The Weberian City, Civil Society, and Turkish Social Thought

Lütfi Sunar

in The Oxford Handbook of Max Weber

ISBN: 9780190679545
Published online February 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780190679569 | DOI:
The Weberian City, Civil Society, and Turkish Social Thought

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Concepts of civil society and despotism played a fundamental role in Western interpretations of modern society, defined as a civilization, through construction of the “other.” On the one hand, modern social forms were explained through the concept of civil society and related notions of citizenship; on the other, premodern and non-Western societies were described as static and archaic through the concept of despotism. In the case of Weber’s work, demonstrating the uniqueness of the West was fundamental to his treatment of cities and citizenship. He relied on analyses of the birth and rise of the institutions and social structure of cities in the West to explain the development of modern capitalism. In this context his theory of patrimonialism gained acceptance within contemporary Turkish social science. Based on Weberian ideas, some historians and sociologists argued that Ottoman society had a despotic structure with an absence of civil society. According to this view, the “middle class” found in Western societies did not develop in Turkish society, and this absence became an obstacle to modernization. An alternative view held that this perspective resulted from a misinterpretation of the context of the Weberian approach, which was developed basically in order to explain Western modernity. However, these views were not designed to explain Ottoman society or to analyze contemporary problems and suggest appropriate solutions to the problems of civil society today.

Keywords: occidental city; civil society; citizenship; oriental city; Ottoman/Turkish society

Article.  8374 words. 

Subjects: Social Theory ; Political Sociology

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