard work is recognized as a moral virtue that should be remunerated fairly (Siddiqi 1981 p.39). Siddiqi notes that there is disagreement over how a just wage should be determined. For example, some writers emphasize a wage based on the overall profitability of the company while others assert that the wage should be tailored to the needs of the worker. In any case, Siddiqi and Chapra would agree that the community itself should have the final say.

Academic Perspectives

Academic approaches to the study of political Islam provide the base for the narrower study of Islamic economics in Turkey. There are several approaches focusing on a variety of factors. Approaches that focus exclusively on one element have serious


disadvantages. This literature review seeks to summarize works that deal with three aspects of this research project: works that seek to describe and explain political Islam generally, Islamic economics generally, and political Islam and Islamic economics in Turkey specifically. I will discuss these works’ various strengths and weaknesses while addressing the authors’ themes. The subject of this study and the previous works that inform it defy simple classification because there is a broad range of contradicting ideas and a significant amount of crossover from one area of writing to the next. In Islam and Political Development in Turkey Binnaz Toprak shows that as society changes, Islam’s impact on political development also changes. In other words, she holds that historical processes structure the form and function of political Islam. Although she notes that certain features in Islam such as a legal code give it a political nature, she concludes that Islam in Turkey as a political ideology serves a function that allows people who were historically excluded from the Kemalist political project to enter the political arena and voice their interests. Viewed in this way, political Islam is easily interchangeable with other political ideologies. In fact, she implies that political Islam is a “substitute” for other genuine political ideologies (Toprak 1981, p.122). Karen Pfeifer focuses explicitly on Islamic economics to highlight the differences it has with conventional economics and point out some theoretical and practical problems in Islamic economic thought. She takes a socioeconomic approach, which “sees economic behavior as embedded in social institutions, specific to a social system which evolves over time,” (Pfiefer 1997, p. 154). She goes on to explain that Islamic economics is a response to the failures of state-capitalism and economic liberalization to develop


Muslim countries. Here, Islamic identity is a corrective instrument with a particular function, and as such it is interchangeable with other development projects. Yeşim Arat also emphasizes the function that political Islam plays in bringing excluded groups into the political process. She focuses on women’s integration into the Turkish political sphere through Islamism. She states, “women are waiting to be politicized” (Arat 1999, p.62). An Islamic ideology provides some women a means to associate in the public sphere. Arat’s work suggests that even though Islam is used to justify things such as discrimination against women, women involved in the political movement find personal satisfaction through solidarity with other women. One could conclude from her work that if other options were available to Islamist women, they would readily seize those opportunities. Sam Kaplan writes that an Islamic identity has been imposed on the Turkish populace by the state, which appropriated that identity for itself so that it could legitimate the military’s presence in society. This is an example of instrumental logic that denies the populace any creative agency of its own. Culture is handed down from above for the express purpose of controlling society. This overlooks the possibilities of social and cultural evolution finding genesis in the imaginations of the subordinate majority, those with little or no direct influence on political institutions. However, his work shows that one cannot dismiss the role of the state while analyzing political Islam in Turkey (Kaplan 2002). Nilüfer Göle describes the emergence of an Islamist elite, which includes intellectuals, engineers, and technicians (Göle 1997). Oddly she does not include the Islamic bourgeoisie as a part of this elite, but she may have purposely excluded them because she


wants to steer the subject away from material concerns into the realm of culture and identity. Göle avoids the term social class in favor of status group, which denotes a group with a shared cultural code and life-style. She notes that the urban middle class had access to Western education and symbols that divided them from the religious rural population. Having a lasting disposition toward an Islam-based meaning system, migrants moving to the cities used Islam to place their changed environments into perspective. Göle states that: In a seemingly paradoxical way, the more those peripheral groups have access to urban life, a liberal education, and modern means of expressing themselves politically, the more they appear to seek Islamic sources of reference to redefine their life-world. (Göle 1997, p. 52) It is in this reactive way that secularization has shaped Islamic identity. She puts her explanation of the secularist-Islamist debate in terms of a class conflict of sorts. However; she does not indicate where the boundaries of the symbolic might lie or how to weigh the multiplicity of influences that could affect the meaning system. She cannot explain why some people accepted secularism and others did not. Furthermore, she cannot explain divergences within the Islamic identity groups or the waxing and waning of Kemalist hegemony. Ayşe Buğra takes the position that culture is an outcome of social, political, and economic interaction and does not determine behavior. She analyzes how the Islamic business association, MUSIAD, and the non-Islamic business association, TUSIAD, represent the interests of their constituencies (Buğra 1998). Buğra emphasizes the historic role played by the Turkish state in an industrial modernization project that facilitated the growth of an industrial bourgeoisie loyal to the state. State policy makers envisioned large industry as the path to development, so they were uninterested in small


and medium size businesses. The political economic process that led to economic liberalization resulted in the weakening of protectionist policies that had benefited the state sponsored industrialists. Buğra notes that this allowed for the expansion of small businesses which were better suited to adapt to rapid advances in technology. She argues that MUSIAD came to represent these groups in opposition to an environment of cultural and political hostility toward religion and democracy. She points to MUSIAD’s use of Islam “as a basis for cooperation and solidarity between producers; as a device to create secure market niches or sources of investment finance; and as a means of containing social unrest and labor militancy,” (Buğra 1998, p.528). She briefly mentions MUSIAD’s attitude toward labor relations, but she is uncritical of it because her purpose is to describe the competition between MUSIAD and TUSIAD and the implications that this competition has for democratization. M. Hakan Yavuz takes a constructivist approach which considers the reciprocal influence that cultural and material factors have on each other. In his typology of actors in the Islamic identity movement he identifies a society centric Islamic movement, which seeks to change social relations through the media and the market, and he clearly indicates that the current Islamic identity movement in Turkey is rooted in the urban market (Yavuz 2003, p. 81). He writes that liberal economic policies allowed for the generation of an economic base that supported the establishment of associations in which people realized their identities. This explanation suggests that people stored a subconscious identity that revealed itself after being triggered by a new sense of freedom of movement and association. Thus, cultural dispositions merge with opportunities to shape new realities. He writes:


Islamic doctrine and practices increasingly are becoming rationalized as a result of the combination of religious discipline, ethical solidarity, and entrepreneurial dynamism that has occurred under the leadership of the successful small and medium enterprises known as “Anatolian tigers.” (Yavuz 2003, p.82) Still, Yavuz recognizes that liberalization has not provided everyone with the same opportunities. He points to social and political divisions within the identity movement based on socioeconomic class. Unfortunately his treatment of class is not critical of the bourgeoisie at the level of production. He distinguishes class through patterns of consumption rather than through a functional definition relative to production. One approach seeks to explain political Islam as rooted in cultural specificity. The least productive form of this approach is rooted in an orientalist tradition that clings to certain features of Islam and essentializes Islam according to those things. Timur Kuran reduces the idea of Islamic economics to a fundamental opposition to Western or global society in cultural terms (Kuran 1996). Kuran takes identity as given. He draws heavily form Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis and combines it with social psychology to promote the theory that Islamic economics is motivated by feelings of guilt experienced by Muslims who have in some way transgressed the mores of Islamic civilization. He argues that there is an inherent contradiction in Islamic economics because it seeks to improve the economic level of Muslim society through communal morality, which he sees as a historic failure. He argues that while medieval “Islamic civilization” had an essential collectivist morality, medieval western Europe had an individualist morality. “After the Middle Ages, this difference in moral systems contributed to Europe’s growing economic dominance over the Islamic world,” (Kuran 1996, p.440). Because of his approach, he is uncritical of capitalism, and he does not consider issues of


colonialism, regional politics, modern history, or global economics. An approach of this kind is indefensible because it does not account for the fact that ideas and behaviors evolve over time and place and are subject to internal and external influences that may effect change or stasis. In Islam and Capitalism Maxime Rodinson bases his Marxist critique of Muslim society on an essentialist understanding of Islam and a materialist understanding of Islamism. Thus, he implies that the purpose of Islamism should be to improve the lives of workers, and he is critical of this apparent failure. He writes: The Muslim religion has influenced neither the structure nor the functioning of the capitalist sector in the countries of Islam, even in that field where naive people might have supposed that a religion would have had something to say, namely, the field of humane treatment of workers (Rodinson 1977, p.168). Because of his essentialist approach, his work suffers from a debilitating conceptual weakness. He does not differentiate the doctrine of Islam from the project of social and political transformation which has been referred to in this text as Islamism. Thus, he overlooks the modern day social and political nature of Islamism and its effect on capitalism. A large part of his argument is devoted to showing that Islam is not only wrongly perceived as an obstacle to capitalism but also insufficient in itself to practically oppose it. The bulk of his evidence comes from characterizations of early twentieth century Muslim societies, in which Islam did not prevent the Muslim bourgeoisie from exploiting Muslim workers. A more rounded consideration of Islamic ideology would reveal that Islamists are critical of other Muslims living within the same society and of those having lived in an earlier historical period of the same society, but they tend to fault poor leadership and spiritual weakness of the community of believers rather than blame religion itself.


Like Rodinson, Rodney Wilson also fails to differentiate between Islam and Islamism; however, while Rodinson is determined to explain the pervasiveness of capitalism, Wilson states plainly that a critique of capitalism is unnecessary because the alternatives have failed and faded into history (Wilson 1997, p. 2). Wilson is writing on ethics, but the methodological position that he takes in the introduction to his book leads him to gloss over issues of labor relations and class, both of which have ethical implications do to the fact that income levels are directly related to health and educational opportunities. Wilson claims that there is solidarity between employers and their employees even in the presence of great income disparities because praying together makes them all essentially equal before God. He goes on to say that collective bargaining is not practiced in Muslim countries in the same way that it is in Western countries (Wilson 1997, p.211). This is problematic because he describes a particular type of labor relationship, highly favorable to employers, that negates class and assumes that everyone’s interests are unified under the identifying mark of Islam. He does not take into consideration issues of authoritarian repression of social action or the lack of employment alternatives and economic support structures that may be found in some Muslim countries. The primary focus of his book is on competition, interest, and financing. He evaluates business practices according to relationships between companies, companies and consumers, and business and state.




Cornelius Castoriadis

Castoriadis’s theory of the radical imagination provides a significant link between the works of Tuğal and Maurer. One of his primary goals is to give an ontological account of the mutually supporting individual and society. He does this through a careful consideration of creation, including the creation of being, information, society, and the individual. This has specifically political implications due to the fact that his theory bears on the organization of life and the ability to recreate the forms that structure the world’s organization. He asserts that being is groundless chaos existing through time, which is itself synonymous with creation. Thus, to negate time in one’s consideration of being would be a serious mistake because it would obligate one to take forms and their alteration as given, determined, and determinacy necessarily clashes with his understanding of creation as the creation of new forms. His rejection of determinacy means that “the question ‘What is it, in what we know, that comes from the observer (from us), and what is it that comes from what there is?’ is, and will forever remain, undecidable” (Castoriadis 1997, p.4). He states that people create information for themselves. “The conditions under which a statement constitutes a piece of information for someone depends essentially on what


that someone already is” (Castoriadis 1997, p.258). He rejects the notion that information exists in nature and that it is simply up to an individual to collect it. A person must carry within his identity and his memory both the knowledge and the interest to give meaning to that which he perceives. “Sensibility belongs to the imagination, as the power to make ‘images’ be for a subject” (Castoriadis 1997, p.259). For example, one would have to carry within himself the concept of burning pain (amongst other things) to formulate the meaning of “Don’t put your hand on the hot stove,” or “the suffering of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki constitutes a war crime.” He writes that society produces the individual, who is bound to reproduce society due to his social conditioning. The institution of society is a coherent whole that amounts to the unity of social imaginary significations, “the immensely complex web of meanings that permeate, orient, and direct the whole life of the society considered” (Castoriadis 1997, p.7). Social imaginary significations are creations that are not entirely rational or real and which circulate amongst an anonymous collective. These creations constitute a way of thinking that justifies its own social identity. In other words, a society constructs its own particular world of meaning, in which it defines and interprets itself as reality. Thus, society is a self-creation, independent of any creative forces external to it. Each society perpetuates itself through a certain amount of closure. It posits particular myths as given and unquestioned. Myth has no rational basis but it functions to give meaning to that which would otherwise be meaningless. The problem in locating the source of the individual and the society lies in the notion that these things are hidden from plain view by a structure that denies the chaos of the universe. Society gives the veneer of order to groundless existence through language.


Signification creates what appears to be an obvious determination of a thing in relation to its signifier. Simply stated, something enters into existence in language once it has a name. This relationship of signification has social currency only to the extent that it is accepted within society. In other words, there must be an acceptable amount of closure for people to communicate effectively. This closure, when carried through, embeds meaning in society in a way that defines that society. The society creates itself in the process of signification, which appears to have a timeless quality due to its ability to structure thought. Because being cannot adhere except through time, this timelessness is seen as necessarily existing outside of society, and outside of the world that society creates. Creative agency is externalized. This explains the organic connection between religion and society. Nevertheless, the fact that people, societies, are responsible for the naming of things prevents one from ever truly escaping from chaos. Time continues to operate in its forward direction, so being is always in the process of becoming. Castoriadis defines autonomy as the recognition that one creates and is able to question the foundation of his creation. Still, the autonomous can never truly escape the vice of signification. This is especially true in academia. Signification constitutes the world and organizes the world in a correlative fashion; it does so by enslaving the latter in each particular instance to specific ‘ends’... All these ends are supernatural; they also lie beyond discussion, or, more exactly, discussion of them is possible and has meaning only when we presuppose the value of this particular ‘end’ that has been created by a particular institution of society, the Greco-Western institution, namely, the search for truth (Castoriadis 1997, p.313-314).


