"New Despotisms" and the Autocracy on the Example of Turkey

18. October 2021, 09:00 – 10:30

Lecture from the series of International Teaching Week

Lecturer: Prof. Can Zeyrek, Phillips University of Marburg

"The Successive Emergence of a Pre-Totalitarian Situation in the Advancing Autocratization Process in Turkey - Theory and Practice of Domination"

Last year (2020), the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) classified Turkey as a (moderate) autocracy for the first time. The BTI declares that the new presidential system grants the president exceptional and unaccountable powers and undermines or restricts the fundamental aspects of a democratic system, such as the rule of law and fundamental freedoms. This fact marks an acceleration of the advancing autocratization process in this country.

The rule of the incumbent Turkish President and Chairman of the AKP Erdoğan is almost arbitrarily aligned by "enabling acts", (systematically) repressive and by an occasionally in the foreground staying universal worldview, namely political Islam as a totalitarian ideology, that claims to act in all spheres of human life (including politics) and categorically rejects the separation between the public and private spheres. Tibi (2004) emphasizes that this new totalitarianism, in contrast to its predecessors, Nazi fascism and Stalin communism, is a movement and has so far not manifested itself very much in political systems.

How does this new totalitarianism become noticeable in the practice of rule? Merkel (2004, 2010) states that in totalitarian regimes - as subsystems of autocratic systems - the (democratic) categories of legitimacy of rule, access to rule, monopoly of rule, structure of rule, claim to rule and rulership („What kind of Rule?“) are damaged, violated or replaced by a diametrically opposed logic of rule, so that the logic of democratic interaction is being suppressed and replaced by an authoritarian form of rule. Based on these criteria, this lecture aims to empirically examine how the manifestation of political Islam in Turkey as a totalitarian ideology makes itself felt directly or indirectly in the practice of rule and whether the country is in a pre- totalitarian situation (Linz 2003). Turkey is a special case insofar as the transition to autocracy did not take place by means of a violent upheaval such as a revolution, a civil war or a military coup - as is generally the case for the transition from democracy to authoritarianism - but gradually over the long term, (relatively) "peacefully" and above all, by means of civilians.

Furthermore, basic initial features are to be discussed, which predetermine or co-determine the path of the autocratization process in Turkey and the emergence of the pre-totalitarian situation. In addition to the attempt to a typology by Juan J. Linz (2003) with regard to pre-totalitarian regimes, additional categories such as infiltration of bureaucratic structures, circumvention of the legislature and the judiciary (power accumulation of the executive), regime change, post- secular (religious-fundamentalist) society-, compromise- and cooperation structures (political, economic and social influence of religious orders and sects) are developed and justified.


Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology


Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology, Univerzitní 22, Auditorium, 1st floor