An Intellectual Stuck Between Theory and Social Practice: Gökalp and Culture-Civilization Theory

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DOI: 10.16917/iusosyoloji.292682

OnlineFirst published on December 31, 2016

Year: Vol: Number:


This article examines Gökalp’s approach to culture-civilization. Gökalp’s theory of culture-civilization is generally widely accepted and handled as an approach that presents the formula of how Turks and Muslims can Westernize while at the same time preserving their identities. This study will attempt to draw attention to another feature of this theory. The basic claim of this essay is that Gökalp’s culture-civilization theory, which claims to solve the mental problems Turks experience as a state and society on the topic of Westernization, at the same time embodies many potential problems on the points of thought and praxis. These problems stem from the concepts of culture and civilization weightily conflicting with each other, especially from the contradictory notion that the concept of “Turkish-ness” contains. This article tries to demonstrate these problematic areas by primarily dealing with the etymological developments of the concepts of culture and civilization. Afterwards, Gökalp’s general understanding of society, approaches related to Turkish society, and specifically the theory of culture-civilization theory are analyzed. Lastly, what Gökalp’s concepts and theory contain is subjected to a critical analysis to show its contradictory aspects.

Ziya Gökalp • Emile Durkheim • Turkish Sociology • Culture • Civilization

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