Bill Maurer

Maurer addresses this problem as he juxtaposes academic research and Islamic banking and alternative currencies. Maurer’s work aims to force the researcher to question all of his assumptions of not only what he is studying, but also what constitutes him, the researcher himself, as a researcher. This is more than a radical denial of truth. He writes to show the creative power and potential of the human mind and social interaction. He does this through the conceptual framework of lateral reason. Lateral reason describes an academic conundrum with severe methodological import. The way that academics define the things that they study is obviously crucial to the shape and outcome of their analysis. The researcher draws connections between phenomena based on his interpretation of others’ interpretations. Accounting for competing subjectivities may not increase knowledge in any measurable sense. Rather, it facilitates a circular or alternating argumentation that moves back and forth, and that, at best, produces new concepts which enter the circuit of debate. This conception of lateral reasoning is premised on the notion that language is incapable of capturing the essence of “reality”. This is especially true of the descriptions of relations between things. In other words, I can describe how Islamists define concepts like capitalism or justice and I can evaluate those concepts based on my own definition but this will only add to the plethora of already existing, articulated interpretations of those concepts. Perhaps the extent of the meaning of such an exercise is that it perpetuates the search for meaning, an unending process due to the failure of language.


Maurer’s discussion of lateral reason is not limited to academics, supposedly observing a phenomenon from the outside. Inside and outside of the phenomenon participants seek to redefine the standards in their own terms. Academics and the social actors that they study exist within a shared overall context in which they may influence each other’s work. With regard to language and naming they are engaged in the same struggle to make their usage of social significations dominant. In naming a thing it becomes objectified. That is, it becomes an object with its own reality. Its reality obviates any claims of falsehood. At the same time the object enters into relationships and associations with other terms that spawn new relationships and associations. Thus, the object becomes a subject in that once a certain signification has been established it stimulates further thought and action. In this way it acts like an agent by providing a base from which new or previously concealed meanings can take shape. This understanding alludes to actor network theory, which claims that all things entangled in a network that generates a phenomenon have an agentive character. When a society names a thing, layers of meaning conceal and reveal new and old associations. Thus, the meaning of the thing is never fixed. Instead, it moves back and forth . Its truth is not on one side or the other but it is in the movement and the search for meaning that provides the impetus for such movement. Labeling something as fake or illegitimate is unproductive because it assumes a fixed point from which to judge. Furthermore, because the objectification of the thing itself denotes its mediation, the separation of the sign and signified is reified, resulting in an abstraction that obviates actual life. Thus, Maurer writes that a counterfeit is efficacious if it circulates. Something does not necessarily need to be true to have social value. The test of a thing’s


worth rests in its acceptance and use in the social context as a standard for judgment. One should rather ask where such standards for comparison originate and assess the causes and effects that those standards perpetuate. Maurer avoids the concept of hegemony to invoke an optimistic tone in his writing that expresses liberation in the possibility of novel modes of existence, social practices with wholly new referents, not alternatives to what already exists. He claims that these modes require people to forget the given meanings of their being and to forget that they have forgotten. Only this would allow the new imaginary to seep into the social consciousness. The chain of reference in academia precludes such a forgetting, and the problem with Islamic thought is that it claims a pre-existing referent, one that has always existed and is always prior to the present. It refuses to forget. It is a grand justification for itself in present terms which are dependent on a past that never existed but could have. For Maurer, the creation of monetary value is synonymous with signification. He writes that value does not stop with the creation of a commodity. Labor may be overlooked and fetishism may obscure the process and method in which a thing was created, but fetishism, the added, imaginary value attached to a product can act to set in motion something else with real or imagined existence. It carries consequences with it. Thus, it is no less real than anything else. This is the real mystery of the commodity and market based society. By analogy it is also the mystery of the sign system of language which structures thought and action. It is open ended and in the process of becoming.


Cihan Tuğal

Tuğal tests a theory that the social imaginary transforms and develops as sign systems and reality diverge. He is attempting to create a theory of what political Islam in Turkey is as a societal creation at a particular point in history. After criticizing previous efforts at the same task he finds the merits of approaches that focus on material and ideational factors and he explains the need to combine them into a theory. Thus, the material is represented as real in his theory and the ideational is represented as the symbolic and imaginary. The latter is a dynamic element that prevents his theory from falling into the same trap as cultural essentialism. Tuğal begins by ranking different academic approaches to the study of political Islam. He judges them according to their merits and their weaknesses as one should do when reviewing the literature on a given subject. Maurer might claim that Tuğal is objectifying the various bits of information in order to assign values to them and subsequently discard that which he sees as worthless and give currency to that which can be traded as useful information. In other words, Tuğal brings a meta-debate into being in his text. One can imagine two sides to the debate with arguments traveling back and forth between them. The path that the arguments travel constitutes a mutually reinforced link representing the productive labor of the intellectuals involved and it provides a scale for those arguments. As Maurer would predict Tuğal freezes the argument (or the traveler) at a certain point on this road to proclaim its supreme value and attempt to use it as a base on which to add new knowledge, which would in turn only act to once again accelerate the back and forth movement along a continually lengthening scale of accumulated information. The result


is that there is never a discovery of the truth. Instead, there is only more information to consider in one’s search for an increasingly more elusive moment of epistemological stability. Tuğal is writing about the construction of social significations in a contested field. Differences between Islamic groups are played out in the imaginaries linked to those significations, signaling the inadequacy of the symbolic to the real, the signifier and the signified. He works to show that Political Islam is not primarily a petite bourgeoisie movement as materialist writers have argued. He does this by showing the ideational divisions within political Islam. These divisions are rooted in class. Thus, he can argue that material reality, which contradicts the symbolic language of Islamist claims of sharing, redistribution, egalitarianism, and in a word, justice, prevents the cohesion of Islamist actors in competing social-economic classes. This difference between reality and symbolism creates space for an imaginary that may (depending on its ability to find itself institutionalized) become a social imaginary in turn leading to a new reality. The severity of the difference is determinant of the radicalism of the imaginary. He argues that the contemporary Turkish scene is composed of three kinds of Islamists: moral capitalists, alternative capitalists, and anti-capitalists. Moral capitalists place ethical and community matters above profit making. Alternative capitalists give priority to economic growth. The actual difference between these two camps is a gray area. The moralists represent the dominant thought, but the alternatives are overrepresented due to their financial power. Combined with the notion that the Turkish case is special due to the deep impact of secular nationalism and continued military suppression of Islamic concerns, global


capitalism appears as an overpowering force that will eventually co-opt the movement if it has not done so already. It is implied that the result of this would be the further radicalization of poor and working class Islamists in contrast to an Islamic bourgeoisie having reconciled itself to global capitalism.


Hegemony is the term used to describe the process of ideological domination. It describes the dominant symbolic system to which people submit, and which provides a society with a semblance of order and peace. This occurs as dominant actors present their specific interests as objective. The concept of hegemony holds that ideas carry power and that these ideas allow the dominant material structure to reproduce itself by undermining the consciousness or will of the subordinate toward the active pursuit of change in the social structure. I will briefly mention two ways of conceiving hegemony. The first imagines hegemony as a strong, determinant force that insures that ideas and modes of thought remain static. The second holds that hegemony generates possible conflicts that may have surprising results and allow social and political relationships to evolve. In one sense, consciousness can be seen as strictly determined by the material structure that constitutes a person’s environment. This view maintains that the actors who dominate the material conditions also dominate the symbolic structure that is used to interpret such conditions. The symbolic structure acts to form the identities of subordinates in such a way that they see the prevailing system as natural or even good.


This prevents them from identifying their true interests; thus, they passively support the system of domination that oppresses them. This is often termed false-consciousness. It implies that people cannot break the mold established for them by their material and mental enslavement. On the other hand, the concept of hegemony that I prefer denies the totality of ideological domination. Here, subordinates do not see the system of domination as natural or good, but they may see it as unavoidable due to the high costs or time necessary to alter their conditions. James C. Scott writes that subordinates can demystify the dominant ideology because their daily experiences reveal contradictions in the picture presented by the dominant actors (Scott 1990). This occurs because the hegemonic ideology is based on ideals that cannot be met by the dominant actors. In this way, the ideals become a source of criticism for subordinates. This criticism could, under appropriate conditions, lead to changes in society and politics.


Parla and Davison describe Kemalism as the official ideology of the Turkish state from the establishment of the republic to the present (Parla and Davison 2004). This ideology takes its name from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the greatest symbol and spokesman of an ideology rooted in an earlier historical movement to modernize the Ottoman state through positive science and social engineering. According to Parla and Davison, Kemalism is essentially a corporatist ideology. Kemalism is hegemonic in its overwhelming presence in politics and society. Hence, one cannot research political


phenomena in post-Ottoman Turkey without some reference to the structural force and influence of Ataturk’s legacy. Based on the work of the nineteenth century French sociologist Emile Durkheim, corporatism proclaims that society should be organized into occupational groups. This would allow society to exist as an organic whole in which individuals are recognized according to their occupational group. The result of such social-political organization would be a reversal of the alienation caused by technology. What Parla and Davison refer to as solidaristic corporatism rejects liberalism and Marxism because individualism and notions of class are disruptive. In general, however, corporatism seeks to replace liberalism as the superseding rationale of modern capitalism, but not to replace capitalism itself;. The profitmaximization logic of capitalism in its competitive phase has been subordinated to, but not displaced by, another higher logic of capitalism- the logic of system maintenance and social morality (Parla and Davison 2004, p.30). Every action should serve the interests of society. In this context, the state should facilitate the activities of individuals and groups toward solidarity. Parla and Davison analyze significant aspects of Kemalism with reference to this understanding of corporatism. The key points of their analysis include reverence to the memory of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s person and an exploration of the ideological relationships between the state, the society, and the individual. Parla and Davison critique and reevaluate the six ideological markers of the political party that Ataturk represented. These six “arrows” are republicanism, nationalism, populism, laicism, transformationism, and statism. They claim that typical discussions of Kemalism take these six arrows at face value and fail to uncover its undemocratic and anti-modern


nature. Therefore, Parla and Davison focus on what they see as deeper elements than the six arrows. As indicated by the name, Kemalism, charismatic leadership and its legacy have played a defining role in the ideology. Charismatic leadership represents in the person of a single, particular individual what humanity should strive to be. It exists on the shoulders of “the” great leader, who embodies the truth and has the legitimacy to bring such truth into being regardless of tradition or law. “Charismatic authority, then, by definition, may be quite hostile to the ideals of classical republicanism (rule by law) and populism (sovereignty resides with the people)” (Parla and Davison 2004, p.147). Ataturk has been, even in death, the great leader of the Turkish republic. His vision is synonymous with that of the nation. In fact, his person is a symbol for the nation itself. To question the truth as presented and represented by Ataturk is to attack the state, society, and culture of Turkey. The Kemalist project is dominated by the call for unity. This requires depoliticization and homogenization of culture and society. It has manifested itself as ethnically exclusive and it has sought to reshape religious identity. Ataturk saw the military as a model to be imitated in all social and cultural areas (Parla and Davison 2004, p.231). “His views of the youth, education , and even the press indicated that they were to be reared by the state and ultimately existed to serve the interests of the state” (Parla and Davison 2004, p.254). Nur Çelik has explained that the Turkish state has experienced a

crisis of hegemony. She states that Kemalism, the hegemonic discourse of the early republic, can no longer structure political consensus (Çelik 2000). This has allowed competing ideologies, particularly Islamism, to enter into the social imaginary and


displace and redefine concepts related to modernity such as democracy and development. This conceptual shift has evolved through the historical processes of power struggles in Turkish politics from the twentieth century. In 1945 the one-party period of Ataturk’s Republican People’s Party ended and political parties began to compete for control of the government administration. The Democratic Party (DP), representing groups that had been excluded from the Kemalist project such as those with Muslim identities, emerged as the victor in this multiparty electoral competition. The DP had a populist program that promoted democracy and sought to bring positive recognition to Islam. By drawing attention to what was perceived as the state’s mistreatment and neglect of Muslims, the DP presented democracy as a concept that was antagonistic to the state. After limiting the freedom of the press to criticize the government, the DP was outlawed in 1960 by the Turkish military, which assumed control of the government and rewrote the constitution. The military takeover showed that the military was the true defender of democracy, thus, Kemalist modernization was linked to democracy. The 1961 constitution expanded civil liberties and emphasized continuity with the revolution. Çelik states that because Kemalism was successful at absorbing the signifier ‘democracy’ it had become an imaginary. The constitution allowed for the flowering of distinct political identities. The Kemalist imaginary created the conditions for diverse groups to articulate their issues. Marxists, nationalists, and Islamists utilized a discourse reconciled to Kemalist notions. However, by this time the myth of a unified nation had broken down and it could not prevent the radicalization of Marxist, nationalist, and Islamist discourses. Violence


became a commonplace form of political expression. This led to the military’s intervention in government in 1971 and 1980. The military regime of 1980 felt that it was necessary to subordinate democracy for the sake of peace and national unity. In this way it was very similar to the revolutionary regime of the early republic. The military laid blame for the nation’s unrest on the influx of Marxism from foreign countries. It sought to counter leftist ideologies with a renewed emphasis on Turkish identity. The military expected people to find common ground in religion and promoted the idea that Islam was a part of Turkishness so that it could regain popular support for the Kemalist regime. After civilian government was restored with a new constitution there were restrictions on political participation. These restrictions forced people to associate informally without access to government officials. This resulted in the rise of popular struggles directed against the state. These struggles focused on the anti-democratic nature of the regime. Islamists were among those who took advantage of informal networks to build a popular movement. With the state’s inclusion of Islam into its picture of statehood, Islamism found a new sense of legitimacy as a rationalizing force. This added to the Islamists’ fusion of traditional and modern values. Thus, Çelik writes, “Instead of Islam being hegemonised by Kemalist modernization, modernization was hegemonised by Islam” (Çelik 2000, p. 201).




