e-book Mixed Methods in Comparative Politics: Principles and Applications

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Your reader barcode: Your last name:. Cite this Email this Add to favourites Print this page. In this part, I will discuss first why the cultural comparisons dominate the comparative attempts of Iran and Turkey and then explore whether or not, or how far these comparative attempts have orientalist tendencies.

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First, the reflections of the Islamic revolution of Iran aroused interest in Islam and its impact on political structures. In other words, the questions that stem from 9 It is remarkable to note that the discipline of International Relations is taking lead to this kind of thinking. Harrison, Samuel P. Sunni dichotomy. Especially, authors such as Michael Fischer, Samih K. Which sect is more prone to mass movements? Which is more statist? These questions were asked in both academic and popular domain and answered through the lens of the Iranian Revolution.

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More recently, especially after the Iraqi invasion, this Shia-Sunni dichotomy gained further salience and has been transferred to international politics. This perspective, led by eminent scholars and strategists such as Juan Cole and Vali Nasr, portrays the competition between Shia and Sunni as the main axis of conflict from s onwards. Taurus, For a brief discussion of this line of thought see. As a result, this issue has been discussed as the stable and fixed essence lying beneath the political culture; or to put it another way, sectarian features considered as the ground upon which the political culture is built.

This point of view also dominates the comparative literature on Turkey and Iran. In addition to these general factors, a conjectural change in Turkey intensified these comparative attempts. After the National Security Council decisions on 28 February , issues concerning religion became exceptionally popular. Many columnists discussed the issue around this specific question.

Although not presented in such a clear cut manner, a great amount of newspaper articles and popular books touched on this comparison. Tauris, , pp. And also see. Turkey is not going to be Iran since Iran and Turkey are dissimilar in terms of at least three aspects. First, the understanding of the political authority in Iran is different from that in Turkey. He argues that this specific culture facilitated the Islamic Revolution. Second, the author asserts that the degree of the authority of the clergy was distinct in two cases.

Akyol concludes that since the clergy in Turkey has had no such authority, there will not be an Islamic Revolution. Although these arguments have some legitimacy, it is difficult to agree that they are comprehensive enough to explain all aspects of the reality. For instance, significant exceptions to such straightforward readings can be found with respect to historical trajectories.

As a brief look at historical trajectories of both Iran and Turkey show us that, at various historical moments, Shia clergy worked hand in hand with the rulers and whereas quieter Sunni counterparts rebelled under difficult social conditions.

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Moreover, it would be wrong to claim that sectarian identities can emerge autonomously and remain 17 See W. Through the course of history, religious identities, as with other identities, have been produced, reproduced and maintained through interaction with other identities.

Putting these in perspective, another question arises. Why does a comparison between Turkey and Iran always embody the religious and sectarian differences of these countries? Why are these differences considered to be the main level of analyses? Taking political and ideological backgrounds in which these approaches are embedded into consideration can provide some answers. As mentioned above, those who focused on the sectarian differences between Turkey and Iran took one side in a once popular Turkish political debate concerning whether Turkey would become Iran.

The attempt to understand the histories of those two countries only in relation to the differences between Shia and Sunni and to comment on their future trajectories without taking into consideration the economic and political factors and international dynamics seems to remain inadequate.

Cultural values do not descend from heaven to influence the course of history….. The way in which Theda Skocpol analyses the Iranian Revolution of illustrates this approach. In order to analyse her position in this debate, it is worth presenting a brief overview of her theory. She insists that the comparative historian should able to find a comparable structure in social revolutions.

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Her structural approach denies any possibility of intention as a constitutive factor of revolutions. Change is to be explained by the very structures of the society; the nature of the state, its relation to the indigenous classes, and its competition with the other states. A specific combination, or rather coinciding of the politico-military crisis of the state and popular upheaval results in a social and political transformation.

Her aim is to explicate the causes of this crisis and the uprising, and to show that there is a general pattern in the revolutions. According to Skocpol, peasant upheavals were crucial in classical revolutions, especially in Chinese and 19 Barrington Moore, Social Origins of the Dictatorship and Democracy, p.

Perhaps, more interestingly, what Skocpol had considered as a necessary for the weakening of the state, namely international pressures or a military defeat of the state, were absent in the Iranian Revolution. Skocpol emphasized in States and Social Revolutions that revolutions are not made but that rather they happen. However, a world-view and a set of social practices long in place can sustain a deliberate revolutionary movement.

This is a key difference which does not have a valid counterpart in Chinese, Russian or French Revolutions. As the above quotation of the Moore brings out cultural values do not exist independent of the material processes. During s Iran experienced one of the most powerful leftist movements in the Middle East and there is no proof that leftist or secular groups were any less active than the religious groups throughout the revolutionary era. It is clear that her approach does not stem from a strict position taking within the ideological debates circulating in Turkey, as in the case of other figures referred above.

In other words, she does not take a side in the debate concerning whether Turkey will become like Iran. The cultural medium, dominated by concepts such as pluralism, the clash between civilizations, identities, and the dialogue between civilizations can constitute one side of the answer to the question. In other words, the ways in which the west looks at the east can be explanatory. One of the most important of these flaws is placing religion, at the center of the analysis; in this case, Islam.

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Said criticized the orientalist view on the Middle East as follows: Even the ones whose specialty is the modern Islamic world anachronistically use texts like the Koran to read into every facet of contemporary Egyptian or Algerian society. Islam, or a seventh- century ideal of it constituted by the Orientalist, is assumed to possess the unity that eludes the more recent and important influences of colonialism, imperialism, and even ordinary politics. Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution. As mentioned above, I do not argue that differences in religion and sects have no explanatory power.

They should not be seen as mere epiphenomenon to economic and political developments. Since the author of this essay basically deals with religion and state relations he is quite aware of the fact that, such differences will also be taken into consideration.


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As discussed above focusing culture as a tool for comparison has its own merits. Indeed, there is extensive literature that explores the role of religious and sectarian differences to explicate different historical paths. Yet, limiting the causes of completely different forms of religion-state relations to the differences between Shia and Sunni traditions cannot provide us with a satisfactory explanation.

Comparative Analyses of Modernizations As discussed above, there is a vast amount of literature on Iran and Turkey that tries to explain the difference in their historical trajectories by looking at their sectarian differences. However, there are exceptions to these comparative studies. In most of these exceptions Mustafa Kemal and Reza Shah are compared with regard to their modernization attempts. This perspective was especially popular in 60s and 70s and the literature mainly included studies conducted within the parameters of the modernization theory.


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Zurcher, can be considered as an example to this line of comparison. According to the authors, European modernization was considered as a model in both countries. Mustafa Kemal and Reza Shah transformed their own rural, traditional, agricultural communities into an urban, secular, industrialized society. In this process personal and institutional differences resulted in different levels of modernization.