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The political economy of Islamic business associations: social movement tactics, social networks, and regional development in Turkey

Sezer, Lisa (2014) The political economy of Islamic business associations: social movement tactics, social networks, and regional development in Turkey. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Turkey has undergone large-scale transformations over the past 30 years, changing it from a Kemalist Republic to a country ruled by a moderately Islamic party – the Justice and Development Party (AKP). I study how Islamic business associations (BAs) have gained political influence over dominant secular BAs in Turkey – a key process of these transformations. Existing literature treats voluntary BAs either as purely economic institutions, or focuses on political elites’ strategic policy and power interests in explaining BAs’ political influence. There is inadequate guidance on when BAs turn into political actors, and how they engage in mobilisation and broader intra-state power struggles. Especially the role of ideology and religion has been neglected, which is relevant for several transition countries’ business politics. This inadequacy can be addressed by developing a social movement framework. Following a grounded theory approach, I conducted a comparative analysis of secular and Islamic BAs’ networks structures (1993–2012), collective action frames, organisational structures and patterns of resource-exchange across changing institutional contexts. Findings are based on 51 semi-structured interviews in Gaziantep’s textile cluster in Turkey and additional archival material. I argue that Islamic BAs gained political influence because they applied typical social movement tactics that are adapted to the cultural and political environment. Conditions of politico-religious contention combined with gradual economic liberalisation have encouraged marginalised businesspeople to apply Islam in a non-contentious and market-based way. By integrating with civil society at the grassroots level, and gaining the support of political elites, Islamic BAs have complemented economic activities with resonant framing. These tactics grounded in Islam have increased Islamic BAs political influence by creating a new pious and legitimate business elite. These findings contribute to the literature by extending the types of institutional incentives, tactics and actors that businesspeople rely on to engage in contentious politics to include ideological factors.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Lisa A. Sezer
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
Sets: Departments > Management
Supervisor: Doellgast, Virginia and Pamuk, Şevket

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