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Postmodern Politics: An Evaluation on Administrative Transformation

A note for our readers: the views reflected by the authors do not reflect the views of ASPA.

By Mehmet Yesilbas

Postmodern Politics: An Evaluation on Administrative Transformation

The last quarter of the 20th century was an era of intensive analysis of democracy and policy. From this debate, several movements and ideologies have emerged to find solutions to the political dilemma. Owing to the argument that policy and democracy suffer in developing countries, compounded with the fact that current policy doctrines cannot provide reasonable solutions to the contemporary issues, new strategies have been proposed.

yesilbas aprilFinding a way out through enlightenment ideals lying at the back of the transformation ideas of the society in the twilight zone of the 20th century is becoming an increasingly questionable issue. As C. Mouffe states in his 1989 book, Radical Democracy: Modern or Postmodern?, it is obvious that today’s rapidly changing world has suffered a crisis of Jacobin envisagement, which has identified the revolutionary politics of the past two centuries with different perspectives.

The political balance started to change along with the collapse of the socialist block at the end of the 1980s, leading to new period of political discourse and structure. Under the leadership of the Soviet Union, the collapse of the socialist block is the most obvious and striking factor of this era. As G. Saylan emphasizes in his 1995 book, Change, Globalization and the New Role of the State, the collapse of the Soviet Union eliminated the threat of a viable Western capitalist system thus leading to a new, more homogenous political epoch.

The socialist movements of the past century embraced doctrines that were prone to anti-globalization. Consequently, the later policy arguments proposed by the emerging global paradigm provided for an ample political ‘crack’ in the foundation of the socialist dogma. Hence, a new movement of thought rejecting the conventional archetype produced an accompanying political enlightenment, diversifying the critiques on the modernist approach with the contribution of postmodern critique. This era, in which dazzling transformations were experienced at an unprecedented pace, not only witnessed the collapse of the bipolar political world but a transformation of international relations. From this epiphany, ideas from the past were to be questioned and stalwart ideologies discarded.

It is safe to say that after collapsing the socialist block, which mainly supported by the Soviet Socialism, the leftist movements and the Soviet Socialism have been naturally questioned with parallel to this fragmentation. The awareness of a global intellectual foundation has produced a fundamental axis of new approaches ranging from freedom, democracy and justice, to the structural questions of subject, power and political forms. The modern theories of the Frankfurt School reflect on the criticism of the traditional doctrines. This is evident in many structuralist studies rejecting the base and superstructure notion and recognizing structural complexities. Particularly in the United Kingdom, where a neo-liberal economic approach is prevalent, many attached a catalytic impact on this social alteration.

Toward the end of the last century, the doctrinaire situation that was developed by the old Marxists organized around Marxism Today and the other leftist intellectuals began to give important hints of the transformation regarding the left. These intellectuals proposed the disengagement of the Marxism and the transformation to a new agenda within the framework of the ‘new times’ perspective. They assumed that the neo-liberal policies implemented in the United Kingdom are a phenomenon that moved capitalism to the new era. With this neo-Marxist perspective, a new viewpoint of leftism has begun to be constructed. Within this context, the leftist movement of thought from globalists to postmodernists, and from radical democracy theorists to those who adopted the approach of the third way of Anthony Giddens began to spread to a very large area.

The new critiques suppose that the leftist movement was involved with the crisis, since the concepts of object, authority and hegemony challenge the class hierarchy of traditional Marxist understanding. Hence, the new concepts were acknowledged as a way out and a roadmap to the crisis of the leftist movement. Especially, the new leftist movement started to express itself in an array of fresh social movements, most all in response to market inequity created by the globalization phenomenon and related environmental concerns. Substantial transformation in the leftist movement could be attributed to the axis shift mentioned earlier. In this way, the new left formations began to experience the anti-globalization tendencies of the past platform.

Genealogy and Development line of the Postmodern Condition in Developing Countries

This new leftist perspective found a considerable voice in developing countries. Postmodernism, as a concept, chronologically begins to take place in the 1960s, particularly appearing in the West. It is internalized as a description of the theoretical aspect of developments emerging in architecture and the arts. As Ayan emphasized in his 2006 article published in the Journal of Dusunen Siyaset, postmodernism agonized and suffered inhesion issues because of the flurry and impetuosity of determining the different views emerging in the politic, urbanization, and religion in developing countries in the 1980s.

Developing countries have witnessed the shifts and transformation in different segments of administrative and social life since the beginning of the 1980s. This shift has come to be called as postmodern without establishing the direct connections to large and medium scale societal transformation narrations or local contextual issues. The necessary consideration was not paid to the major purpose of the long and arduous theoretical buildup, and thus no ordeal or trouble was preferred to be endured. Perhaps all discussions in developing nations would pass by without being committed to any theoretical approach or history. Or perhaps there is a more simplistic analogy, such as developments following 1950, with leftists flocking to conflicting functional theory and the conservatives to structuralist functional theory. ‘Post-modern intellectuality’ has revealed its ‘epistemic weakness’ without becoming the ‘intellectual of postmodern.’

The traditional modern bureaucracy is based on maximizing efficiency within a strict hierarchy. Since postmodern perspective provides greater flexibility and decentralization of administrative decision-making, modern perspective came under attack for its intransigence. Developing countries started to adopt new approaches as much out of opportunity as necessity. Within this context, new techniques such as benchmarking and the use of collaborative governance tools have become prominent.

In the following months, we will continue to discuss the impact of the postmodern politic or postmodern condition on the administrative transformation of developing countries by specifically concentrating on Turkey. This column will discuss the administrative transformation issue by referring the ‘phrase regimen’, ‘language games’, and ‘transcendent and universal truth’ revelations by Lyotard, one of the prominent French post-structuralist philosophers.


Author: Mehmet Yesilbas, Ph.D., MPA, LL.B is District Governor, Attorney at Law and Deputy Head of EU Affairs & Foreign Relations Department, Turkish Interior Ministry. Dr. Yesilbas can be reached at [email protected].

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