According to its website,, MUSIAD, known for its religiously conservative attitudes, was established on May 5, 1990 with the purpose of facilitating economic growth for Turkey while promoting what it sees as traditional Turkish values. It proposes to work towards the holistic development of the world in general and Turkey in particular. It now has 26 branches and 2000 members. As a business association this organization links business entrepreneurs with each other and represents their interests in public. MUSIAD avoids direct references to Islam in describing itself. Rather, it makes allusions to religion as “universal values that are adopted historically by the people” ( ). MUSIAD is representative of the Islamic bourgeoisie in Turkey. For this reason I have chosen MUSIAD as an example. This thesis is not primarily about MUSIAD itself, but it is about what MUSIAD represents in terms of social-economic class. The research for this work involved interviewing sixteen members of MUSIAD in Istanbul. I made initial contact with MUSIAD headquarters and contacted individual members from the member database on the MUSIAD website. I present four of these people in detail as representative of the general themes that are discussed by all of the members. These four men do not agree with each other on every point, but as a whole they address the thoughts and attitudes of the others in varying degrees. I have tried to present ideas in a way that avoids needless repetition, and I suggest ways in which the


four people treated in detail here supplement or differ from each other. I have chosen these four members to focus on because their responses reflect the greatest intellectual depth. In examining each of these members closely, I consider their similarities and differences with respect to the themes that they discuss, which include individualism, community, consumption, capitalism, work, redistribution of wealth, equality, and social cohesion. I also include a summary of the other twelve members I interviewed.




The thought of Şen includes the notion that capitalism is something natural to the community rather than something imported from non-Muslim places abroad. Its appearance as an economic system that has faired better than any other in producing wealth stands as its own proof that capitalism is natural, logical, and efficient. However, with capitalism the choices available to people have multiplied exponentially, and individuals are choosing harmful lifestyles by using the goods they buy in selfish ways. In one sense, individualism is the dynamic element in the liberal market as it leads entrepreneurs towards innovations in business and frees consumers to define their own ever changing preferences. On the other hand, individualism is dangerous and immoral when individuals use their freedom in ways that conflict with communal values. Thus, the social problems that exist in Turkey are not the result of a morally corrupt system, but they exist because people have failed in their responsibility to maintain communal relationships and behaviors while fulfilling their roles as individual entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers. This conservative mentality suggests that if everyone works harder at being good entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers, capitalism will function as it should and social problems will dissolve and traditions will be reaffirmed.


Time and Tradition

Şen suggests that unlike other businessmen the businessmen represented by MUSIAD have not had enough time to develop lifestyles different from the traditional lifestyles commonly found in Turkey. This is important for understanding this member’s conception of what sets MUSIAD apart from other business associations. Also, it allows one to realize the significance that traditional culture holds for him in the context of a society in transition towards global integration. Finally, it introduces the concept of time as an inescapable agent of change that threatens traditional values. Şen states that members of MUSIAD became businessmen later in life so they share values in common with traditional Turkish society. One might call them first generation businessmen. In the same way that one might immigrate to a foreign country and hold on to his accent and the traditions of his country, these businessmen carry with them into the new world of global competition the values of their forefathers. Compare these entrepreneurs with others who have perhaps been born into the melting pot of the world market. Like the children and grandchildren of immigrants, those who have been in business longer have lost their connection to the culture of their fathers. Şen claims that the big businessmen not in MUSIAD drive luxury cars, live in exclusive areas, and entertain extravagantly. Their choice of lifestyle is not only beyond the means of the common people, it stands in contradiction to their values. Şen equates traditional values with a particular model of family life whose technological evolution is bringing with it negative consequences for society. He argues that in the past in Turkey the father of a family would come home and sit down to dinner


with his family at the table, and everyone including the wife and children would discuss matters and solve problems together. He says that now because of television this is changing. Everyone is choosing something different to watch. From this one can understand that he feels there is less communication within the family and that family members do not spend enough time with each other. Thus, the chain of inherited wisdom has been shattered and children no longer have the cultural referents to keep them grounded and right-minded, the same cultural referents that guide the actions of MUSIAD members. Time appears here as the deciding factor in social development. Şen suggests that as one spends more time away from those who guard tradition, one turns toward the fragmented anomie of modern life. Şen claims that the rich and the poor have been affected equally under the current conditions. Thus, he implies that everyone either needs to or chooses to spend time away from one’s family. Entering into contemporary market relations as either an entrepreneur or a consumer is an obligation impending over each individual in capitalist society, a requirement for survival that shapes the individuals patterns of behavior according to the capitalist time scheme. Such a time scheme is organized for the purpose of making money. Şen, however, depicts this as a naturally occurring phenomenon. For Şen, because MUSIAD members, by entering into business late, have spent a relatively short time away from the family environment of traditional Turkey, they have not been fully integrated into the modern world of moral corruption. While nonMUSIAD businessmen are living in decadent luxury, MUSIAD members are living in a way similar to the common people. According to Şen it is an unfortunate reality that


even the common people are evolving away from their traditional lifestyle. One could conclude from this that it is only a matter of time that the so-called traditional values of Turkey disappear.

Lifestyle and Choice

Because Şen is not critical of capitalism as such, one must analyze what he means by social system in order to understand how a MUSIAD businessman is exonerated from any blame as the harbinger of social depravity. First, I will analyze the implied connection between capitalism and the social system so that one can see that for Şen, Capitalism is not only natural but good. Next, I will examine the dual role that the ethical entrepreneur plays as a modernizer and a victim of the modern social condition. Then, I will show how for Şen the common people in society are misusing technology to their own detriment, contributing to a social system that conflicts with their basic social needs. For Şen the economic system of capitalism and the social system present in the urban centers of Turkey exist without depending on each other as they would in a total system. Şen sees industrialization as one of the greatest achievements of modern Turkey and the growth of private companies as the natural outcome of businessmen being able to sustain themselves and operate more efficiently than the state. He states that the purpose of money is to bring one pleasure, so one can conclude that in generating wealth and affording common conveniences, capitalism has provided a great deal toward the happiness of society. Thus, liberal economics is natural assuming that humanity seeks to exist as efficiently and happily as possible. Capitalism is a positive development in the


history of the world appearing as the logical result of an ethical endeavor toward these goals. However, Şen speaks of business and the social system as independent elements interacting in a fatalistic reality. He states that by acting as individuals entrepreneurs can achieve the highest levels of success, but by sharing their wealth they can act communally as well. For Şen this is a lifestyle choice that is not conditioned or structured by capitalism. In fact, his idea of social system is synonymous with lifestyle, which describes things such as preferences and personal interests. Therefore, one’s lifestyle is simply his own personal approach to capitalism rather than the result of a systematic progression of structured relationships. Businessmen function as critical links between the spheres of economics and society in Şen’s opinion because by introducing and integrating technology into society they play a modernizing role; however, they also feel the negative effects of the contemporary social climate along with the common people. An ethical businessman provides for his own well-being and the general happiness of society by competing with others in the pursuit of wealth. Although it should be normal for one to embrace individualism professionally and communalism personally, many people are choosing to live as individuals. This has created a negative environment in which to raise a family and contributes to various social ills. According to Şen, a businessman should spend, aside from his usual forty to fifty hours per week at work, an additional ten to fifteen hours or more devoted to a social cause. One can imagine that these things combined with the time he must also spend looking after his own family must be very taxing for a businessman. That his children would prefer more leisurely pursuits when they come of


age should not be a surprise unless he works extra hard at instilling the same communal values in his children while they reap the benefits of his individual efforts. For Şen at the heart of the modern lifestyle, technology challenges the individual to choose the path that Turkish society will travel in the twenty-first century. Technology itself, like capitalism, is not to blame for the ills of society; on the contrary, technology raises the living standards of people and contributes to their happiness so businessmen should be commended for bringing this good to society. Nevertheless, the way that people choose to use technology, their lifestyle choice, is harmful because they pursue their own interests in ways that call for them to individualize their time and space. Each member of a family seeks his own personally preferred form of entertainment, typically in the form of television programs. Families no longer eat together or sit together because television diverts members away from each other. Thus, people lose sight of the value of communal life which includes sharing the good and the bad in a spirit of familial togetherness. Individuals face the world alone, without the proper guidance of the community to prevent them from sinking into the moral degradation of selfishness, family betrayal, and crime. A key to understanding Şen’s mentality is recognizing that for him everybody has a choice in the matter of his lifestyle. Collectively this forms a system that is has no causal relationship with capitalism, which is nothing more than the natural logic of efficiency in market relations. While entrepreneurs provide society with the noble service of facilitating the growth of technology, the public utilizes that technology toward individualistic ends that drive a wedge between families and debilitate the nation. Businessmen are pulled into this kind of lifestyle and with time fall victim to the same


mistakes as the common people unless they maintain their vigilance or find the support of others who are rightly guided.

A Business Model for Social Development

Not only is capitalism innocent of threatening Turkish tradition, it also provides a means for the preservation of core values; therefore, Şen suggests a corporate business model for the preservation of traditional society. First, I will explain how Şen’s conservative economic views contribute to his conception of the weakness of the common individual. I will continue with an account of the general inefficiency of the state in satisfying the needs of the public. After that, I will show how capitalism could be used to guide the people back into the kind of lifestyle that values communalism and practical, if not class-based, uniformity. The conservative social-economic mentality splits the individual into two conceptually unequal halves that ultimately devalue the common individual’s worth. The first way that this mentality achieves this is by explaining that people are fundamentally unequal. Şen says that he believes that everybody has the same God given rights and opportunities. He adds that those who can work harder and run faster will be better off than those who do not make use of the opportunities that are laid in front of them, so one cannot talk about equality in the absolute sense. For Şen government and society should make equality of rights and opportunity available to the people so that those who make use of the opportunities offered to them they will be better off. This describes the strong, independent side of the individual because it implies that the individual has the power


within himself to succeed in his endeavors. On the other hand, these self-empowered people must prepare the way for the others for they are the ones who make equality of rights and opportunities available and accessible to everyone. In fact, everyone is dependent on society for the moral structure that it provides with the dominant few acting as examples for the masses. In this way the individual is weak and cannot be trusted to provide for himself if a higher authority in the form of the state or some social-economic strata does not lead him. From this one can see that the state is also viewed in reference to a double standard. First, the state is seen as the benefactor of the public, making rights and opportunities open to everyone. It provides a necessary service as people left to their own devices would be incapable of forming a productive society. However, the state cannot really help the people these days because bureaucracy is too inefficient to solve such large scale social problems that grow at such a rapid pace. The state itself does not carry with it the moral or organizational authority to be likened to the family; as a result, it is also in need of support so that it can regain its seat as the leader of traditional values. Şen states that N.G.O.s should be responsible for educating people about their traditions and that these organizations, including MUSIAD, can preserve core values and help correct the social ills that are present in Turkey today. This is possible because N.G.O.s operate more efficiently due to their budgetary limitations, high level of knowhow, and their dedication to their missions. An N.G.O. is run like a business and if it does not connect well with those it seeks to serve, another N.G.O. that is capable of doing the job will replace it. In this case, N.G.O.s should be able to imbue society with certain values that share a great deal in common with corporate business culture. Thus, society,


like a well organized business, should be compartmentalized with everyone behaving appropriate to their position. People should live within their means or rather they should want to live within their means according to Şen. In the material sense they should not dwell on purchases that they cannot afford because this could drive them to extreme forms of behavior. One should accept the limits those from above have established for him as a matter of practicality. Although one of a lower rank could not do the job of one with a higher rank or afford the same goods, he should not forget that he is a member of a team. He should derive pleasure from helping others around him according to Şen. When the team succeeds, everyone succeeds, and there is no need to be concerned about the financial reward because the true owner of all things is God; likewise, in the capitalist system the legal owner of the products of others’ labor is outside the team, beyond its reach. For Şen society needs to fall more completely into the models of liberal business to be able to remedy the ills it faces in terms of the breakdown of traditional society as represented by a patriarchal family structure. The individual plays a key role in that he must push himself to succeed and overcome obstacles by efficiently utilizing the opportunities available to him; however, one must also recognize that most individuals are fundamentally flawed and only a select few are naturally capable of reaching high levels of wealth and authority. Along with society, the state should facilitate an environment of equal opportunity for the public; nevertheless, the state is inefficient due to poor management and staffing, unlike private businesses which are obliged to operate as smoothly as possible. Therefore, if traditional Turkish values are to be salvaged, N.G.O.s must take the lead in educating the public that individuals should mind their


positions within the team well and forgo any claims to actual ownership of property, as society should mirror a well run corporation.

