Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Middle Eastern Studies


Jillian Schwedler

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | International Relations | Political Science | Political Theory | Politics and Social Change | Sociology


Neoliberalism, Market Fundamentalism, Political Economy, World Bank, Hegemony, Developing Economy


This thesis asks how international actors – in this case, the IMF and World Bank – advance their neoliberal projects. Specifically, it looks at the local context. How do economic reforms pass from IMF policy into national law? Who does the IMF cooperate with? What strategies are used, and what makes them effective for enacting and legitimizing policy? It starts by looking at the history of political mobilization in Turkey after WWII, when it took its first IMF loan. Turkish political parties have commonly sought electoral success through populist economic policies built on patron-client relationships. However, economic populism is a finite tool for the purposes of political mobilization. This is in part because Turkey’s particular political culture impedes the ability of political parties to organize within the population: a deep historical divide separates the central bureaucratic state from the still largely agrarian society. I will show how Turkey’s lack of a politically integrated civil society contributed to economic mismanagement, and also undermined any political will to engage in significant economic reform. The IMF continued to loan Turkey money, and pushed its desired economic policy. However, reforms progressed slowly and external debt mounted, culminating in a series of economic crises in the latter decades of the 20th century.

The second half of the thesis focuses on the ascent of Turkey’s Islamist parties and the AKP. During the 80s and 90s Islamist parties built impressive civil society networks that were the envy of the other political parties. These networks gave Islamist political parties unprecedented capacity to reach out to and mobilize the population. The breadth of these civil society organizations contributed directly to the AKP’s consistent and resounding electoral success since 2002. In addition to solving Turkey’s chronic crisis of political hegemony, I argue that the AKP has successfully managed these organizations for the purpose of facilitating Turkey’s neoliberal reforms. I will look at the nature of these networks, how they operate, and how they are integral to naturalizing market logic among a large section of Turkey’s population.