Turkey and Europe: Neighbours from afar

12 May 2006
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At a time when neighbourly relations between nation-states dominated international politics, Carl Schmitt defined the political as the tension between friend and enemy. After 1945, states were expected to adopt a trans-national understanding and to step beyond their isolationist boundaries, a hope largely disappointed in Cold War hostilities. After a surge of popularity for concepts such as fluidity, migration, and fragmentation, polarity has returned to the stage of international politics, bringing with it renewed interest in neighbourhood. Associating neighbourhood with friendship, Hasan Bülent Kahraman looks at Maurice Blanchot's theory of the "infinite distance" inherent in friendship. Turkey can and should, he argues, use this distance as a parameter in order to establish a productive relationship with the EU and the West.

Law and use of force

It is possible to claim that the current period is a time of crisis for the world. However, it is just as impossible to find a period when the world did not face a crisis. Moreover, it could be said that the world has been going through an age of continual crisis since the French Revolution. There are two fundamental facts that substantiate this claim. One is technological change. The ubiquitous technological transformation the world has been undergoing almost daily has given rise to both micro- and macro-crises. The second source of crisis is the struggle for control over the world. In a wider sense, the fault line of this crisis is the imperialist division of the world into the powerful and the weak, the will and desire of the powerful being to subjugate the weak, to usurp their will both at the national and individual level of consciousness. The passion for control over the weak has brought on wars that are the most concrete crystallisation the concept of crisis yet.

Politics is essentially about balancing the processes of power. This balancing act will manifest itself either as seizing power, or as the creation of an opposition. In the last analysis, politics is a complex of power and sovereignty relations. Preventing politics from relying on brute force is a problem of civilisation. However, there are two dimensions to this approach. On the one hand, there are the older models that limit the use of force; on the other, systems that arise despite the constraint of such models, which project and legitimize the use of force.

Religion projects such an understanding. There is no religion on earth which systematically promotes itself while upholding a passion for brute force.1 Yet, it is impossible to claim that religions bring an ultimate balance of power to the societies they rule, primarily because class differences, among others, exist despite religion. Actually, the existence of class differences and the resulting struggle is one of the most important aspects of political history. Even though some advanced religions declare that they are on the side of the weak and the downtrodden, the situation has not changed. Christianity is such a movement. Many sources portray Islam as an almost “socialist” religion.2 As such, it designates the protection of the poor, the weak and the desperate as its primary goal.

Even so, religions have been unable to overcome the problem mentioned above. We are now at one of the most critical crossroads of political history. As history evolves, an even more complex situation regarding religions will arise. Certain empires will adopt religions as their ideological superstructure. Moreover, the representative of the centralised authority will resort to use of force in the name of the religion. Perhaps they will be bold enough to interpret the use of force as a mandatory aspect of religion, as in the concept of gaza (religious war). The use of such concepts and the systematic application of force becoming routine practice are evidence that religions and systems of religious sovereignty deepen the problems referred to above, instead of solving them.

Among the most important instruments of modern politics is the search to overcome these constraints and prevent the open use of brute force, as well as to abolish the implicit models of this approach. The new social order following the Industrial Revolution, and the political movements that have been developed in relation to this order, have played an important role in the establishment of this idea. These models, which may be defined as “Left” in the widest sense, have undertaken powerful struggles for the abolition, or at least the limitation, of implicit and explicit hegemonic orders, the use of authority, unilateral and oppressive sovereignty, and introverted, isolationist models of government. The struggle continued throughout the late twentieth century. The post-1968 movement took important steps and covered much ground in establishing of this approach, both at a macro- and micro-level. The problem has been defined as a dilemma of power, and has been consolidated within the assumption that sovereignty is a unilateral and oppressive reality at all levels. The objective has been defined as the abolition of this sovereignty and the inherent problem of authority.

Two separate processes can be considered to reach this objective. The first is the concept of democracy. However, it should be noted that democracy alone does not suffice to eliminate an unequal exercise of power, an oppressive model of authority, or an isolationist approach. Although it has an important function at a micro level, democracy is not sufficient or functional in more comprehensive applications.

Foremost among such applications is international relations, which is a dilemma in its own right. One of the most important steps in the development of a political approach based on the use of brute force and violence is foreign policy. The main purpose of the world’s international policy institutions and policy-making processes is the prevention of this situation. In the background of the quest for policy in the post-1945 period lies this fact. International and supranational institutions draw their power from this ideal. Starting with the United Nations, efforts towards institution building have gained an altogether new dimension since 1989. Transnational institutions that have emerged in the world today have a perspective that widens and advances the boundaries of this approach. The idea to establish such institutions stems from the notion that nation-states, as introverted closed structures, comprise an inward use of violence, and from the need to escape this vicious circle.