Being a Member of the Muslim Community in Turkey

From what one gathers from Şen, one can derive an idea of what it means for him to be a member of the Muslim community in Turkey and the relationship that the Islamic bourgeoisie should have with that community. First, the community is in need of help that the state is unable to supply. Next, liberalism and communalism are both important parts of the Muslim community’s imagination but people must be educated about the necessary compatibility of these concepts. Finally, there is an obligation for Muslims to help those who are in need which proves the worthiness of the members of the community. First, it should be clear that the Muslim community for Şen is in a difficult situation for which there are many causes, not only the contradictions between “material and social values”. He identifies one of the early causes as the loss of literacy that accompanied the revolutionary adoption of the Latin alphabet to replace the Arabic alphabet in the time of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. This affects people today because in his opinion they have lost their connection with the past, and one can draw from this that such a connection would carry with it moral lessons and examples in right behavior. One can assume that other changes in education that occurred as a result of Ataturk’s revolution have had the same effect, like the closing of religious schools. In addition to this, people are now immersed in a tumultuous sea of technology that lacks the structure necessary to bring out the


socially productive qualities of the latest in modern conveniences. The Muslim community does not recognize itself because it lacks an important part of its memory, separated by language and electronic entertainment catered to personal preferences. The population of Turkey, in his mind the Muslim community, is not living as it should. The state is unable to correct this problem because not only is it out of touch with society, but its proper function is to aid private enterprises, which are more efficient and more directly related to the private lives of the populace. Thus, N.G.O.s should take the lead in guiding people back to Turkey’s traditional social values. The people of Turkey have embraced liberal economics and understand that competition in the market leads to improvements in technology and overall living standards. The Muslim community is composed of practical individuals who seek to participate in the world economy and benefit from the wealth generated through capitalism. Members of the Muslim community also imagine a spirit of communalism in their recent past as something that has shaped their identities. Despite the fact that there is no contradiction between liberal capitalism and communalism, the Muslim community is conflicted because people are unaware of the natural harmony in which these concepts should exist. People miss the connection because their lifestyles lead them toward selfish individualism. They do not know that they can find happiness by sharing what they have gained through their hard work as individuals competing in a market economy. They do not know that their material rewards are not truly theirs because all things belong to God, so they suffer from selfish pride. N.G.O.s, like MUSIAD, can help people make the connection between liberalism and communalism.


For Şen the criterion for being a member of the Muslim community is not strict. In fact, there is a great deal of freedom and inclusion of many possible lifestyles. Basically, one must accept one of the interpretations of the holy texts of Islam. Even if he does not actively practice the religion by abiding the rules, he is a member of the community by virtue of his acceptance of one of the interpretations of the religion. However, there are some things in Islam that are not open to interpretation, and if one does not accept these things, seeks to change them, or fails to comply, he does not rightfully belong in the community of believers. For example, Şen says that the Prophet said that if a man sleeps while his neighbor is in need or hungry, that man is not a member of the community. This is a warning to those who have grown wealthy and lost their sensitivity to the needs of the poor. One must abide by this communal value or else he may consider himself excluded from the rewards that the true believers receive in the afterlife. This is a general conception of what it means to be a Muslim in Turkey for this representative of the Islamic bourgeoisie. There is a sense of loss hovering in the conservative mind that imagines good Muslims corrupted by time. There are no specific reasons for this loss other than the spiritually harmful lifestyle choices made by individuals in the course of the twentieth century. The state, as the harbinger for such choices, suffers from a bureaucratic inefficiency and rigidity that separates it from the concerns of the common people and makes it unable to remedy pressing social problems. On the other hand, N.G.O.s have the capacity to educate the public about social values. Particularly, N.G.O.s should take the responsibility of relating liberal and communal values in the public’s imagination, which would facilitate a rebirth of altruism in society and lessen the social-economic gap between the rich and the poor. Finally, what it means


to be Muslim is fairly open ended, with an equally vague caveat that requires one to follow certain beliefs and practices such as the necessity to have compassion for the poor and help them with their needs.


The thoughts that Şen presents contribute to a modern social imaginary for Turkish Muslims by defining the benefits of capitalism and the failures of society in such a way that the ideas of individualism and communalism become blurred. This serves to strengthen the capitalist system and class structure in Turkey by delegitimating criticism of both the system and the propertied class with a call to a return to a particular understanding of tradition and the responsibilities incumbent on such tradition. Furthermore, the very survival of the community is equated with acceptance of this mixed bag of values, and the Islamic bourgeoisie, in its unique role as both modernizer and keeper of tradition, is at the forefront in this struggle for survival. From this one can understand three main themes. First, the past was an ideal time of moral correctness that contemporary society has drifted from and people should seek to return to it. Second, lifestyle is truly a matter of choice rather than something generated under the structural conditions of particular social-economic relationships, so people can correct social problems by focusing on their own behavior rather than on the socialeconomic system that they live under. Third, individualism and communalism are easily separable depending on which context one finds himself in, so the key for the individual


to make a positive contribution to the Muslim community rests in realizing this distinction. In the imaginary that Şen puts forward, as in other traditionalist mentalities, the past is idealized to the extent that attaining its same standards appears as practically out of reach without the intense effort of those concerned; however, it is imperative that everyone struggle toward this goal so that they can survive as a group and maintain the guise that they inherited from the past. The image of this past innocence and goodness carries the same influence as the idealized conception of mothers and fathers, grandparents, and founders. Any trace of resemblance whether actual or fictional lends itself to the notion of an unbreakable, sacred connection. In such an imaginary it would be extremely perverted to reject one’s parents because they provide the basis for one’s existence, so one should do what ever he can to honor and strengthen this connection. In fact, the traditionalist notion of the past is intimately tied up with reverence toward the family, whose concept is also itself dependent on the social imaginary. Capitalism allows fathers to provide for the material comforts of their families to a much greater extent than in the past, so the modern world holds greater potential happiness than the past did; nevertheless, thoughtless choices have led people towards lifestyles that undervalue the family, so family values such as sharing and compassion have weakened as well. The father, who provides for his family by competing with others in the market as an individual, cannot be blamed for trying. At the same time he is applying his skills as an individual and sharing what he earns with his family, blending individualism and communalism. If his children eat better and have more material comfort, it is thanks to the opportunities present in the liberal market; however, if they


lack moral virtue, it is because they and their father have chosen to abandon time tested models of righteous behavior. It is an individual failure in the realm of limitless opportunity. The way that the community imagines the concept of lifestyle and especially the appropriate lifestyle for Muslims could determine the level of its acceptance and approval of capitalism. Again, within this imaginary promoted by Şen there are significant contradictions between the place of individualism and communalism. Lifestyle here is something that is chosen by the individual, who is free act as he likes in the liberal market economy. It appears that there are a number of lifestyles to choose from. However, if the individual is concerned with pleasing God, he will choose a lifestyle that allows him to express his love of humanity by sharing what he has with those less fortunate than himself. In other words, he should embrace a communal lifestyle. In fact, he should apply himself in the individualistic sense as vigorously as possible in the market so that he can contribute significantly to the community and raise it up. One can create more material wealth for the community through capitalism. In this imaginary it is true that the fittest competitors have a rightful advantage. Thus, when they seize the opportunities that cross their paths, hard work and practicality prepare the way for their success. The liberal market is a proving ground for their worth as individuals and members of the Muslim community. It would be impractical and a denial of the natural superiority of some over others to assert that the capitalist system itself is corrupt and in need of correction. Once the individual understands that the individualistic and communal aspects of himself are separable depending on the context he finds himself in, he will be able to


improve himself and the condition of the Muslim community. This distinction is something that he can learn by understanding certain truths about the absoluteness of God, who is not only the creator of all things but also the rightful owner of everything in the universe. The confusion and discouragement that one may feel from the pressure of work and society can be cleared away once one makes it his goal to please God by helping others. In this imaginary it is true that this is a troubling time with many contradictions between material and moral values; however, with the right attitude one can heighten his moral virtue by increasing his material wealth. Likewise, poor believers can find solace in the notion that their labor, their individual efforts, are not wasted if they cannot afford high standards of living because they share the same purpose as the rich in pleasing God by contributing to the overall wealth of society. In the imaginary put forward by Şen the Muslim community in Turkey can return to the high level of morality it enjoyed in the past when people choose lifestyles that emphasize communal commitments, which carry their own logic and recompense for God rewards individual efforts in the afterlife. Thus, people should embrace capitalism because the generation and sharing of material wealth is a means to please God. Finding the right lifestyle for oneself is a moral responsibility that one has toward the community. If one is intent on fulfilling this responsibility he will seek to strengthen both his individualistic and communal sides so that each one can feed and inspire the other.




Burhan has contradictory descriptions of jihad and individualism that reveal a confused attitude toward the values of individualism and communalism which helps to explain his appreciation of capitalism. First, I will describe what jihad and individualism mean to him, and I will show how these concepts contradict. Next, I will explain the importance of this contradiction as the foundation on which Burhan builds the connection between individualism and communalism. After that, I will show how this connection leads to his appreciation of capitalism.

Spiritual Reward vs. Financial Gain

Burhan's ideas of jihad and individualism both appear as motivating factors that push him in the same direction; however, the ultimate goals to which they lead expose confusion in his notion of why he should work. First, Jihad is a personal struggle that he projects outward toward the rest of humanity by claiming others’ happiness as his reward, which he collects not only by improving workers financial capabilities but also their spiritual lives. Next, Burhan describes individualism as the driving force behind individualism in such a way that without it there would be no reason to work because he equates individualism with personal material gain. After elaborating these points, I will


show how these ideas clash and create confusion about what brings him the most happiness from work. Although Şen claims that the classical conception of jihad is a struggle with one’s own conscience to do what is morally correct, Burhan takes the view that by bringing happiness to his workers he is making himself happy and this is jihad. He claims that when he opens business operations in a foreign country, he can employ four hundred to six hundred new workers. Even if these workers are non-Turkish and non-Muslim, he draws great joy from the fact that they are drawing salaries and living with a sense of pride that he can see on their smiling faces. These workers can afford better lives for themselves and for their families. In addition to this, he teaches them to live as ethical human beings at the workplace, which should also bring them happiness. This kind of instruction, which he says involves sometimes shouting at the workers, includes lessons in honesty, conservation, and cleanliness. Workers have an ethical responsibility to work hard especially because he is paying them for their time. Workers often claim that they can do things that they really cannot. “They are lying unfortunately. That’s why I became more religious; otherwise, how could I teach them that they should not lie but unfortunately if he does not lie he cannot find work.” He tells them that they should not waste water, electricity, or materials because those things belong not only to him but to humanity. Wastefulness is on par with polluting and it is a responsibility of Islam not to waste. Furthermore, he shouts at his workers to keep themselves clean when they come to work; “otherwise, you cannot be a Muslim; you cannot even be a human being.” When the workers learn these values and


they earn money for themselves, they feel happy. Burhan is struggling for their happiness by employing them and expanding his business operations. Burhan, who is so adamantly opposed to communism that he claims he once hated all things relating to Russia, says that without individualism there would be absolutely no reason to work. Furthermore, Burhan states that God did not create everyone equal, which amounts to the notion that God never intended for people to have equality so it would be sacrilege to desire such a thing. He asks, “I will work like a bee and everybody will be equal? Why should I work?” One can see that he equates individualism with the desire and capacity for material gain, and he conceptualizes this in a hierarchical sense in which God has obviously favored the rich as exhibited through their natural talent for making money. One can gather from this that Burhan would not work if there were no material reward or if the material compensation were inadequate for his needs since one’s God given abilities should not only be recognized by others but scaled according to a market value which gives one his worth relative to the rest of society. Burhan’s explanation for what motivates him to work bears a serious contradiction in spiritual and material values that could cause one to confuse the place that Burhan gives ethics in business. If jihad, bringing happiness to others, were so important to him, he could not claim that there would be no reason to work if labor only provided equal satisfaction of everyone’s needs. It may be possible to make workers happy and gain one’s own material wealth at the same time, but Burhan presents such extreme versions of each goal that he does not leave space for these motivating factors to coexist. It appears that in seeking his own material gain, Burhan also derives spiritual satisfaction from employing and instructing workers. However, it is clear that he would stop working


if there were no material reward suitable to his expectations whereas he would not stop working if workers revealed that they indeed were not happy with the salaries or “ethical” instruction they received. Obviously, Burhan prioritizes the ethical responsibility he has in satisfying his own needs, yet his failure to state this as a fact could mislead one into thinking that he is using his business merely as a platform for his personal spiritual development. From Burhan’s speech one can easily see the contradiction that he creates between his understandings of jihad and individualism. He claims that he works to both make others happy and make money for himself; however, he describes these goals in such a way that they do not complement each other. Instead, he depicts individualism and ethics as existing in two separate spheres. In the first sphere, businessmen should be free to earn as much money as possible according to their abilities. In the second sphere, they should show concern for the happiness and spirituality of workers, which involves paying them and demanding that they abide by certain rules for grooming and conservation while at work. It would appear that the only thing that sets Burhan off from non-Islamic businessmen in terms of ethics is that he draws a profit, pays wages, and enforces rules for employee conduct in a way that gives him spiritual satisfaction whereas non-Islamic businessmen do the same thing as a matter of course.

