Dynamics of Decentralization Reform Process and New System of Governace in a Development Context: The Case of Turkey

Saturday, June 25, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:00 PM
89 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Osman Savaskan, Marmara University/ Turkey, Istanbul, Turkey
The end of the post-World II capitalist order has ushered in an intense debate on the nature of the new system of governance that characterizes the new capitalist economy. One aspect of this new governance system is the increasing significance  roles played by local governments. The discussions around the concept of “rescaling of state” have drawn attention to this development, leading to a series of critical questions concerning the process of decentralization. This literature evaluates territorial re-organization of the new governance system as a response of capitalism to its crisis dynamics of overaccumulation and devolarization. It also gives priority to the policy packages of international organizations such as the IMF, the World Bank in spreading normative ideas in pushing countries to decentralization.

 This literature, however, should be criticized for its tendency to undermine local politics, and the complex, multi-scalar interactions of different actors behind the reform process. Critics should also question the reality and significance of the devolution of the authority to the lower levels of government. Firstly, it is important to take into account the political concerns that informed the decisions made in the restructuring and rescaling of government. State rescaling process could be affected by a serious factors ranging from the dynamics of power relations between central and local elites and electoral politics, to the demands of social movements for political democratization that favor decentralization.

 Secondly, the literature on the “rescaling of the state” discusses decentralization as an inevitable part of new governance system. However, decentralization reform process can take different forms, and may empower the power of central governments rather than undermining its power.  For example, if fiscal decentralization does not follow administrative decentralization, local governments will depend on central government for financial funds, which reproduces the central state power at the local level.

  This paper will discuss decentralization reforms in the post-2002 period in Turkey under the rule of Justice and Development Party (JDP).  However, new reform process did not bring a radical break in terms of relations between the central and local governments. Although there was a trend on further devolution in both developed and developing countries, why did the reform process in Turkey centralize rather than decentralize the power?  How did political actors including the international organizations, the central government and bureaucracy, representatives of capital groups, and non-governmental organizations shape the reform process? Why did the JDP government change its strategy and attempt to centralize power? What kinds of mechanisms did the JDP use in order to reproduce its power at the local level during decentralization reforms?

In order to tackle with these questions, the paper will focus on both reform process and the content of new reforms.  It will argue that rescaling of the state is not an inevitable development and political considerations of the ruling government limit the boundaries of rescaling.  The paper aims to contribute to analyses of the dynamics of a new governance system by highlighting the importance of political factors in shaping state rescaling process in non-western context.