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Reactionism in Turkey: Understanding the Psychological Origins of Citizens’ Preferences

Political Participation
Political Psychology
Populism
Political Engagement
Political Ideology
Public Opinion
Southern Europe
Stavroula Chrona
Queen's University Belfast
Stavroula Chrona
Queen's University Belfast

Abstract

The social and political environment of Turkey has been traditionally characterised by severe polarisation and fragmentation. Contrasting ideological orientations that carry antithetical views about the past, present and future of the country have been shaping the political playing field. Citizens’ political preferences and positions have been explained by looking at the idiosyncrasies of the context (competitive authoritarianism) and the way party actors behave. However, a large number of scholars have been turning their attention to issues that are similar to the challenges faced in liberal democracies such as the rise of populism and anti-systemic attitudes, increasing mobilisation and violent protests, political disengagement and distrust to politics and institutions. This paper looks at political reaction as a political orientation (Capelos and Katsanidou, 2019) and explores the dynamic mechanism that links citizens’ reactionary fantasies of the past and their inspirations for the future. In doing so the paper utilizes data from the 2008 and 2012 World Values Survey in Turkey and focuses at the way that diverse and fundamentally antithetical imaginaries of the future coincide with idealised perceptions of past that result into citizens’ attitudinal orientations. This paper pays particular attention on the psychological origins that shape public support of the two competing ideological camps that co-exist and clash in all domains of social life (secularism and political Islam as expressed by CHP and AKP respectively). It offers an alternative way to conceptualise and understand the way that citizens manage their anxieties for the future of the country by perpetuating the key political dichotomies that have been dominating and capitalising the political arena. It also offers new perspectives on the explanation of the rise in support of populism, violent political action and challenges to democratisation and modernisation as well as Europeanisation.