Community in the Marketplace

The contradiction between individualistic profit seeking and religiously inspired company building allows Burhan to create a link between individualism and


communalism that satisfies his Islamic work ethic. First, it introduces the possibility that the individual has a responsibility to himself and to the community in working hard so that he takes care of his own needs and contributes to the improvement of others. Second, it helps to explain the importance of zakat for competitive individuals in redistributing their wealth to the community. Third, he suggests that the marketplace, where individualistic actors interact with each other, provides people with the opportunity to communicate and learn about others, resulting in better understanding and peaceful, productive relationships. Burhan states that he works for the material wealth that he gains, and he works because by making others happy he satisfies a spiritual calling. Thus, the individual and community are linked in a vague discussion of personal responsibility and ethics. Burhan states, “People can only be happy if they have moral values and money.” The way to attain both of these things is through hard work. This includes the rich and the poor alike. The communal bond that workers and employers share is contractual for Burhan, who claims that his religious duty of jihad is satisfied by paying workers their wages, and that workers have an ethical responsibility to perform their jobs well and conserve his supplies. This workplace conception of community suggests that because workers and employers, who are all seeking their own individualistic ends, are contributing to the material gain of each other, the basis of a community exists. Burhan is very clear in his opposition to the idea of equality, but he claims that if rich men pay their zakat their will be balance in society. When one considers the importance that Burhan gives to the individual and his pursuit of wealth, one should have a clearer understanding of what he means by balance and how this relates individualism with


community. Because people are not born with the same abilities, it is natural that some make more money than others. Furthermore, one should expect to have a higher standard of living if he possesses superior skills, or he would not work. In the same way that working to the fullest extent of one’s abilities is a personal responsibility that links the individual with the community, paying zakat is an individual requirement that draws one into community with those less fortunate than he is. Also, in the same way that one primarily seeks his own happiness through labor, “the more you give in this life, the more richly you will be rewarded in the afterlife,” according to Burhan, who advises everyone to pay more than the required two point five percent of one’s profits as zakat. He says that the rich and the poor live in different conditions, so they have different thoughts and perspectives about the world. For example, “poor people don’t shower everyday so how could they have the same way of thinking as the rich?” Thus, it stands to reason that the amount of money to meet the needs of a poor man’s conception of happiness is much lower than that needed to meet the rich man’s needs. Balance is struck in the fact that there is already such great disparity in the nature of individuals, whose primary experience with the community depends on the value of their labor. Burhan attributes negative attitudes toward Islamists to the general lack of communication between different groups. He describes how his own negative ideas about Russians were dispelled after he began doing business in Russia. He adds that in his dealings with non-Turkish people and non-MUSIAD members, the people he dealt with were shocked that Turkey and a MUSIAD member were so modern. Thus, through their interaction in the market, people were able to gain a positive understanding of each other that brought them together on a shared plane. The individualistic pursuit of wealth


drives one into the market, where he is compelled to discover his common competitor. In his bold humanity, he must recognize the likeness he bears to those who are also engaged in productive labor, for those who abide by the standards of ethical business can dwell as brothers despite their differences in nationality, culture, or class. It is clear that Burhan’s primary concern in business is the happiness he feels in amassing as much material wealth as he possibly can, and he feels justified in such pursuit because his abilities are God given and because he brings happiness to his workers by providing them with incomes. His individualistic perspective links to communalism vaguely through the idea that entrepreneurs and businessmen contribute to each other’s gain in a shared space of peace and understanding, where balance is achieved as a market value so determines. The common thread that draws everyone together into a community is the notion that trustworthy individuals maintain a system on Earth, like that maintained elsewhere by God, in which hard work pays off.

The Bourgeois Burden

The place that Burhan gives to the individual as a responsible member of the Muslim community allows him to hold capitalism in great esteem because it facilitates individual effort and the rewards that supposedly follow such effort. First, in Burhan’s conviction that money and material wealth are necessary for happiness, he implies that capitalism is the only way to create wealth. The next way that he places capitalism in the center of his discourse is that he describes society as naturally divided into a hierarchy of most productive to least productive, and the market economy is the logical result of this natural


division. Finally, he sees capitalism as the path towards and the practice of modernity, without which society cannot advance. Although Burhan states that Turkey will have difficulties maintaining its traditional moral values as it grows economically, he is quite clear that in order to be happy one must have money and moral values. He is critical of Islamists who have advocated socialist ideas because in his opinion these ideas are not practical or realistic. As stated earlier, he could not imagine himself working in communist Russia because he cannot stand the thought of working hard only to have the same living standards as everyone else. Capitalism appears as the only logical, practical, and ethical way to generate wealth. Thus, capitalism is the only economic system that can facilitate the happiness of the community even as morality falls into decay. Class distinction is something that Burhan carries like a badge to signify the important position he has in society as a model for the community. “When I was passing a motorcyclist in traffic,” Burhan said, “the man gave me a look and said ‘I know how you got your Mercedes.’ I told him I pay my taxes and I pay my zakat.” Burhan not only appreciates his wealth, he also uses it as a mark of his superiority. He claims that poor people cannot have the same way of thinking as the rich because the poor do not shower everyday. He creates the image of his workers, i.e. the poor, as dirty, dishonest children who need him to supply them with jobs and moral instruction. The market rewards individuals according to their productivity, which comes naturally as each person possesses God given skills. Thus, it is only natural that a predefined hierarchy with the bourgeoisie on top would thrive in such a system.


Finally, for Burhan capitalism is the economic system of modernity, in which everyone now has the opportunity to find the happiness that comes with money and morality. He believes that entrepreneurs are pioneers of modernization and that they should be models for society. He credits Ataturk for Turkey’s industrialization and high living standards compared to other middle-eastern countries. Furthermore, he claims that Ataturk had both a modern and an Islamic vision for Turkey that was derailed by an intransigent bureaucracy. A smoothly running free-market is what Turkey needs to get back on track with the vision that Ataturk had for the country. One can only affirm his commitment to modernization by accepting and boldly participating in the capitalist economy. Carrying this through with the guidance of Islam is only natural because according to Burhan, “Muslim means modern.” That he is a businessman makes it obvious that Burhan has a high opinion of capitalism in general, but by considering the value that he places on the individual in the context of community responsibility, one can gain a clearer picture of what capitalism means for him. The logic that he uses to tie money with happiness is the same as that which identifies the failure of communism with philosophers’ dreams. In other words, it is natural that people need greater and greater material gains if they are to expend their energy on anything worthwhile because this is a material world only maintained by the enterprising spirit of the upper echelon of a predestined hierarchy. This class of superior beings uses capitalism to carry the lower orders into modernity so that they too can experience what it means to be truly human.



What Burhan’s ideas contribute to a possible Islamic imaginary is an extremely conservative work ethic that equates one’s value as a human being with his capacity and drive to earn money for himself in the market economy. In describing this work ethic, he defines what it means to be a good Muslim in terms of labor and wealth. He outlines the significance of social-economic class in the development of humanity, which can only exist in the presence of wealth and cleanliness. Also, he puts forward the idea that community relations are strengthened by the interaction of competitive individuals in the market where ethical values are smart business. He states that without money one cannot be a good Muslim. “To be a good Muslim, to go on the hajj, and to give zakat, you should have money. It means that the Muslim faith motivates you to be rich. To be a good Muslim you should be rich.” As stated above, employers and employees have a responsibility toward each other to work hard because they each contribute to the other’s well-being. If one applies himself with the abilities he has been granted from God and he works in an ethical manner, he is certain to find a reasonable position in the social and spiritual hierarchy. On the other hand, if he is lazy or dishonest, he will not be able to make money, he will not contribute to the wealth of the community, and he will not be rewarded for his behavior in the afterlife. In terms of class in Burhan’s imagination, the bourgeoisie plays an important role in guiding the lower classes toward a dignified level of development to which all Muslims would naturally aspire. Those who have been graced with the skills to open and operate businesses are natural leaders who can live as models for the rest of the community. The


community should try to work hard and live like the bourgeoisie so that they may enjoy the same sense of spiritual accomplishment even if they cannot experience the same level of material comfort. The bourgeoisie represents cleanliness in both the physical and spiritual senses while the poor border on an accursed state of filth, odor, and general depravity, which they can only escape by entering the modern world managed for them by the upper class. What Burhan says also encourages believers to imagine that the Muslim community has relationships that are rooted in market relations, including the relationships that one forms in business dealings, the relationships between workers and employers, and the relationships between coworkers. In the market there is a natural logic reinforced in the afterlife which claims that the more you put in, the more you get back in return. This assumes that people will behave fairly and honestly in their relationships because the most wealth can be gained from an ethically bound system of social-economic relationships. Such a conception of the market has a universal appeal that erodes the barriers erected by class, nationality, and even religion. However, members of the Muslim community can feel emboldened by the notion that the type of ethical market relations in question are most fully realized through Islamic values since Islam is the most modern religion. The work ethic that Burhan puts forward for the Muslim community could be an important part of an evolving imaginary. This work ethic arises from a highly materialistic conception of individualism that envisions money as an essential component of one’s humanity. This work ethic takes the Islamic bourgeoisie as its model because these entrepreneurs are hard-working pioneers of modernity and justice. Finally, this


work ethic leads individuals into the market, where they form meaningful relationships with others that bolster the Muslim community.




Ağca's notion of morality, which has both objective and subjective elements, allows him to depict the Turkish Muslim experience with global capitalism as a work in progress whose challenges will be overcome with an Islamic understanding of the contractual protection of the individual and an inclusive approach to community that negates the ethnic and doctrinal differences of Turkish Muslims. I will begin by explaining Ağca's conception of the dual nature of morality and will show how this relates to tradition and modernity in the Turkish context. Then, I will show the importance that Ağca gives to the individual in society by focusing on his regard for contracts which carry varying moral weight depending on whether they are conceptualized in Islamic or modern bureaucratic terms. Finally, I will discuss how according to Ağca the stasis of core values and the evolution of historical boundaries in thought contribute toward the unity of the diverse Muslim community that is Turkey.

The Duality of Morality

Ağca’s idea of the dual nature of morality allows him to relate Islamic tradition and the modernity of global capitalism in a way that permits the Islamic businessman to act as an ethical agent of what would appear to be a universally accepted economic system. First, he explains in what way and with what intentions it is good to become rich in


Turkey. Second, he suggests that capitalism has been growing more humane due to the changing nature of morality. Third, he claims that traditional communal practices alleviate the social ills commonly associated with capitalism. Ağca says that the objective part of morality rests in the fact that every society has notions of justice and truthfulness, but the subjective part concerns how people define these things like justice. He claims that with the emergence of capitalism in Turkey, as in all developing countries, moral questions have arisen and MUSIAD intends to deal with these issues. He states that MUSIAD members are not guided by Islam per se, but by universally accepted values that reach into every aspect of their lives, including their business lives and their personal relationships. Furthermore, he states Turkey can avoid many of the negative aspects associated with the history of capitalism in the West because “there is now a more universal consensus on what is morally right and what is morally wrong so you wouldn’t expect the same outcome as you have from the new developing countries.” For Ağca, the ethical men who follow this universal standard stand as proof that being rich or pursuing wealth is not necessarily good or bad. It is good to become rich if one does so honestly and fairly. The traditional values found in Islam go hand in hand with what has come to be universally accepted in business. This is possible because the world of commerce has grown more humane due to the subjectivity of morality. For example, he says that colonialism, slavery, and child labor are no longer acceptable. Ağca is basically saying that things like slavery and child labor have practically ceased to exist not because of political or economic expedience but because people have naturally come to see those things as immoral. He negates the long violent history of labor activism that has accompanied the evolution of western


democracy. In other words, there may be nothing essentially wrong with slavery because society’s moral view of it could change, in which case it would cease to exist. Turkey is fortunately encountering the global market at a high point in the moral assessment of capitalism. Thus, Turkey is starting its development at a higher moral level than those experienced by the west and the result will also be advantageous for Turkey. This leaves the social ills of capitalism that result in connection with the great disparity in wealth between the rich and the poor, but Ağca claims that these things are balanced in Turkey by community traditions which include paying zakat and caring for family members. Ağca says that wealth is cycled through the community because many people give their money to charity. Also, there is a large family structure that maintains close ties, so people have a strong support network to fall back on in times of financial or even spiritual crisis. Therefore, he asserts that Turkey does not have problems between the rich and the poor to the same extent as that in western countries because moral tradition is equipped to deal with modern problems. The moral standards that guide the Islamic businessman are a combination of modern and traditional values. These businessmen are stepping into the market at a high point in business ethics which they are also able to apply in their personal and social lives. Thus, in Ağca’s terms, the MUSIAD member earns his wealth as an ethical businessman in any other country would and he cycles his wealth through the nation of believers according to Turkish and Islamic tradition. In other words, the moral standard attained in present day global capitalism and the high moral standard inherent in Islam allow the Islamic businessman to be both modern and traditional as he negotiates his position in the market.


A New Social Contract

The importance that Ağca gives to the individual in society is brought out in his regard for contracts which hold a significant place in Islamic tradition. I will begin by explaining in Ağca’s words why such a contract is necessary in business. I will continue with an explanation for the moral superiority that a contract conceptualized as Islamic has over the secular bureaucratic contract. Finally, I will discuss how this shows that he places the individual above the community. Ağca argues that without contracts there is not just corruption in the relations between employers and employees but also a deterioration in the business environment in general. When you have an unregistered economy you have no bills of sale or credit between actors because it is not recorded. Then, if there is a dispute you cannot go to court so you have a lot of problems. In an unregistered economy you cannot develop partnerships because one person cannot trust another person if there is no record of any transactions. This deterioration in the business environment is a matter of course that people have received from their parents so they continue to operate in this way, but it is also part of the legal environment in Turkey according to Ağca. He blames high taxes and strict regulations for the large degree of unregistered business in Turkey. Although the laws and procedures that funnel through the bureaucracy are also contracts in the sense that they legally bind businessmen and employers to fulfill their responsibilities, these laws have an immoral nature because they do not account for the realities of business needs and they unfairly limit the endeavors of entrepreneurs. He believes that the burden of high taxes and strict regulations should be lifted so that entrepreneurs can officially


register their businesses. After that, they can enter into contracts with other businessmen and workers that would carry more moral weight because those contracts better suit the needs of those involved. Ağca’s call for the revival of the contract shows that he values the individual to an extent that places him above the community. He says that the most important thing in a society is that the rights of the individual are not violated. By rejecting state regulation, which blankets large areas of business, in favor of contracts that actors are free to personalize, the individual gains the ability to establish his own rights relative to others. He can protect himself from other businessmen, workers, and the state itself. Nobody knows his own interests better than himself, so he should have the ability to pursue and protect those interests. Furthermore, when individuals are able to benefit from such an ethical arrangement, the society will also develop accordingly. Ağca says that it is an unfortunate reality that MUSIAD cannot control whether its members have fully registered their businesses with the state. In fact, he says that it cannot be expected to do so if even the state itself cannot monitor all the businesses in Turkey. His primary concern is not seeing that the state put an end to the unregistered economy. Rather, he values the rights of the individual businessman. Therefore, it is now more important that MUSIAD members be protected from undue state regulation. Once this is accomplished, members can be expected to freely register their businesses with the state, and then, they will enter into contracts of their own designs that express their personal needs and ethical considerations.


