Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2013

Capstone Advisor

Professor of Political Science, Dr. Hossein Bashiriyeh

Honors Reader

Professor of Political Science, Dr. Mehrzad Boroujerdi

Capstone Major

International Relations

Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

History of Religion | International Relations | Islamic World and Near East History | Political History | Political Science


“Kemalism: A Revolutionary Ideology and its Islamist Opposition” seeks to define the Kemalist reform period as a revolutionary movement. During the 1920s and 1930s, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his authoritarian government undertook a series of sweeping social and political reforms. This paper seeks to establish these reforms and the underlying Kemalist ideology as a revolutionary ideology. Using a functionalist perspective, the essay illustrates the various crises that faced the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A number of reform efforts failed to effectively address the entirety of Ottoman societal ills.

The rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the Republican People’s Party can be explained through the use of the functionalist theoretical perspective which allows one to view Turkish governance and society as a system. The system remains in balance when the government provides the four functions of society: legitimacy, public welfare, private interests, and coercion. The Ottoman Empire failed to provide for each of these functions leading to disorder and chaos in society. The Charismatic Leadership Theory can be applied to Atatürk’s rise to political prominence at this particular juncture.

The years between 1923 and 1945 represented a period of single-party authoritarian rule under Atatürk and the Republican People’s Party (RPP). During this time the government initiated a series of sweeping social, cultural, and political reforms. Taken as a whole, these reforms represent a cultural revolution that dramatically altered Turkish society.

There have been three phases of Islamist counter-revolution in response to the Kemalist revolution. These phases are demonstrated by the rule of the Democrat Party (1950-1960), the Welfare Party (mid-1990s), and the current Justice and Development Party. Although each movement coalesced in a different historical context, there are some similarities between them including the creation of a populist ideology, emphasis on social justice, and the mobilization of discontented and marginalized citizens. By studying the Kemalist revolution and its opposition, scholars will not only be able to more clearly understand the historical trends of secularism and Islamism in Turkey, they may be able to more accurately predict future social and political changes in Turkey.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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