The 'New Turkey' and its discontents

'The New Turkey and its Discontents' by Simon A. Waldman and Emre Çalışkan (Hurst, £15, 344 pages)

Writing a primer on the situation in contemporary Turkey is a perilous task. Events pile on top of one another at such a pace that anything written is at risk of going out of date within days. That is especially true for book authors, as the entire landscape can shift in the months between submission and publishing.

The authors of "The New Turkey and its Discontents" fired off their final draft just days before last July's coup attempt. Simon Waldman of Kings College London and Emre Çalışkan of Oxford University were able to make some adjustments to the text to address the failed military takeover, but actually they need not have panicked. The aftermath of the coup attempt has really only accelerated authoritarian trends that were already well in motion. 

The book is a judicious general overview on how Turkey got to where it is today. At little over 200 pages plus endnotes, some parts are necessarily short on detail, but overall the book charts the grim course of how Turkey went from a rising emerging market poster boy to standard bearer of today's new "illiberal democracy."

At the center of the volume is an exploration of the demise of the Turkish military as a political force, which the authors describe as "perhaps the most important development since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923." Last year's failed coup was in many ways an anomaly - a minority uprising by a small and ill-disciplined group within the Armed Forces. Bloody and destructive as it was, the putsch's failure was symptomatic of the military's fragmentation and decline. 

Particularly since the coup of 1980, Turkey's political climate had...

Continue reading on: