Economic crisis, state capacity and solidarity approaches

Aslihan Aykac*

The impact of the economic crisis is worsening in all segments of society. Even meeting basic needs, especially in low-income groups, has become a structural problem. It’s not just about hyperinflation and the government’s bad monetary policy. This state of crisis, which has reached its climax today, is the result of the government’s poor economic policies for a long time. Although the abundance of liquidity in the global economy, privatizations and increased foreign direct investment contributed to economic growth for some time, the government could not produce sustainable policies that prioritized their long-term objectives in terms of agriculture, industrialization, employment and distribution. . Investments to reduce energy dependence have led to the decline of the agricultural economy and an increase in external dependence in even the simplest agricultural products. Unpredictable investment in industry has not gained competitive power either in the domestic market or in the foreign market, moreover, the expected employment of industrial investment has not materialized. Breakthroughs in the automotive and armament industries are only the beginning of the evolution of these sectors in global markets. Over the past two decades, privatizations in education and health, shrinking social safety nets have plunged working people into poverty and those economically inactive and in need of social protection into destitution. Consumption-indexed growth targets, which were achieved using available resources at the outset, became unsustainable when financial resources were depleted and turned into the inflationary vortex in which we find ourselves. It is very difficult to say that the current political actors are promising in terms of stopping this vortex and calming the waters.


The ability of states to manage political, economic or social crises is directly linked to state capacity. In an economic crisis, the state must have financial resources and institutions that will use them properly. Fiscal policies allow the government to intervene in the crisis in the short term. For this, the national savings rate must be high and it must be managed with the right financial instruments, the tax system must be efficient and the resources must be used for the benefit of the public. Second, the state should have autonomous political institutions that prioritize social benefits and aim to control the social effects of economic crisis. At this stage, it is expected that there is a balanced division of labor between the appointed and the elected, i.e. between the bureaucracy and the government, and that they work for common objectives. . In other words, elected officials must prioritize benefiting those most affected by the economic crisis, rather than winning over voters for the next election. Finally, the state must seek ways to move to a production economy with all its units and plan for it. In the short, medium and long term, in which areas the country’s resources can be used, which needs will be met, which sectors will create employment and added value must be studied and implemented immediately. However, when all of this happens simultaneously, the state can create resources for social policy and fulfill a distributive function.

State capacity indicates whether the state can implement the right policies, using the right tools, during an economic or other crisis. Michael Mann evokes the autonomous power of the State in his article written in 1984, while that of Max Weber[i] It departs from the classical definition of the state, which is a territorial area of ​​the state, centralized administration, an institutional division of labor and bureaucracy, and a monopoly of power, and makes a distinction between two powers of the state: the despotic power of the state and the infrastructural power of the state.[ii]. The first refers to the ability of the state elite to engage with civil society as they wish, while the second refers to the ability of the state to penetrate civil society and everyday life in democracies. capitalists. Mann points out that the state constructs its autonomous power with its territorial integrity, its organizational division of labor as well as its necessity, and the state fulfills certain functions in its relationship with society. Charles Tilly, on the other hand, talks about networks of trust as well as state capacity when he examines the relationship between social inequality and democracy.[iii]. While the exercise by the state of certain distributive functions and the opening of space for political participation increase its capacity and support democratization, the loss of confidence in decision-making processes, distribution and participation politics leads to the emergence of alternative networks of trust.

In cases where state capacity is insufficient, a weak or fragile state structure emerges. Fragile states are defined by the loss of physical power within their borders, the loss of participatory and legitimate authority in decision-making processes, the inability to provide adequate public services and the inability to build relationships balanced with other states in the international system. According to the Fragile States Index published by the Fund for Peace, Turkey ranks 57th out of 179 states. A failed state is defined as a completely powerless and dysfunctional state in the face of crises that exceed its capabilities. According to the same index, Yemen, where even the most basic human needs cannot be met, today ranks first on the list of failed states.

Turkey is going through an economic crisis and the state faces challenges in reducing inequalities and integrating vulnerable people, providing social safety nets and public services, as well as participatory decision-making and democratic legitimacy. The fact that a country in the G-20 category has such a high level of vulnerability suggests that new crises and risks may emerge in the future. The masses, who cannot obtain a share of the infrastructural power of the state and cannot establish a relationship of trust with the state, must inevitably develop new models of organization and alternative strategies. This situation can be seen as an effort to survive financially rather than a political challenge. However, these efforts, which seek a solution to the economic crisis in the short term, can also be a source of political motivation that will lead to the transformation of the state in the long term.


Those outside the macroeconomic framework of the state, those who cannot get a share of social policy and vulnerable groups who are not protected by social safety nets, seek a solution in other partnerships in order to to survive economically. Institutionalized examples such as solidarity economies, cooperatives or new models with a more flexible structure such as food societies, flea markets, sharing economies or barter groups are the product of such economic pursuits. It is not possible to associate such networks of trust with a single ideology or a single way of life. Thus, in addition to the traditional solidarity between religious groups or in rural society, urban solidarity and material partnerships between the middle class and the educated can be mentioned in this context. Many examples of solidarity emerged during the two-year period of the pandemic. What made the situation in Turkey more sensitive was the economic crisis that emerged right after the pandemic and the way it was handled.

At this stage, it is necessary to take the concept of solidarity to the next stage and ask new questions. What political awareness do solidarity economies emerge from the crisis of neoliberalism? Political awareness triggered by local and small-scale experiences can create political empowerment for vulnerable groups with a ripple effect. As the organizational scale grows, it may become more difficult to maintain supportive relationships; but these challenges will also be the process of learning new organizational initiatives. Models of solidarity can be a source of inspiration for political transformation in a situation where the state cannot fulfill its basic functions and is insufficient in terms of social inclusion, uses its despotic power instead of the power of infrastructure with Mann’s concepts, and evolves towards de-democratization, as Tilly puts it. What kind of practical opportunities do models of solidarity offer for a new generation of struggle, especially in a context where the opposition cannot overcome traditional patterns and encounter hesitations? The fact that the parliamentary system is not inclusive, that party politics does not offer representation and that the opposition does not have effective political prescriptions makes us think that the transformation of the state is inevitable. This inevitable transformation can benefit from the principles of solidarity models or create space for the expansion of solidarity while building another democracy, another economy and a new social contract.

While seeking answers to the above questions, it is necessary to correctly identify the problems of the current system and to fully understand the principles of solidarity practices. Solidarity economies organize the material basis of production and distribution, so that they oppose neoliberal market domination and directly target issues of distribution and inequality left unaddressed by the neoliberal state. Moreover, if solidarity practices are organized horizontally at the local level, they differ from the hierarchical structures of traditional politics. Participatory democracy, which is distinguished by solidarity, emphasizes living together with differences and negotiation; attempts to overcome the procedural patterns and constraints of representative democracy. In solidarity models, organizational structures are not a goal, but a means to achieve social goals and human values. Moving all these differences from the local to a larger scale also requires questioning the stages and organizational components of traditional politics.

*Prof.Dr., Department of International Relations, Ege University

[i] Weber, Max. Economy and Society, University of California Press, 1978.

[ii] Mann, Michel. The autonomous power of the State: its origins, its mechanisms and its results, European Review of Sociology, 1984, Vol. 25, no. 2, Tending the roots: nationalism and populism, 1984, pp. 185-213.

[iii] Tilly, Charles. “Inequality, democratization and de-democratization.” sociological theory, flight. 21, no. a, [American Sociological Association, Wiley, Sage Publications, Inc.], 2003, p. 37–43.

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