Community Expansion

According to Ağca the continuance of core values and the deterioration of historical boundaries in sect and ethnicity act to unify the diversity of Turkey, which he claims is a Muslim community in every sense of the word. First, the core values that make one a Muslim resemble the objective side of morality in that one need only to ascribe to some abstract principles to belong to the side of religion and morality. Second, he claims that there are no ethnic divisions in Turkey although there are some lingering memories of an unpleasant past. Third, he says that individuals form the Muslim community through their interaction, in any sense of the word. Ağca maintains a very broad view of what it means to be Muslim and he rejects the term Islamic as an adjective to describe MUSIAD and its members. Like Şen, he says that the basic texts provide the foundation for the faith but the interpretations that one could give to these texts are numerous, so nobody should claim a monopoly on the religion, which is what is implied by the term Islamic. The broad principles that can be derived from interpretations of the texts are similar to the notion of objective morality, which was discussed above. Everyone holds beliefs centered around concepts such as justice. However, whereas the evolution of the subjective element of morality has led to universal consensus in the international business community, the Muslim community in Turkey draws its strength from the de-emphasis of the more specific subjective interpretations of Islam. Although the international business community and the Muslim community in Turkey seem to approach morality from opposite directions, they both tend toward consensus and integration.


Ağca’s inclusive attitude also addresses the subject of ethnicity. “I believe that Turkey today does not have any ethnic imposition on any sub-cultural minority here,” he says. He states that in the south-eastern part of Turkey economic underdevelopment has resulted in “grievances” that can be remedied with a combination of economic growth in the region and time, which is necessary for the aggrieved to forget the problems of the past which have resulted in ideological differences. If the state makes a sincere effort to improve the region, such a forgetting will be possible. Thus, the Muslim community in Turkey, which already lacks an ethnic dimension, will become even stronger. By looking through a modern lens, Ağca imagines any interaction between Muslims as the basis for a Muslim community. The definition of all those who accept the basic principles of Islam as Muslim insures that these Muslims will interact to a tremendous degree in secular situations. However, the notion that these people are instilled with social traditions guided by Islam makes seemingly secular interaction a significant reenforcement for the community. This notion corresponds to Burhan's idea that through interaction in the marketplace people find common ground on which to form significant relationships with each other. Ağca sees Turkish, Islamic, tradition as a powerful force in the contemporary life of the nation which has overcome divisions of sect and ethnicity by emphasizing the most basic moral values of the religion. These divisions have further been reduced by the interactions of individuals, in which according to Ağca there is social meaning if the individuals apply justice to their relations. The Muslim community has benefited from the continued strength of traditional values and modern moral values as experienced


through participation in the global market. The result for Ağca is a nation that is itself the epitome of the Muslim community.


One idea that stands out here is that Islam precedes and anticipates changes in subjectivity as capitalism becomes more pronounced in society. The answers to contemporary problems have always been there and as the world comes closer to a universal standard of morality, it becomes easier for Islamic businessmen to relate to and participate in the global economic system because that universal standard that has developed with the evolution in subjective morality is itself coming closer to Islam, which at its base protects individual rights according to Ağca. Thus, what would appear as the normal operation of capitalism is simply a sign for the fruition of Islam, in which the efficient and ethical standards for business are inherent and reach further to protect and enrich individuals whose mere interaction makes up the community. For the Islamic imaginary this goes beyond suggesting that there is no inherent conflict between Islam and capitalism to depict a modern economic system that finally coincides with the objective and unchanging values of the religion. For Ağca this is apparent because Islamic businessmen are simply applying the same standards of behavior towards their business activities that they would maintain in their daily social and family relationships. This is natural for these businessmen who are now compelled to a lesser extent by unfortunate realities rooted in the struggle for survival posed by


government inefficiency and the need to operate one’s business without fully registering with the state. The imaginary that Ağca puts forward for the Muslim community envisions the individual having priority over the community in Islam. Ağca claims that a change in the individual should bring about a change in society and for this to occur the rights of the individual must be protected so that he may have the opportunity to pursue and experience his own moral development. Islam carries within it rights that protect the individual; for example, the idea of the contract protects individual rights in business, which build a sense of trust and obligation between economic actors and results in the general growth and development of the economy, which in turn benefits the community. Ağca would have people imagine that any interaction between Muslims forms the basis for a Muslim community. As Ağca broadens the idea of what it means to be a member of the Muslim community, he enlarges the space in which individuals interact as members of the community. This clearly moves interaction beyond the hallowed spaces of the family home, the mosque complex, or other spaces with an easily identifiable religious aspect into the market, where relations had been conceptualized as secular. Thus, even if people spend less time with their families or less time at their local mosque, they need not feel removed from their places in the community. One’s participation in life as a consumer, worker, or employer insures that he is a member of the Muslim community in Turkey. The imaginary that Ağca presents shows individuals engaged in daily life, which is infused with both capitalism in its most moral incarnation and Islam as it has always been. The natural crossover of these two things means that whatever these individuals


do in the market, they are acting as members of the community of believers. However, for them to act as such they must have their rights as individuals protected, and this is what the fusion of contemporary capitalism and Islam has resulted in, the protection of the individual. Being able to act and grow as individuals sets the ethical foundation for a strong and just community.




Adamoğlu has a confused view of liberal capitalism that prevents him from blaming the capitalist system itself for what he sees as Turkey’s two biggest problems, the loss of faith among the Turkish youth and the widening gap between the rich and the poor and that results in a very non-liberal role for the government in solving these problems. First, I will discuss what the mysterious decline of religiosity means for the Muslim community and how it relates to individualism. Next, I will review Adamoğlu's view that the income gap is a result of people not being true Muslims. Then, I will describe the role that the government should play in solving these problems.

The Need for Greater Religiosity The loss of religiosity means that the Muslim community has grown smaller in Adamoğlu’s opinion and it is in need of serious reform. He argues that in his father’s time all students fasted during the holy month of Ramadan, but just a few years ago when he was in school, only he and a small number of his friends could be seen fasting at school. This indicates a general lack of religiosity among Turkish youth, who lie about attending prayers at the mosque just so that they can visit with their friends. Adamoğlu states that people who do not follow the rules of Islam, which include praying and fasting, are not real Muslims. In fact, he states that Turkey is a country that is only Muslim in name. He says that capitalism has changed everything. When a man is poor,


he follows all the rules; on the other hand, when a man becomes rich he stops caring about the requirements of Islam. In addition, when one has work to do or has to travel for work he does not always have time to attend to his prayers or other duties and in this way he loses touch with the religion. The members of MUSIAD however try to follow all of the rules. This suggests that capitalism itself is not responsible for the loss of religiosity because MUSIAD members strongly maintain their duties to God. This leaves the real cause as a mystery that would not be solved by eliminating capitalism. Adamoğlu says that a father can tell his children that they must fast to be good Muslims, but he cannot force them to fast. In other words, it is the individual choice and responsibility of each person to abide by the dictates of the religion. Thus, he implies that the loss of religiosity is a failure on the part of the individual in his choices as a free and self-accountable human. Although Adamoğlu’s definition of what it means to be Muslim is not as inclusive as Şen’s, this notion of individual choice coincides with Şen’s idea of lifestyle and the bad choices that people are making these days. Therefore, it is not capitalism’s fault that the rich man in Adamoğlu’s example above has lost his religion, but it is the fact that now that he is rich he has more choices in terms of lifestyle and he has chosen poorly. Although Adamoğlu sees a person’s choice to fast or not as one’s own individual right that cannot be forced, he does not equate this with individualism, which he completely disagrees with. He claims that there can be no progress if people do not think about the others around them. He claims that as a sign of increased individualism people do not know their neighbors. However, he does not dwell on this point and instead prefers to discuss the financial advantages of working with partners rather than working alone.


Partnership seems to be synonymous with community. He says that in a persons lifetime he could build ten buildings by himself, but with partners he could build one hundred buildings and be richer for it. Thus, community means working together in a kind of partnership in which one is directly involved in the affairs of another for the mutual benefit of each. The reason that people have a better understanding of their business partners these days than they have of their neighbors may be due to the fact that it is often easier to choose the people you enter into business with than it is to choose who you become neighbors with. Furthermore, one may understand from the differences in his and his neighbor’s lifestyles that he has little or nothing to gain from any interaction with that person. The main contradiction here rests in the notions that individuals must be free to choose their own lifestyles and relationships, but individualism is a bad thing for society. This suggests that Adamoğlu's conception of individualism is confused and limited. Without being able to define individualism, he also fails to set the boundaries for communalism. The basic formula stands as such; if one acts alone, he is behaving individualistically and this is bad; if one acts together with others, he is behaving communalistically and this is good. The people who have maintained their religious values work together and this in itself shows their concern for the community. On the other hand, those who no longer adhere to the requirements of Islam, not real Muslims, avoid working with others and in this way show no regard for the Muslim community.


An Islamic Panacea

Adamoğlu says that the other cause for the decline of Turkish society is the economy. He claims that there are rich people and poor people, but there is no middle-class. He says that if everyone paid zakat, there would be no problems because there would be no problems between the rich and the poor. There would be no thieves. For example, he says shop owners in Mecca leave their doors open when they go to the mosque at prayer time. He continues that if you did the same thing in Istanbul, you would find your store empty when you returned from the mosque. He claims that this is because Turkish people are not living as real Muslims. This assumes that Mecca is made up of real Muslims, who pay zakat, and that there are no problems between rich and poor there. One can see that Adamoğlu does not blame capitalism for any problems between the rich and the poor or for the gap between them. Instead, the fact that people are not living as good Muslims is the cause of the problem. He states this again when he says that watching high society rich people on television results in a neurotic envy by the poor. He suggests that extravagant shows of wealth disqualify one from true membership in the Muslim community. (This brings to mind the royalty of Saudi Arabia and makes one wonder who exactly in Mecca is living as a Muslim according to Adamoğlu.) He claims that there would be equality if everyone lived as he should. Although several MUSIAD members see taxes and state regulation as the biggest obstacle to business in Turkey, Adamoğlu blames interest for the economic imbalance in Turkey, which coincides with typical Islamic economic thought. He explains that interest is more profitable for an individual than operating a business so people do not open


businesses. He adds that one of his neighbors is a jeweler who employs sixty men, but he does not think of them as just sixty workers because they also support their families, which are each composed of five people. So this jeweler feels responsible for approximately three hundred people. He says that the man knows that he could make more money by putting his money in the bank and drawing interest but it is more important for him that three hundred people live their lives. This story suggests that individuals like Adamoğlu’s neighbor are using the market as it should be used. In other words, this is a positive example of capitalism without individualism because the jeweler is not only thinking of himself, and he is making a sacrifice for others when he could be making more money. Even though he states that there are rich and poor people but no middle class, he may have a very broad idea of what it means to be rich. Until recently his father had been the leader of the AKP in the Fatih district of Istanbul and he assisted in handing out money to the poor. However, he says that they did not let people come to them and tell them that they were poor. Instead, the party went to the people’s homes to see the conditions that they were living in. Some of the people were obviously lying according to Adamoğlu because they had nice cell phones or plasma televisions. The criteria that one must meet to qualify as poor is not clear but this suggests that people must be in desperate conditions to deserve any help from those interested in the community.


Small Government vs. Welfare for the Rich

Although one member claims that social problems in Turkey are minimal because the state provides good health care and education, the role that Adamoğlu imagines for the government in solving the social problems of Turkey reflects his confusion over the concept of liberalism. He claims that if the government is composed of good Muslims who are doing a good job, in the way that the current government practically is, it is unnecessary to pay zakat if one pays his taxes because it would be like paying tax twice. In other words, the Muslim government would redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor through taxes in the same way zakat benefits those in need. Adamoğlu disagrees with the other MUSIAD members in this regard, for Şen and Burhan are insistent that one must pay taxes to the state and pay zakat. This suggests that in Adamoğlu’s imagination there is a stronger connection between the state if well led and the religious community. Şen and Burhan insist that satisfying the state and satisfying Islam’s requirements cannot be done in the same stroke. Adamoğlu, who is also part of the Fetullah Gulen movement, says that if someone like Gulen wanted to build a school in the Mecidiyekoy district of Istanbul the government should help him. It would be difficult to open a school there because there is no space so one would have to buy expensive property. Adamoğlu says that the government could help by forcing the property owner to sell his property for half of what it is worth; on the other hand, the government could help the property owner too by re-zoning his property so that it could be used to build both a school and a shopping center. This would make it more profitable for the owner to sell or develop. This shows that Adamoğlu would not


mind the government’s interference in the normal operations of the market in determining the price of property and it creates the possibility that the state could choose its favorites in the development project. In other words, the state could help certain property owners to become wealthier. Ironically, the picture often painted of MUSIAD by people like Ağca is that the organization grew out of opposition to state sponsored enterprises. Although this aspect of government interference does not appear to be very liberal, Adamoğlu’s idea of Gulen building a school does express the notion that private enterprise could do a better, more efficient job at satisfying societal needs that were once the preserve of the state, such as the building and operation of schools. Another idea that shows a contradictory understanding of the states role in solving social-economic problems appears in a proverb that Adamoğlu claims Prime Minister Erdoğan is fond of: Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he can eat for a lifetime. The basic idea is that individuals should be self-reliant rather than depend on the state’s assistance. This does not coincide with his idea that the state, when led by good Muslims, should manage the redistribution of wealth as if it were zakat. This notion of individualistic self-reliance is very liberal in the sense that it aims to dramatically decrease the state’s role in correcting social-economic problems. However, at the same time Adamoğlu imagines the state having a large role in assisting the private sphere in creating new jobs for people.



