Turkey Under The AKP Rule: The Illusion Of “Gesellschaft”, The Reality of “Gemeinschaft”


To begin, I will briefly explain the concepts of Gesellschaft (civil society) and Gemeinschaft (community) as developed by the famous German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies. Gemeinschaft is an association where individuals and informal relations are dominant (primary relations), whereas Gesellschaft is an association that emphasizes rational and contractual relations (secondary relations). Tönnies expressed the differences between traditional communities and urban-industrial societies through these concepts. The main difference between the two communities is the type of social relations and social control mechanisms. These concepts are important analytical tools to understand the development of Turkish society under the AKP era of rule.


While societies generally evolve from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft, it can be argued that in the last decade a reverse transformation has been observed in Turkey. Under the AKP era, personnel ties, kinship and friendship have become increasingly decisive in politics and societal life and a sense of togetherness became the most important part of an effort to create a homogeneous society. Currently, the AKP government aims to create a homogenous culture in large parts of societal life and bring its values and norms under the authority of religion. Rational social communication channels are slowly eliminated. The most recent example of this observation is the open support of university rectors (in total contradiction with analytical thinking) for the statements of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who strongly criticized Middle EastTechnicalUniversity students and academicians for their protest against his visit to the university. When carefully examined, it turns out that the rectors actually have close ties with the ruling AKP government party. From time to time, trade unions, universities and various non-governmental organizations have expressed their sympathy and unconditional support for the AKP in order to get individual benefits.


An homogenous society is one of the most important features of the community. Personal relationships are organized through traditional social rules. Accordingly, in Turkey, the primacy of statements and actions which express sudden emotions, known as natural will, increases (Wesenwille) as can be seen in the statements of Prime Minister Erdoğan. Rational will (Kürwille) has been increasingly loosing its impact in society and politics, which I call “De-scientification.” The most important concept that may explain the ongoing political process in Turkey and the decreasing trust of many intellectuals, students, academicians, doctors, teachers, lawyers and many other occupational groups to the political system is the process of “de-scientification” under AKP rule. Accordingly, one can feel a random political atmosphere that is open to surprises. An irrational conservatism and authoritarianism continues to dominate in full swing.

Moreover, civil society in Turkey is an illusion and the carrier and the locus of the authoritarian reflexes of the AKP. To be opposite in theater, media and in the different areas of the society means to be penalized. Civil society under the AKP era emphasizes Islamist values and the “alms culture” under the name of solidarity and cooperation and demonstrates all the characteristics of the Gemeinschaft. As an example we can give the Lighthouse Association or IHH. The AKP is hostile to those groups that emphasize the struggle for real democracy and human rights.  Independent and autonomous civil society has slowly been disappearing. Most importantly, a government should protect its impartiality and reconcile the interests of the different sectors of society if it really aims to encourage the peace, well-being and happiness of the citizens. However, this can be true only in Gesellschafts. Turkey has been evolving in an irrational direction toward a Gemeinschaft, where science has been loosing its value. When we observe the development of Turkish society, we see an increasing power of randomness under the AKP era.

About Can Büyükbay

PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science Center for Comparative & International Studies, University of Zurich