Excerpt from Faruk Yalvaç (2014) “Approaches to Turkish Foreign Policy: A Critical Realist Analysis”, Turkish Studies, 15:1, 117-138, DOI: 10.1080/14683849.2014.892238
Umut Uzer argues in his Identity and Turkish Foreign Policy that identities and ideologies as well as national interests are important in determining state behaviour (2011, p.9). Uzer states that the approach which he adopts is an “eclectic” one whose argument falls somewhere between an identity-based constructivist analysis and a realist analysis. However, the argument suffers from trying to combine two diametrically opposed positions, namely, the rationalist epistemology of conventional constructivism (which provides a “framework of prediction for future Turkish behavior” Uzer 2011, p. 184, 186) and the subjectivist ontology of constructivism.
Criticizing Wendt’s model for failing to analyze the actors before interaction, Yucel Bozdaglıoglu (2003) offers another constructivist analysis of TFP that emphasizes the importance of the domestic construction of identities in explaining FP preferences and interests. Bozdaglıoglu stresses that identities are constructed before states interact with each other, explaining different foreign-policy stances by referencing differences in perceptions of Turkish identity among Turkey’s Kemalists, Islamists and Nationalists. He combines his analysis with a liberal–pluralist understanding of society, suggesting that “the state’s identity will emerge as a result of domestic struggles among various groups—each pressing for an identity that would conform to their identity conceptions;” however, he does not elaborate on the nature of these domestic struggles or how they relate to wider social relations. Similar to Uzer’s analysis, a state-centric constructivism is combined with a liberal understanding of the state as the arena where different group conflicts are solved, and foreign policy is explained by the “different cultural backgrounds and identity conceptions” of different groups and institutions (Uzer 2011, p. 7, 27, 25). However identity formation is defined in culturalist terms, without an explanation of how identities are related to concrete social power relations.
One problem that all these constructivist accounts share is that they fail to discuss how identities are translated into state power, nor is it so clear that identity-based foreign policy is based less on geopolitical considerations leading, for instance, to different policies when and if security of a state is at stake. Can Turkey be said to be following a less state-interested policy today due to its changing social identity?… Similar to constructivists, poststructuralists see the world in terms of inter-subjective praxes and human actions and understandings, rather than objective material social relations…
The poststructuralist discourse in TFP analysis focuses on how different foreign policy practices are constructed through different discourses. The emphasis is on the deconstruction of different discursive structures, challenging binary oppositions and demonstrating the instability of meanings attached to the discourses. In one example of a poststructuralist analysis of TFP, Senem Aydın Duzgit, in her analysis of European Union (EU)–Turkish relations, defines foreign policy “as a discursive practice,” (2011) arguing along the lines of Roxanne Doty (1993; Laffey 2000) that foreign-policy actors “produce meanings” through discourse and “actively construct the reality on which foreign policy is based.”(Doty 1993, p.52).
Other scholars have also attempted to use post-structural approaches to understand how the discourses against Turkey’s membership of the EU are constructed (Tekin 2008; see also Yilmaz 2007). In an analysis bringing together post-structural and post-colonial approaches, Bahar Rumelili discusses the construction of “Turkey as a liminal subject” “which eludes the identity categories constituted by discourses on international politics, such as, Western/non-Western, developed/under-developed, democratic/ non-democratic.” (Rumelili 2012, p. 496). Turkey’s liminal status is described as “being in but not of Europe.” This is meant to demonstrate “how social categories constituted by the discourses of international politics are inevitably negotiated, contested and ultimately transversed by actors positioned in liminal spaces.” (Rumelili 2012, p. 500).
Similarly, Lerna Yanık analyses the “discursive formation of exceptionalism” in TFP and “illustrate[s] how historical and geographical features of a country are used discursively to construct an exceptional identity that in turn justifies and rationalizes foreign policy actions.” (2011, p. 82, 87). Despite its radical claims, this form of analysis is based on an acceptance of the traditional domestic/international distinction, replicating this in a discursive analysis. Thus, Yanık notes a contradiction between the discourse on exceptionalism in foreign policy and the domestic Kemalist nation-building project based on the “idea of purity” of a nation. From the emergent perspective of critical realism, this contradiction between domestic and foreign-policy practices can be traced back to the same social relations and processes without being reduced to them and therefore they stop appearing to be contradictory. Therefore, the contradiction can be resolved if the domestic and the international “levels” can be seen to arise from similar social processes and conditions. This, however, would imply a different ontological starting point, that of social relations rather than the discursive practices that are rooted in those relations.
