Journal Article

Against Influence: Ziya Gökalp in Context and Tradition

Alp Eren Topal

in Journal of Islamic Studies

Volume 28, issue 3, pages 283-310
Published in print September 2017 | ISSN: 0955-2340
Published online January 2017 | e-ISSN: 1471-6917 | DOI:
Against Influence: Ziya Gökalp in Context and Tradition

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This study proposes a reassessment of the social and political thought of Ziya Gökalp (1876–1924), the most influential ideologue of Turkish nationalism. Challenging the still ubiquitous trend which emphasizes the influence of Western ideas to explain the dominant intellectual currents of the late Ottoman Empire, this article locates Gökalp’s thought in the continuity of Ottoman-Islamic intellectual tradition. Indeed, Gökalp’s thought incorporates and appropriates many concepts, arguments and definitions present in that tradition as well as the tensions existing in the historical narratives of Ottoman and Islamic history. As evidence of this continuity, the first part focuses on the dual concepts of medeniyet (civilization) and hars (culture) in Gökalp’s thought and demonstrates his use of traditional vocabulary and the historical tension between Sufi Islam and orthodox-legal Islam in defining these two categories. Gökalp’s idealism and his celebration of Durkheimian sociology also rest on a particular interpretation of Sufi tradition. Accordingly, the second part deals with the political concepts Gökalp uses, particularly tecdîd (revival), and demonstrates how Gökalp’s usage is comparable to other Ottoman authors from the eighteenth century onwards, and reflects the quest for the qualities that once made the Empire great. In the light of these findings, the article proposes a dynamic and inclusive concept of tradition and concludes with some methodological reflections on the practice of intellectual history in the late Ottoman context. Keywords: Ziya Gökalp, Sufism, Islamic revivalism, tradition, impact of the West, Ibn Khaldun, culture and civilization

Journal Article.  11220 words. 

Subjects: History ; Islam ; Regional and Area Studies

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