Islamists, State and Bourgeoisie: The Construction Industry in Turkey

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Please cite the paper as:
“Ismail Doga Karatepe, (2013), Islamists, State and Bourgeoisie: The Construction Industry in Turkey, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 4 2013, Neoliberalism in Turkey: A Balance Sheet of Three Decades, 28th October to 16th December 2013”



This short study is designed to explore the three crucial elements of construction boom that Turkey has experienced since 2002, when the islamist/conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to the power.  I claim that the construction boom and its impacts in general appear to be outcome of the certain composition of following elements. First element is the regarded relation between GDP and the construction industry with its supposedly strong linkages with other industries such as transportation, manufacturing etc. The second element is the waxing involvement of subsequent AKP governments. Since AKP swept the victory in Turkey’s parliamentary elections with an overwhelming majority, the governments’ direct involvement into the construction industry has been drastically expanded. Concerning the increasing government activities in the construction industry, a public agency, the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKI) deserves special attention. The administration, which had been initially established to carry out social housing projects in the year 1984, became a significant actor in the construction industry. Last but not least, clientelistic networks between AKP and certain bourgeois fraction have been conducive to rapid construction wave. The clientelistic networks as such favor certain capital groups that are ideologically close to islamist/conservative politics. However, discussing these three elements does not mean that some structural elements are neglected while evaluating the boom. In contrast, it is argued that financially dependent accumulation pattern of Turkey, and increasing role of finance in the construction industry along with the tendencies towards restructuring/recommodifying of urban areas at global level has constituted the suitable structural circumstances for the boom.

3 responses

  • Menevis Uzbay Pirili says:

    In this article the writer examines the construction sector’s boom in the economy and AKP government’s increasing direct involvent into this sector since 2002. One of the important aspects of the paper is its emphasis on the clientelistic networks established between AKP and certain capital groups that are ideologically close to islamist/conservative politics and with a special focus on the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKI). I would like to comment on the impacts of clientelistic networks with regards their negative impacts on the improvement of liberal democratic relations in a society.
    As the writer claims, the government’s social housing policy (TOKI) is realized in a clientalist pattern; in other words , within the whole period of AKP’s government, various advantages have been offered to groups and individuals within the construction sector as well as in other sectors, in return for the clients securing political support for the government. In this way , a muslim capitalist class supporting the government has been created.
    A clientelistic regime works within the framework of solidarity within a community network (Gemeinsçhaft), involving the family, ethnic and religious identiy that give their support to the governing political class. It is clear that clientalism is contrary and detremental to the working of a democratic society based on individuals’ freedom. It is important to point out that clientelist relations do have a function and perhaps are inevitable in premodern societies where the modern institutions such as social security, provision of universal health, judicial rights etc, don’t exist; However , it is another thing when clientalism is established inorder to secure support for a particular political group to maintain its power in government.
    Clientelistic relations distributes privilage based on community membership and loyalty to the dominant ruling group in government which disadvantages in everyway those not only in open opposition but also those whose identites are not based on communty membership. Therefore individuality is undermined and assertion of individual rights and liberties ignored. In practice it has created a polarization between those who support the governmnet and the rest. Inother words those who don’t support the government are created as the other with all its negative significations.
    On the otherhand clientalist networks favoring relations which are based on loyalty and status, undermine the contract based relations of free individuals in a modern capitalist sociey . As such it undermines not only the formation of social capital but also creativity which are important factors contributing to economic development.

  • Alper Duman says:

    Karatepe’s topic is interesting. The main aim of the study is to reveal the three developments with regards to the constuction boom in Turkey: (1) Construction as a motor of economic growth,
    (2) Active involvement of the governing party, AKP (Justice and Development Party) especially through TOKİ and (3) discretionary/clientelist allocation of construction projects.

    I have a major recommendation for the whole study and have three minor remarks with respect to each part.

    Karatepe would have much improved the study if he had provided us an argument that links these three parts. For example,
    AKP chose to enrich MUSIAD/TUSKON members through public or private construction projects, and hence led to a construction boom
    in which TOKİ has played a substantial role. This would be one of these arguments.

    Another argument could be as follows: After the 2001 crisis, the industry was down and there was no other sector, but construction to jump start the economy. Once AKP had seen this attempt succeeding, it used TOKİ to further this process and gain also political bonus as it was advertised for housing for the poor. The AKP supporting factions jumped the train later in the game.
    As it stands, the three parts are only connected by the context, the consumption boom in Turkey.

    Minor Remarks:
    As for the first part, it would be better give averages for the whole period in the table. More importantly, it would be better to divide the period into two, 2002-2007 and 2008-2012, for the fact that in the second period the average growth rate of the construction sector is less than the average growth rate of the GDP.

    The second part could be improved by discussing the motivations of AKP in employing TOKİ on a grand scale. Votes? Creation of quasi-public employment? Enrichment of supporting factions of the capitalist class?

    The third section could be a place to test whether it has been really the case that the beneficiaries were MUSIAD/TUSKON members.
    There are websites ( and some studies on which companies had been for which projects. One can see that rather quite a few of TUSIAD members have enjoyed the fruits of these construction projects.

  • Ismail Karatepe says:

    Thank you for the comments. Concerning major and minor remarks, respectively:
    1-) Casual linkages among these three aspects are quite complex and I tend to avoid a sort of complexity reduction that could possibly lead oversimplification. More importantly, in this study I did not deal with structural constraints that enable three aspects. I.e. in order to speak about the linkages increasing role of finance in the construction industry along with the tendencies towards restructuring/recommodifying of urban areas should be analyzed.
    2-) Definitely good point. It rather requires further elaboration.
    3-) The motivations of AKP in employing TOKİ on a grand scale: Unfortunately, there are few studies concerning this question, more importantly their argumentation line is perfunctory.
    4-) There are ongoing PhD studies documenting the clientelistic relations. As you also spoke about, some websites including, are incomplete, however useful. More strikingly, supreme auditing board of the prime ministry (Başbakanlık Yüksek Denetleme Kurulu) implies such networks and the loss of public interest as well.
    And again, thanks for the comments which let me know to where I should confine my attention in the following days.