Gezi Park, 2013: The Emergence of the Istanbul Consensus

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The international media coverage of the ongoing protests in Turkey have largely struggled to make sense of what is in many respects an unprecedented situation, much less discern a deeper meaning in a movement that began as a simple sit-in demonstration by around fifty people who objected to the razing of an Istanbul park to make way for a shopping mall. But as the remarkably peaceful protests enter their second week, we at Mediolana think that for a variety of reasons there is something profoundly important about these developments – events which in their own way could prove to be even more consequential than the Arab Spring, and in themselves constitute an ‘Istanbul Consensus’:

1. Post-Beijing. When a handful of environmentalists protesting against non-consensual economic development in a rapidly-industrialising and increasingly prosperous country are joined by tens of thousands of sympathisers of all ideological hues in a generation-defining movement, this is itself represents a rejection of the Beijing Consensus: the idea that an omniscient state can direct its tax revenues and bank loans into mega-projects carried out in the name of society at large, but which merely reflect the dreams of the powerful.

2. Post-Washington. The fact that there are some groups of people who passionately believe that an urban green space is markedly superior to the construction of yet another cathedral of consumption is nothing less than a spiritual rejection of the Washington Consensus. Indiscriminate privatisation and deregulation which benefit only a select few is seen for what it is: corruption on almost every possible level imaginable.

3. Post-Conflict. At least some postmodern Western societies have attained a measure of social peace in recent decades, but in a post-ideological, post-religious context of disenchantment in which an undercurrent of cynicism is never far from the surface. Conversely, the streets and squares of major Turkish cities have seen nominally passionate social and cultural rivals – from hardline secularists and anti-capitalist Muslims to fans of Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş – come together, quite incredibly, under one banner.

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Filed under Economic Development, Environment, Political Science, Urban Life

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