Growth and Changes

Speed Scale Complexity

Paul Stirling

Turkey: Multiple Changes
Turkey became a nation state in 1923.  From then on, it
grew prodigiously.  In round figures, by 1986, the
population had multiplied by 4, from about 12.5 to over 50
million, and Gross National Product by about 20.  So the
GNP per cap., that is, in theory, the average wealth created
annually by each separate citizen, grew five times - 500 per
cent - in just over sixty years.  True that this internationally
established econometric construction is seriously misleading;
that it ignores distribution, that it is a sieve of statistical
loopholes, and that it in no way measures material welfare,
let alone subjective sense of well being.  But an increase of
five times in the value of things produced on average by
every individual, achieved within sixty odd years - one life
time, two and a bit generations - is not just surprising, it is
fabulous; what other superlatives can I use?(l)

Of course, this growth began from a trough.  In 1923, eleven
years of war had severely disrupted the traditional
agricultural and craft production systems of an agrarian
society, and almost destroyed its tiny modern industry.Wars
and then the exchange of population with Greece had caused
what Keyder (Chapter 12) calls a demographic catastrophe.
But from 1923 on, the Second World War apart, theTurkish
economy grew by almost 7 per cent till l978, and resumed
growth at around 5 per cent in 1980.
Changes on this scale at this pace over decades are
unprecedented in human history, and almost unparalleled
even in recent times, except perhaps for Japan, one or two
other contemporary nations, and countries with mineral
windfalls.  Certainly, both nationally and in local detail, they
are breathtaking; and extremely complex.  They are of


  course part of world capitalist industrialisation, which, for
all the great minds, and billions of words, still defies
description, let alone explanation.  But even in the context of
the 'world economy', they are exceptional; and a set of facts
which virtually no one seems adequately to take into account.
Such a speed of economic growth imposes speed in numerous
other changes.  The movement and the uneven accumulation
of old and new capital in dozens of different ways and
thousands of different hands; uneven increases - and some
decreases - in income, some very large; a new national
occupational structure; the migration of millions from
villages to towns and cities, and abroad; the introduction and
invention of new ways of organising people, both in the
private sector, economic and otherwise, and in a hugely
increased state sector; masses of new legislation; vast new
stocks of unevenly distributed 'social knowledge' -
information, science and technology, alternative world
views, political and religious ideas, familiarity with other
societies.  And so on and so on.

In the first years of this growth, when the economy was still
recovering its former levels, Ataturk carried though his
renowned and astonishing political reforms.  The central
provinces of the heterogeneous Islamic Ottoman Empire,
legitimated by God, became a sovereign, national, secular
Republic, formally legitimated by the Will of the People
(Berkes, 1974).  The pragmatic, now 'sacred', boundaries of
this newly enacted people nation enclosed a population,
following exchanges and departures, almost wholly Islamic -
the majority Sunni of the Hanefi rite.  Over three-quarters
spoke a form of Turkish as their mother tongue; the rest
were conveniently decreed to be Turks also.(2) Ten per cent
were literate, and about 80 per cent were villagers.  The
basic State services, and the formal basis of orderly social
relations - law and the judiciary, education, the constitutional
status of Islam, the script, even clothes, names, and the
calendar - were transformed from the top down; in a
European and secular direction, which explicitly rejected the
Ottoman and Islamic past.

It is one thing to pass laws, and impose conformity on the
elites in the main cities.  It is quite another to set up the


  institutions necessary to provide courts, lawyers, police,
schools, teachers, medical services, government offices, all
with adequately trained and loyal personnel.  It is even
more difficult to get people all over the country to change
their personal habits, talk, thoughts, customs, moralities.
The reforms took decades to put into effective practice.  The
interactions between the demographic and economic growth,
the new ideas, and the new laws and institutions are
immensely complex.  One very general link was economic
growth, and especially the migration of the villagers to towns
and cities that integrated the new nation, by gradually
forcing people to apply the reforms in daily detail.

Theme and Contradiction
One theme is complexity.  Almost all refutations of specific
social science 'theories' amount to establishing that the theory
or model is too simple.  Usually rightly, because none of the
models or theories discussed or proposed so far, measure
up to the complexity of social processes, still less to the scale
and speed of the changes in those processes.  Not only the
'ordinary' people, the educated elite, and the politicians,
professionals, and business men who make decisions for
others, but we the accredited social science experts cannot do
other than use models which are too simple.The opposite is
often claimed, and is highly plausible.  Simplicity is the
essence of scientific advance; atoms, viruses, the double
helix.  A major controversy.  The great simplifiers in the
social sciences are less precise, and less accepted; the
hidden hand, the class struggle, false consciousness,
reciprocity, segmentary structures, binary opposites, power
and prestige, clientelism.  And while simplifying is a
necessary condition for working at all, we are not ready
enough to recognise that simplifying also - inevitably
misrepresents.In practice, all social scientists, even those who
deny it, use the idea of a complex set of related processes
which enable a society both recognisably to continue its
existence and at the same time to change.  I cannot see how to
conceive of 'process' if not as a set, a tangled web, of
interacting causes and effects.  When the changes are rapid,
the devising of adequate 'models' is prodigiously
difficult.The title of this book is a simplification.  By setting
'culture' and the ‘economy' side by side, I suggest,


  fallaciously, two entities between which causes and effects
are possible.  The same fallacy is implicit in distinguishing
between culture and social structure, as I also did in my the
first invitation to the Conference.  I was restating the one
time anthropological orthodoxy - 'substantivism' - that
purely economic models of social processes grossly
underestimate both 'culture', in the anthropological sense,
and social structure, in the sense of the whole intricate
pattern of social relations.  But if culture is defined as
everything learned, it cannot strictly be separate from, and
opposed to, the economy or to the social structure; it must
include them.

But the word is a chameleon, overused for convenience.  It
offers multiple escapes from precision.  So let me make my
point in more verbose rhetoric.  The fund of cosmologies,
myths, religious ideas, historical narratives, political models,
private moralities, customs, rites, technologies, scientific
ideas, which exists in any society at any given point in time
must profoundly affect the way that economy functions and
the way it changes; and economic growth must in turn have
profound and multifarious consequences for that fund.  A
truism, but one largely ignored in practice; which is why
economists and marxists get so many things so very wrong.

I used 'culture' because it is fashionable, and convenient.
The notion of 'social structure' as a pattern of social relations
- once called role relations - is less fashionable, but no less
fundamental.  It covers all social conduct, from minute by
minute social encounters to the national and international
distribution of power and resources.  But who would allow
'Culture-and/or-Social Structure, and the Economy' as a title
for anything?

The Two Theories
Let me caricature the two main 'economistic' ways of
thinking about Turkey's experience.  Modernisation theories
implicitly assume that, with minor hiccoughs and accidents,
all human societies, are being carried by unbeatable market
forces towards a blessed, competitive state of advanced
capitalist industrial prosperity, in a set of sovereign 'nation'
states, each with, sooner or later, liberal elections.  All

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