For the imaginary of the Muslim community this would seem to create some confusion at first sight. However, one may see this not as an attempt to redefine things like liberalism or individualism systematically, but to take more of an ad hoc approach to the social and economic dilemmas of Turkey. For example, individualism describes the selfish, lonely pursuit of wealth, and it can be remedied by forming partnerships, which are more profitable anyway. This is the basis of community. Furthermore, to qualify as a member of the Muslim community, it is not enough as Şen or Ağca suggest just to believe, but one must closely follow specific rules of the religion. Thus, one can see that a certain kind of participation is required to be a member of the Muslim community in Turkey. Striking the word individualism from the acceptable lexicon of the Muslim community does not remove the concepts of individual choice and responsibility, which are both key to the imaginary posed by Adamoğlu. He implies that everyone should be self-reliant and independent. This creates a bigger burden of proof when it comes to showing one’s claim to being a true Muslim because one has the choice and the responsibility to follow the rules and practices of Adamoğlu’s conception of Islam. This idea has two functions. First, it acts to protect the rights of individuals, who cannot be forced as others would have them live. Second, they prove their worth as Members of the Muslim community. If everyone lived as a true Muslim should, there would be no problems in society according to Adamoğlu. This allows the true Muslims to blame the so-called Muslims


for things such as inequality, ignorance, and crime. The real Muslims care about others in ways that the false Muslims do not. This is evident from the fact that people who are only Muslim in name do not pay zakat, which would be directly payable to the state in the form of taxes if the government were also composed of real Muslims. Thus, one should not imagine that any of the problems in capitalist Turkey could not be solved by turning completely to Islam. Adamoğlu also imagines a complex role for the state, which should assist entrepreneurs but leave the rest of society to fend for itself. The state should help businessmen in endeavors that have some social function like a school. This would not be like the favoritism shown to certain industrialists by the state in the twentieth century. This would be more like a partnership between an honest, socially concerned government and a businessman who seeks to improve his community.




As stated above I have focused on only four individuals because the depth of their responses provides for the most significant insight into their attitudes. Here, I will briefly summarize the responses of the other members that I interviewed and I will show how all of the interviewees relate. In addition, I will discuss ways in which the interviewed group as a whole fits into the literature reviewed in the introduction to this thesis. Although the attitudes of most of those interviewed resemble one, another, or a combination of the four previously named, there are two interviewees who stand out from the entire group. I will treat these two separately.

Summary of Those Interviewed

Cağlar agrees with Adamoğlu that capitalism comes with social problems and he sees Turkish society changing negatively to resemble that of the United States. However, he claims that because MUSIAD members are conservative and live in the Muslim way, they have not been corrupted by capitalism. Likewise, he shares Adamoğlu’s idea of good and bad Muslims but he also includes so-so Muslims. Cağlar agrees with Şen that employees should be treated like family although, like Burhan, he definitely has a profit motive in mind when he says that workers will not perform well or they will quit if they are not treated well. Treating others well means treating them as equals even though


people are not truly equal due to their varying skill levels and natural characters. Finally, Cağlar states that Ataturk did what was right for his time, but he would act differently if he were alive today. In other words, Ataturk would repeal the revolutionary cultural policies that he initiated because they are no longer necessary for Turkey’s industrial, economic development. Delikan is sure that there are no serious social problems in Turkey like there are in the United States. This is due to Turkey’s outstanding moral traditions and because of Turkish people’s Muslim faith. Although he admits that it is possible for the social situation to change for the worse, he has seen a lot of progress in Turkey in the last 15-20 years and he expects this progress to improve with the AKP government, which will fulfill Ataturk’s dreams. He feels that in the last 15-20 years there has been more equality in society because the government has made it easier for everyone to receive healthcare and education. Delikan's attitude towards social problems is similar to Ağca’s in that they both deny the existence of serious problems owing to the sharing and helping spirit of Turkish society. He also echoes the theme that equality is a matter of opportunity rather than living standard. Akdemir says that being conservative means following Turkish tradition and abiding by the rules of Islam. He and the other members of MUSIAD are conservative but he admits that he must sell alcohol, which is forbidden in Islam, because it is necessary for his business. This is reminiscent of Ağca’s discussion of the unregistered economy and the unfortunate reality that MUSIAD is unable to monitor its members to see that they are fully registered with the state as mandated by law. Here, Akdemir is faced with an unfortunate reality that causes him to break Islamic law rather than Turkish law. Both


Ağca and Akdemir suggest that for the sake of business these infractions are acceptable. He also repeats the theme that the government should assist business by lowering taxes and controlling utilities so that business can grow and unemployment can be alleviated. Like Adamoğlu, he rejects individualism, which he sees as synonymous with selfishness and lack of responsibility towards the community and the state, which would grow strong with a dynamic economy based on competition. Yegen agrees with Burhan that individualism is good because when you do the best for yourself, others benefit by default. However, he is very clear that he did not enter her business to help people. He argues, like Adamoğlu, that people should be taught to help themselves. He sees the education system as a big problem because students are not taught about Turkish tradition in school. Instead, students are taught to imitate the West, and they choose to live like Westerners. He adds that it was a mistake for Ataturk to change the alphabet from Arabic to Latin because it severed the connection of contemporary Turkish people to their Ottoman past. His ideas resemble Şen’s very closely because they both emphasize education as the way to maintain tradition because rightly educated people would choose to live according to tradition. Berk says that MUSIAD includes religion and it is easy for him to connect with MUSIAD because it is a friendly organization but he feels that things like religion and ethnicity are used politically to divide people. Therefore, although he feels that religion is important, it should not affect business relations or social organization. He does not speak of a Muslim community. Instead, he is concerned with and feels responsible for the Turkish nation. He states very clearly that his reason for being in MUSIAD is that it educates its members in the ways of business, provides useful connections with other


businessmen, and it represents his interests to the government. He claims that by contributing to the Turkish economy he is fulfilling his duty to make Turkey strong, which is necessary because Turkey is surrounded by enemies. His ideas are similar to Ağca’s idea of the Muslim community that includes all of Turkey. He wants the people of Turkey to be united like they were in the time of Ataturk, but the education system has failed the people and they do not know what democracy is. He claims that if everyone does what Ataturk said to do, Turkey could be richer and have peace. Avcı states that MUSIAD cannot be labeled as Islamic because some of its members go to the cinema or to swimming pools. He says that although Islam affects his life, the economy is governed by global economic rules. He supports globalization, but the unfortunate reality is that competition affects the poor negatively. However, he agrees with Ağca that there is not a social problem between the rich and the poor. People do not need to have equal living standards for there to be justice. The biggest obstacle to justice in Turkey is the legal system which has adopted laws from “outside” Turkey, specifically Switzerland and Italy. This apparent rejection of the “outside” does not coincide with his belief that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, mirroring Ataturk, will make everything right in Turkey by entering the European Union. Tanç, like Burhan, believes that individualism is important for the economy. He does not believe that people are equal or that they should have equal living standards, but he thinks everyone should have equal access to education and social services. He feels that in developing the economy it is possible to be capitalist and maintain traditional values. People should work and be productive to develop themselves and the community.


Çevik's ideas closely resemble Adamoğlu’s. He states that Islam affects the economy. He says that in Islam there is capitalism and communism at the same time. In other words, there is a market economy but one must pay his workers well. He equates individualism with selfishness. He argues that most people cannot earn a good living because they have no education. Education should include both religion and technology so that Turkey can continue to improve. If everyone paid zakat and taxes the country would improve. Kavlak thanks Turgut Ozal for opening up Turkey for international trade. However, he says that when the economy started getting better, people started caring less about tradition. When people get rich, they forget about ethics. This corresponds to Şen’s idea that people choose different and harmful lifestyles after they become rich. He does not agree that the Muslim community is divided because in MUSIAD some people are very rich and others are just normal but they all work together. People can only be equal before the law; otherwise, there would be communism, which is an impossibility. Özer repeats the theme of Turkey’s obvious moral superiority to the West with regard to the family. He also points out that countries like America have a strict system of rules but Islamic countries are more friendly. For example, “When people get stopped by police- they break the law but the police make deals with the drivers. Lawyers and judges cannot deny traditions.” This idea of working together extends to workers and business owners, who are responsible for each other’s benefit as described by Burhan. Özer also makes the confused argument that if the government lowers taxes, more people will be able to receive social services like healthcare.


Being Muslim and Capitalist

The brunt of this project lies in defining the various aspects of the Muslim community and capitalism from the perspective of the Islamic bourgeoisie, as represented by members of the business association MUSIAD. I will begin with a look at what has been said about the Muslim community and I will highlight points of disagreement in order to show the significance of this disagreement for a dominant imaginary. Next, I will reexamine the impression of capitalism created by the people I interviewed and I will consider areas in which concepts conflict. Finally, I will explain how these notions of the Muslim community and capitalism mesh. As a group these members are in agreement with mainstream Islamic economists, who favor a market economy with limited government regulation. They emphasize moral values but they also prioritize survival and efficiency in a way that may conflict with certain Islamic injunctions. For example, one man must sell alcohol for his business. In keeping with mainstream Islamic economic thought, everyone suggests that he is doing God’s will by showing concern for others. In addition, one can see the idea that God is the ultimate owner of all things. Şen states this explicitly and even Burhan, who revels in his personal wealth, hints at this when he claims that his capital does not only belong to him. This group sees hard work as a moral virtue, and its attitude towards employees is that workers must be treated fairly in a spirit of cooperation. The biggest area of disagreement concerning the Muslim community is over the definition of what it means to be a Muslim at all. There are three key ideas on this subject. The first is the most liberal. It states that a Muslim is anyone who accepts the


basic tenets of Islam as written in the holy texts. This does not require rigid adherence to specific rules for behavior and allows for a great deal of interpretation. The second idea scales the value of one’s Muslimness on three basic levels. One can be a good Muslim, a bad Muslim, or a so-so Muslim depending on how closely he abides by the rules and spirit of the religion. The third idea divides people along clear cut lines of Muslim and non-Muslim. This idea holds that one must follow the rules and practices of Islam or he is only a Muslim in name. This idea demands a high level of religiosity and it shows the least amount of tolerance. The difference between these conceptions of what it means to be Muslim is important because this could expand or limit the number and kind of people that one would desire and be willing to associate with in social, economic, and political contexts. Despite the fact that some members claim that Islam does not affect business or that they exist in separate spheres, the group as a whole agrees that “conservative” people are more trustworthy and friendlier than non-conservative people. Also, they show more concern for others. These qualities provide grounds for entering into partnerships and for justifying employee-employer relations. In other words religion plays a significant part in their attitudes toward business relations in terms of how they define themselves and others not only as good Muslims but also as good businessmen. The idea of what constitutes community is also important. Again, there are three ways in which this is conceptualized. The first is the most intimate and therefore the most difficult to maintain in an industrial society. This is the idea that community takes the form of familial relations. The core element is the family itself but this extends to include neighbors and townsmen, who are all to be treated as family. The next way that


this is seen is as an extension into market relations. Entering into business relations as business owners, partners, or workers constitutes the basis for community because everyone involved can see the shared values and goals of the others they are in contact with. The third way is an even more abstract extension of this. This concept of community is based on the interaction of Muslims in any sense or context. This shows a depersonalized understanding of community in which the burden of expectation on intimate relations is dramatically reduced because one is allowed to distance himself from such relations. The difference is important here because the kind of interaction that goes to make up the community also determines who can be in the community and which spaces are included in its make up. In the academic literature one important idea that stands out is that Islamic identity groups have formed as a reaction to certain people with religious lifestyles or living in rural areas being excluded from the Kemalist development project. The interview group is mixed in this regard. Some members, like Şen, Delikan, and Akdemir, refer to their rural roots. Others, like Burhan and Yegen, refer to prejudices against religious people. However, as a group these people do not present themselves as reacting to exclusion. On the contrary, they thank God for their natural abilities and they claim that people have equality of opportunity to obtain wealth. Although, they compare themselves with TUSIAD and ITO (the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce) to show that MUSIAD members are “small” and “independent,” several members, like Burhan, Akdemir, and Adamoğlu have considered becoming or are currently members of one of these other organizations. When discussing capitalism the largest area of disagreement concerns whether or not individualism is good or bad with regard to both economics and social values. When one


looks closely at these opinions he can see that the definitions that the members employ in their judgment of individualism are quite different. It must be stated that the members interviewed claim that liberalism is necessary and good from this and other statements made by the members, even those who claim to be opposed to individualism believe that the individual has inalienable rights that must not be violated through social pressure or state action. In other words, although a member can say that he is opposed to individualism, his belief in the freedom of individual choice and responsibility shows that he actually holds individualism in high regard. One member may claim quite candidly that whatever he does professionally, he does primarily for his own benefit whereas another member states that as he works he considers the effect of his actions on others; however, individualism need not be equated with selfishness. The member primarily concerned with his own earnings does not consider himself to be selfish because he imagines that his endeavors tend toward the general productivity and development of society by generating wealth, new jobs, and technological improvement. The member who denies individualism also imagines that he provides for himself more fully by entering into partnerships with others. He also is not selfish because he pools his resources although he does so with a specific kind of partner who he feels he shares certain individual qualities with. In addition, he claims that forming partnerships, which have higher overall profits and less risk for the individuals involved than working alone has, improves the nation through degrees, not directly. This difference in semantics suggests that there is a conceptual dilemma in the notion that one can satisfy the ethical priority he has in taking care of himself first without being selfish.


