By Ertuğrul Aydın, World Bulletin
There are perhaps thousands of studies on the topics of decentralization and local governments and their merits. However, although there seems to be a positive correlation between ethnic politics as an identity politics and promotion of decentralization and local governments, “Local self-government in a unitary state and the influence of ethno-political practices are largely neglected” (A Guide to Minorities And Political Participation in South-East Europe, p.65)
When I wrote in google search bar “identity politics and decentralization” I found only one result. The study was about “Popular discourse on identity politics and decentralization in Tanjung Pinang public schools” and it was belong to Carole Faucher.I renewed my search in Turkish language and wrote “kimlik siyaseti ve yerinden yönetim.” Again I found only one result. (Ruşen Keleş, Yerinden Yönetim ve Siyaset, 6. Konu. Etnisite ya da Kimlik Siyaseti Karşısında Alternatif Çözüm Yöntemleri: Siyasal Yerinden Yönetim, Bölge Yönetimi ve Yerel Yönetim) The author was repeating the suggestions of those in the West that decentralization may prevent ethnic politics and solve the ethnic conflicts. (But the probable end results of this view are state conflicts between two neighbours and an increase in the number of failed states.)
With key words of “ethnic identity and decentralization” I freshed my search in English and found a result: A Guide to Minorities And Political Participation in South-East Europe (A joint publication of the King Baudouin Foundation Rue Brederode 21, B 1000 Brussels, and Common Values, Skopje, Macedonia). In the study, it is indicated that “the link between ethnic politics and decentralization has not been explored systematically in any particular social science discipline. Ethnicity, minority rights, self-determination and similar concepts have been studied at great length, but the perspective is limited to the analysis of political systems and arrangements like federalization, territorial self-governance, political autonomy, etc. Local self-government in a unitary state and the influence of ethno-political practices are largely neglected.” (p.65)
At least I have found one study on the topic in my mind. I repeated my search in JSTOR library too. JSTOR was also barren. As a possibility, and changing the key words, of course there can be more studies to be found if we increase our effort but my experience and aforementioned study, to some extent, confirms that negligence. One reason of this negligence or deadly silence can be that both currents’ destructive effect on unitary state is quite clear. Whenever I see something destructive, I remember a metaphor. In ancient Muslim tradition, extremism was denounced by using “fire circle” metaphor. The coolest point is the center of the circle. Whenever you move from the center, you move toward the spheres (extremes) where temperature is higher than it is in the center. Sphere of the circle is burning and destructive.
Turkey is a unitary state that has faced both PKK terror and ethno-political practices of DTP. If Turkey will stay a unitary state, interested parties should be aware of the fact that local self government topic has become hostage to ethnic politics of DTP because particularist ethnic politics has a natural tendency toward decentralization upholding the merits of local self government as a way to veil the dirty words of separation and self-determination. Decentralization and local self government, against all its merits, is the instrumental purpose of ethnic politics and separatist movements in democracies. Thus it is clear that we should debate on the issue of unitary state before progress on decentralization as it will be at the expense of unitary character of the state. But above all, we need something new.
Frankly, remote-controlled DTP nowadays doesn’t need a cone of silence anymore and goes so far that it demands democratic autonomy loudly and exceeds the limits of legitimate debate on decentralization and makes it a burning issue for political scientists who desire to discuss it fairly and objectively. Political scientists, journalists and the people in political community who support decentralization and local self government either for the sake of democracy or efficient-good governance or for both ends, find themselves in DTP camp.
The central question in Turkey is the same question asked in Macedonia: “How to pursue more profound local government reform, to prevent federalization, suspected of leading to secession, and to guarantee the cohesion of the state.” There can be a decent mixture of local and central government model within democracy for the common good but scholars and especially politicians and civil society figures should abandon logical extremes of democracy (and individualism).
When we go to logical extremes, alternative form of representative democracy is direct democracy while the alternative of nation state is the city state model. A reverse alternative is non-democratic global bodies which are under the control of appointed foreign bureaucrats. A non-divisive one is regional integration within a democratic framework.
But how can one avoid from going to extremes?
An epistemological prism based on Islamic ontology and its percepts
At the end of the day, it is a matter of conception of life, human, universe and God. Value loaded political and social concepts like decentralization, local (self) government, self-determination, democracy, individualism, nation state, city state, separation etc are not free from this quadruple.
Perhaps it is time to remember Syed Muhammad al Naquib bin Ali al-Attas and Islamization of Knowledge. We need to rely on Islamic epistemology and non-Western perspectives for political science as well as international relations discipline.
“Al-Attas makes no attempts to accommodate modern Western scientific spirit through a reinterpretation of Islam, or to import Western technological skills and products while simultaneously keeping intact the traditional understanding of religion. Problems in the world, he says, are not because of illiteracy or ignorance of modern knowledge; the reasons are epistemological and metaphysical. Modern sciences must be acquired, but their philosophical foundations must be recast into the Islamic metaphysical framework.” (Wikipedia, Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas) He says "We do affirm that religion is in harmony with science. But this does not mean that religion is in harmony with modern scientific methodology and philosophy of science. Since there is no science that is free of value, we must intelligently investigate and study the values and judgments that are inherent in, or aligned to, the presuppositions and interpretations of modern science. We must not indifferently and uncritically accept each new scientific or philosophical theory without first understanding its implication and testing the validity of values that go along with the theory. Islam possesses within itself the source of its claim to truth, and does not need scientific or philosophical theories to justify such a claim.” (Prolegomena, p. 38, Cf. Wikipedia, Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas)
Even democracy has become the way of fragmentation. Individualistic modern Western society that has been based on rational thought and “self” is rationally fragmenting, dividing and slicing even itself as well as rest of the world. (A rational end for a rational Enlightenment.) And in case we understand the aforementioned concepts within a secular worldview, we can’t dislodge these features creating dissociative disorders among Muslim populated regions. So scholars, especially politicians and other interested parties in political community should look at all the political concepts and process them (and create new concepts) through an epistemological prism based on Islamic ontology and its percepts. In this case, we will have a (democracy )governance hence “(democratic) government decentralization” and “local government” understanding different than what parochial Western worldview teaches us.
Ruşen Keleş, Yerinden Yönetim ve Siyaset, 6. Konu. Etnisite ya da Kimlik Siyaseti Karşısında Alternatif
Çözüm Yöntemleri: Siyasal Yerinden Yönetim, Bölge Yönetimi ve Yerel Yönetim, Cem Yayınevi, 2011.
A Guide to Minorities And Political Participation in South-East Europe (A joint publication of the King Baudouin Foundation Rue Brederode 21, B 1000 Brussels, and Common Values, Skopje, Macedonia), p.65
Wikipedia, Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas article, accessed on 11 May 2011.
Prolegomena, p. 38, Cf. Wikipedia, Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas article, accessed on 11 May 2011.