Ali Balcı’s analysis of TFP most closely follows a “poststructuralist line”(2010). As is often the case in post-structural writings that criticize modernist approaches to the state and foreign policy, his analysis is based on a criticism of the internal/external divide. Similar to other poststructuralists such as Walker and Weber, he deconstructs this as a myth whereby the state “imposes specific meanings” on who is inside and who is outside. Foreign policy “does not have an a priori reality, but is a constructed myth;” it is a “strategy” that involves “internal power relations” (p. 87, 88, 89, 91). As with Yucel, Balcı takes the construction of identities as dependent upon different power relations inside; however, what these power relations are and how they are constructed is not clearly analyzed. Despite their different starting points, both Balcı and Yucel possess a liberal–pluralist understanding of the state as an arena of power struggle without relating power relations to a structural context of state–society relations. If foreign policy is a myth, then the circumstances that “produce” this myth need to be understood. Moreover, although Balcı underlines the importance of power relations in the formation of identities, he ignores more concrete social relations such as the relations of property and production out of which these power relations emerge and how they are translated into state policies. Thus, as Joseph might argue, Balcı’s “critique is deconstructive but not ontological,” (2004, p. 150, 158) ignoring how power relations emerge and are formed within a structural context and as an outcome of social processes. In contrast, Balcı’s analysis reduces power to a performative strategy (Ashley 1987, p. 51) or to its exercise. This argument lacks “an adequate notion of social stratification and hierarchy,” and assumes “a flat ontology that remains at the level of the surface play of power relations” (2004, p. 154, 159).
Ashley, Richard K. “Foreign Policy as Political Performance.” International Studies Notes 13 (1987): 51–54.
Balcı, Ali. “1990 Sonrası Turk Dıs¸ Politikası Uzerine Bazı Notlar: Avrupa Birligi ve Kıbrıs Ornegi.” In Turkiye’nin Degisen Dıs Politikası, edited by Cuneyt Yenigun and Ertan Efegil, 87–99. Istanbul: Nobel Yayın Dagıtım, 2010.
Bozdaglıoglu, Yucel. Turkish Foreign Policy and Turkish Identity: A Constructive Approach. New York and London: Routledge, 2003.
Doty, Roxanne L. “Foreign Policy as a Social Construction: A Post-Positivist Analysis of US Counterinsurgency Policy in the Philippines.” International Studies Quarterly 37, no. 3 (1993): 297–320.
Duzgit, Senem A. “Avrupa Birligi-Turkiye Iliskilerine Postyapısalcı Yaklasım: Almanya Orneginde Dıs Politika ve Soylem Analiz.” Uluslararası Iliskiler 8, no. 29 (2011): 49–70.
Joseph, Jonathan. “Foucault and Reality.” Capital and Class 28, no. 1 (2004): 143–165.
Laffey, Mark. “Locating Identity: Performativity, Foreign Policy and State Action.” Review of International Studies 26, no. 3 (2000): 429–444.
Rumelili, Bahar. “Liminal Identities and Processes of Domestication and Subversion in International Relations.” Review of International Studies 38 (2012): 495–508.
Tekin, Beyza Çagatay. “The Construction of Turkey’s Possible EU Membership in French Political Discourse.” Discourse and Society 19, no. 6 (2008): 727–763.
Uzer, Umit. Identity and Turkish Foreign Policy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
Yanık, Lerna K. “Constructing Turkish ‘Exceptionalism’: Discourses of Liminality and Hybridity in Post-Cold War Turkish Foreign Policy.” Political Geography 30, no. 2 (2011): 59–114.
Yılmaz, Hakan. “Turkish Identity on the Road to the EU: Basic Elements of French and German Oppositional Discourses.” Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans 9, no. 3 (2007): 293–305.