Reproducing Authoritarian Neoliberalism in Turkey: Urban Governance and State Restructuring in the Shadow of Executive Centralization


The implosion of popular struggles against the erosion of economic and democratic rights in the Middle East has thrown into sharp relief the co-constitutive character of neoliberal reforms and authoritarian state practices. This article zooms in on this relationship, and traces the consolidation of a core component of authoritarian statisms by examining how the ruling AKP government in Turkey has facilitated executive centralization. This process refers to a form of state restructuring whereby key decision-making powers are increasingly concentrated in the hands of the central government while democratic avenues to contest government policies are curtailed through legal and administrative reforms, and the marginalization of dissident social forces. I unpack the mechanisms of executive centralization in Turkey by exploring the transformation of urban governance under AKP rule, which has promoted a spectacular degree of state-led commodification of land and housing while simultaneously recentralizing key decision-making powers. The investigation demonstrates that executive centralization in urban governance has paved the way for the swift implementation of contested urban transformation projects marked by a non-participatory approach to urban ‘renewal’, the reconfiguration of the state’s redistributive function vis-à-vis low-income households, and a tendency to exacerbate existing patterns of inequalities in the housing market.

Cemal Burak Tansel
Lecturer in International Politics

I teach and write about the political economy of capitalist development.