The challenge for these businessmen is to improve the economy of the nation of Turkey and to strengthen and maintain a religious value system at the same time. There are two equally extreme ideas present in this study. The first claims that if the economy boomed, social problems, including the erosion of tradition, would disappear. The second claims that if people were better Muslims, there would be no social or economic problems. These ideas are met with another claim that there are no problems between rich and poor because the traditional values of giving, family, and neighborly concern hold Turkish society together even as the distance between rich and poor grows financially. All of these things suggest that with the right combination of money and faith any problem can be solved. It is difficult to classify these members as moral capitalists or alternative capitalists because morality and economic growth have equal importance in the language that these members use. Being hard-working is a moral virtue that results in financial gain, and financial development results in better educational and employment opportunities through which people can exercise their moral virtue. The significance of the differences in the way that these things are measured is that one must always compensate for the other in a way that tends toward a practical conservatism in thought. One must work hard and carry the faith, and if everyone does this, everything will be ok.

Outlying the Community

Two of the people I interviewed stand out from the rest because their statements contrast greatly with the community oriented social concern expressed by the others.


Akkaş told me that he joined MUSIAD to make more money. He stated, “I don’t care if rich people help poor people and things like that. I am a businessman.” Erkan takes a fatalistic approach to the discussion of capitalism and community values. He says that capitalism is bad for poor people and communities but one must either compete or fall behind. MUSIAD has a screening process for new members that requires one to have several letters of reference that describe the person as having good moral standing. Ağca says that if it comes to the attention that a member of MUSIAD is behaving too unethically his membership can be withdrawn, and this has happened in the past. The problem here is that these statements do not necessarily mean that these men are engaged in bad dealings. They may be running legitimate, ethically sound operations. However, their attitudes do not match the others. The former rejects the notion of community, and the later rejects the idea that capitalism is good for Turkey. Both of these men are involved with MUSIAD so they can benefit from the advantages of belonging to an organization that educates its members in the ways of business and connects them to other businessmen. Furthermore, they may be deeply religious in their own ways. One way that these men are important for this study is that they emphasize something that should already be clear from the preceding discussion; MUSIAD members are not united in their thoughts and attitudes. More significantly, this shows the cynicism that has made its way into an organization that prides itself on its commitment to the community and the nation, which means upholding notions of both tradition and modernity. There may be little in the way of inspirational images that these men can contribute to a social imaginary to guide liberalized Muslims, but they speak from the heart of capitalist logic, whose key concept


is survival. In this way, these two men relate very closely to the others in this study, for their concern is for the survival of a way of life that they hold dear.

Conservatism at Work in Society

In conclusion, the members of MUSIAD that I interviewed in Istanbul are united under the banner of survival. To varying degrees this struggle for survival centers around three elements: the individual, the nation, and the values that inform them. After combining the ideas presented previously, one can see the existence of a possible social imaginary. This imaginary is built on the concepts of work and responsibility. Everyone must work hard for his own benefit and the benefit of Turkey. Now there are problems with education, training, and government bureaucracy that prevent many people from doing their best. The government must invest more money in education. This includes assisting actors in the private sphere who would open their own educational institutions. The government must lower taxes and put a check on the price of utilities. Thus, new businesses can be opened and there will be trained workers to fill new employment positions. Although the burden on the state may seem daunting in that it must both lower taxes and subsidize business, the weight of the social-economic project in this imaginary rests primarily on the individual. The individual has many freedoms and with those freedoms comes a wealth of responsibility. He must choose to walk in the path of his forefathers, but at the same time he must also choose to reshape their world along capitalist lines. The ability to do both requires flexibility in the way that capitalism and tradition are imagined. In this case, capitalism is the means for the nation to become


strong economically and militarily. Capitalism is also the mode in which a person can prove his personal worth as an income earner, an ethical citizen, and a good Muslim. This imaginary holds that these three things are intimately related and if one is a good Muslim, he would of course be hard working and ethically bound and this would result in his material success. To be a good Muslim requires that one express concern for his fellow man, especially other Muslims. This is expressed: through helping the poor, most commonly in the form of zakat; through familial concern for those around you, particularly those you work with; through honest and fair dealing, especially with business partners and employees; and through the avoidance of what is scripturally forbidden from one’s lifestyle, like drinking alcohol. The question of what exactly fair is leads us to the open-ended idea of justice that Ağca gives. It is clear that material equality is undesirable and impractical in this imaginary, and that everyone has a varying degree of natural ability. Therefore, justice in this imaginary is the end result of a smoothly running market economy, in which one’s labor is measured relative to others and “he gets what he deserves.” Unfortunately, what one deserves may not be adequate for him to satisfy his needs. This is where traditional community values come in to compensate for low wages or unemployment. In other words, if one maintains his faith and works hard, he will be justly rewarded in one way or another, either directly through is labor or with the help of the community. Justice is not something that can be quantified here, it is a relation between the market and the community with the individual giving impetus to both.




This work is built on the theory that the social imaginary transforms and develops as sign systems and reality diverge, and it is premised on the idea that the Islamic bourgeoisie is engaged in a struggle over the definition of the Muslim community. This struggle is carried out through language as words take new shape in the social imagination. The bourgeoisie has structural advantages in having its brand of ideas institutionalized due to its access to mass media and government. With the liberalization of Turkey, the bourgeoisie plays a more significant role in society and politics. The Islamic bourgeoisie fuses liberalism and religious conservatism in a way that forces a rethinking or re-imagining of business and Islam in Turkish society. Vague universal notions such as justice are dependent on the imaginary that results from the interaction of liberal logic and religiously inspired moralization. One idea that stands out in the discourse of several of those interviewed is that there are no problems between the rich and the poor in Turkish society because of the continuing tradition of sharing and helping the poor. There is a serious contradiction between this idea and the reality that one can see in the city of Istanbul, which is heavily segregated along economic lines. The painful differences between rich and poor are more obvious when one compares the eastern and western regions of Turkey. One way that this contradiction between language and reality could be remedied is by re-imagining the concept of equality. If one accepts the view that equal living standards are


undesirable and even unjust, as Burhan suggests, one is left with the conservative socialeconomic idea that equality means being equal before the law. The fact that everyone has the same legal rights to pursue wealth translates into the unsupported belief that people have equal opportunities. In addition to this, the Islamic bourgeoisie excuses itself and the rest of society for not paying taxes which might go toward improving services for the poor because the tax burden is too high. In other words, in the same way that the bourgeoisie helps society by efficiently pursuing its own profit, they imagine that people would “help” by paying taxes if the government were not an obstacle to their good will. This points to another contradiction that needs some re-imagining to peacefully enter the consciousness of society. The fact that some children cannot attend school because they must work to help support their families or the fact that some children cannot go to school because there is no school for them to attend is definite proof that people do not have equal opportunities. Although many of the interviewees see the Turkish education system as a big problem, they overlook other structural differences that limit the opportunities of the poor. A good education does not afford anyone the capital to start his own business. The imaginary presented here proposes that individuals live in communities of mutual support, in which one’s relatives and neighbors share each other’s costs. People can form partnerships that help them overcome burdens such as poverty. However, there may also be a contradiction between language and reality over the idea that everyone in Turkish society can benefit from the strong family network that continues to exist as the bedrock of Turkish tradition. Several members point to the problem of the disintegrating family structure and they imagine its solution as a return to tradition. More interestingly, another way of solving this contradiction is by enlarging


one’s definition of family and transplanting the family from the home to the workplace. In this case, one’s business partners, employees, managers, and coworkers become brothers. They celebrate holidays together and attend each other’s weddings and funerals. Thus, the tradition of family support remains even if the nature of the family is radically different. The religious approach that interviewees take in business and social concerns conflicts with Kemalist ideology, which sees secularism and progress as closely related. They solve this problem by redefining Ataturk. The re-imagined Ataturk was a religious visionary whose ideas have yet to be realized. The Islamic bourgeoisie is carrying on his mission of uniting the nation under the banner of progress and democracy. Ataturk himself is still infallible but the ways that his initiatives have been carried through are flawed and reflect a corrupt bureaucracy and a misguided populace. If any of Ataturk’s measures were too radical, they were necessary for Turkey to catch up industrially and economically with the rest of the developed world. Now that Turkey has nearly caught up, the Islamic bourgeoisie argues that it is time to focus on liberalizing and democratizing with a focus on religious freedom as Ataturk would have wanted. The terms that the Islamic bourgeoisie uses are not entirely of its own making. The terms overlap with competing ideologies which are secularist or anti-capitalist. This is important because it shows that the actors involved although competing are interdependent and signification is ultimately an unpredictable and never ending process. In addition, this deepens the understanding of this particular group by linking it with the origins of the language it employs. These origins may from the outset structure the bourgeoisie’s disposition toward capitalism, liberalism, and community, placing


limitations on the ability of social classes, status groups, or occupational groups to coalesce outside of a rigid system of economic hierarchy.

Suggestions for Future Study

To fully grasp the significance of differences in language and attitudes toward capitalism in the Muslim community, a detailed study including both the bourgeoisie and the working class is necessary. Closer comparisons between business associations would reveal differences in bourgeois attitudes. Examining the working class through Islamic labor organizations could reveal the extent to which the attitudes and beliefs presented in this paper have been accepted or rejected. Finally, a survey of the relations that the Islamic bourgeoisie has with the government and the media would help clarify the extent of its influence in politics and society.



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Albayrak, Atilla Hakan. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Albayrak, Orhan. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Arı, Omer. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Arpınar, Cemil Turhan. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Arslan, Ali Riza. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Baykal, Tarık. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Bursalı, Ahmet. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Çağlar, Hüseyin. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Çavuşoğlu, Ali. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Efe, Fatma. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Hocaoğlu, Fazlı. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Kaya, Selim Sırı. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Manzak, Kamil. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Sudaş, Alim. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Topaloğlu, Coşkun. Personal interview, Spring 2007. Utku, Melikşah. Personal interview, Spring 2007.




Why did you become a member of MUSIAD? How is MUSIAD different from other business associations in Turkey? In what ways do member companies of MUSIAD operate differently from other businesses in Turkey? What do you feel like you share in common with other MUSIAD members personally and professionally that you do not share in common with others? Hakan Yavuz has stated that some religiously motivated entrepreneurs and intellectuals in Turkey shun the term Islamic. Are you opposed to this term? Why? The famous Islamic economist M.A. Mannan writes that in Islamic economics, economic actors operate according to the dictates and guidance of the Koran and Sunnah. In what way does Islam guide your business activity? In what ways has your organization been misinterpreted by others? What does it mean to be a member of the Muslim community in Turkey? What role should entrepreneurs play in the development of the Muslim community and the republic of Turkey? What do you contribute or hope to contribute to society? Liberal thought maintains that individualism is a necessary component of a dynamic economy. Do you agree or disagree with this idea? Why? At what point does individualism pose a threat to community? In what ways could the Muslim community become stronger without economic prosperity? What role should the Muslim community play if one of its individuals threatens its unity? Does the individual ever need to be protected from the will of the community? Why? Does Islam provide for this kind of protection? How?


Some writers emphasize a wage based on the overall profitability of the company while others assert that the wage should be tailored to the needs of the worker. In any case, Siddiqi and Chapra would agree that the community itself should have the final say. What do you think? What responsibility do entrepreneurs have in promoting the well-being of employees? Cihan Tuğal writes that divisions within the Muslim community are rooted in class. What is your opinion of this? Some people have argued that the health of the Muslim community requires an egalitarian society? What do you think about this? How is justice possible if people have unequal living standards? What kind of leadership does the Muslim community need to grow economically and morally? Can MUSIAD provide that leadership? How? Could others provide that leadership? What were some of the most significant achievements of the Turkish revolution? What would you have done differently if you had led the revolution? What should the state do to improve the business environment in Turkey? What effect do you think MUSIAD’s economic success could have on Turkey’s political life? How are political conditions for Muslim people in Turkey different now from the past? How could conditions be better in the future? What role should economic actors play in modernizing the nation? M. A. Mannan writes that Islamic economics discusses economics as it should be, unlike conventional economics, which describes economics as it is. Do you agree? Why? Some Islamic economists, like M.A. Mannan, criticize countries such as the U.S. for sacrificing morality in order to achieve economic prosperity. As Turkey’s economy grows, how could Turkey avoid the moral decay that America has experienced? Marxists claim that as capitalism develops people become alienated and social relationships break down. How should capitalism develop in Turkey such that it does not threaten Turkey’s social cohesion? If a Muslim entrepreneur’s economic survival is threatened, what support should he expect from the community?


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