The Mechanical Atatürk: Cybernetics and State Violence in the Second Turkish Republic

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Turkey's 1960 military coup d’état was received by Kemalists in the courts, bureaucracy, and universities as an opportunity to reinvigorate Atatürk's ideal of a centralized and rationally organized state. This article investigates how a handful of avant-garde thinkers sought to ride the post-1960 wave of reformism by promoting a techno-utopian approach to governance through publications and seminars aimed at state leaders and intellectuals. Cybernetics, they argued, offered a paradigm of adjudication and administration unblemished by association with the ascendant ideologies of the Cold War, whether socialist or conservative, and was fully in keeping with Kemalism. I argue that, although it remained largely at the stage of fantasy, Turkish cybernetics ultimately served as a set of metaphors with which conservative state thinkers from different political camps found common ground, facilitating the shift that occurred within the state during the 1970s away from the rights-based pluralism of the Constitution of 1961 and toward an effort to de-radicalize Turkish society, if necessary through violence.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Middle East Studies
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)569-588
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

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