The Impossibility of Society: Beyond Center-Periphery Relations in Turkey


Built on a critique of Serif Mardin’s center-periphery approach, this study offers a discursive approach to the study of Turkish politics. Resting on the belief that the society is transparent to itself, Mardin asserts that society can exhaust the social and is always composed of a center and a periphery. By deploying Ernesto Laclau’s discursive account of society, this study claims that society is not self-transparent; there is always a surplus of meaning in the social. Therefore, society consists solely of a center and its fate is tied on its success to monopolize the control of the center in the social. The advent of the political as a result of the emergence of alternative society-claim may threaten the existing social reality by revealing its contingency in representing the metaphorical totality of society. So from discourse theory perspective, political analysis should focus not on what society is but what prevents it from being. With this account of society, this study seeks to examine the rise and expansion of the Kemalist “society” as well as its dislocations owing to the emergence of other society-claims till the 1980s.


Center-Periphery Relations Discourse Theory Ernesto Laclau Kemalism Hegemony