The concept of “internal affairs” is the manifestation of this idea. Seeking refuge in or relying on this concept, the state closes its boundaries and claims the “right” to engage in any measure of extra-legal practices as it wishes. The “reason of state” concept further strengthens and institutionalises this idea. Resorting to this concept, any nation-state can abolish the practice of law. The foundation of this principle is the Weberian definition of state as establishment that has the right to apply legitimate violence (or an establishment whose use of violence is considered or made legitimate). The law limits the authority of the state to use force. The reason of state, on the other hand, comprises an understanding above the law. Modern international law is an effort and a struggle to invalidate this understanding.

These three facts serve to prove that the limitation of the use of force in relationships between individuals as well as between individuals and the state is primarily a political process. The institutionalisation of this process is a problematic of the law. The intersection of law and politics is an “objective” process in itself. It is a consequence of the concept of “positive law”. Political theory has studied how this relationship is determined. Yet, an important conflict ensues in situations where positive law rules. As a “manufactured” entity, positive law ignores resident values, habits, rituals, traditions, folkways, and similar structures. Yet, the development of the social in each phase incorporates a notion of law. This law is introverted. It does not require acceptance by anyone looking on from outside.3 However, it does contain a certain logic of law. Therefore, it should be noted that traditions and folkways are not immanent in law, but that law is inherent in these processes. As such, it is certain that some related concepts have developed in a unique instance of history and logic before processes of (positive) law emerged. One of the most important of these concepts is the very complex one of neighbourhood.

Neighbourhood is not a concept of narrow scope and limited functionality. On the contrary, it is a very complex phenomenon where ritual processes of law become the most functional and intensively applied, and which gains meaning in any type of bilateral relationship, and even reproduces the acquired meaning. It is not only valid between individuals, but also resorted to among nations or states. In this respect, neighbourhood is not only a founding concept; it also becomes the threshold for testing a series of established relationships. Moreover, it is a fact that neighbourhood is also used by the super-narratives of applications of traditional and ritual morality and law. These applications not only determine neighbourhood processes but also analyse them, and even start defining new structures that reside upon the consciousness, implementation, and model of neighbourhood. The fact that neighbourhood is a concept or even a precedent often referred to in international relationships is altogether a result of this approach.

Taken into consideration with these aspects, the concept of neighbourhood is active in the definition and shaping of both political theory and international policy, as well as the development of certain structures with implicit and explicit meanings. It is also obvious that neighbourhood does not suffice to eliminate these processes. In the remaining part of this article, I will summarise the political models that deal with neighbourhood, investigate the determining values of neighbourhood as a catalyst of relationships, point out its weaknesses, and reflect on the relation between neighbourhood and democracy. In the last section, I will, with particular emphasis on “friendship” as the most important issue that the neighbourhood concept embodies, try to determine how this affects relations between Turkey and the European Union.

Neighbourhood as territory of internal sovereignty

We can start by defining the two “states” of neighbourhood. One is the “neutral” case. Neighbourhood is a physical attribute. When two subjects come side by side, a neighbourly relation develops. In the definition of this relationship, the concept of neighbourhood can be used. However, this does not necessarily make neighbourhood functional. In this state, neighbourhood is purely positional, since the territories are tangential. There is no relation between subjects, hence no interaction. Again, in this state, neighbourhood is far from the “historical” meaning of the concept. It only points to a geographical and legal situation. Indeed, with the dawn of the modern era, positional or geographic neighbourhood has become a concept managed by civil law.

However, the true meaning of neighbourhood is far from this perception. Neighbourhood refers to a more active process. It is a medium of interaction. We can even go further, and point to a situation which looks paradoxical in itself: regulations that ensure that neighbours do not harm each other, that the powerful neighbour does not oppress the weaker one, that they treat each other with a basic measure of respect, refrain from brute force in the sense we alluded to above, and create a passive atmosphere, which in reality is an active process that has a mute language. There is another real active situation beside the active state maintaining this introverted and neutral/passive/active state, and it is this situation that has always been underlined with reference to neighbourhood in the historical-ontological sense.

Accordingly, neighbourhood is a type of relationship that presupposes the interaction of subjects with each other, and requires that the subjects establish a “civil” level of consensual and voluntary relationship. As such, it is not neutral, but active. At least it is assumed that it should be active. This situation applies to both legal and cultural neighbourhood relations. It is difficult to imagine that a neutral or passive state of non-interaction would produce neighbourly relations.

It must be noted that especially this active case of neighbourliness is powered by two concepts. These are friendship and love. Indeed, if the most important phenomena defining the interest-free nature of neighbourhood relations are voluntariness, another one is the fact that it happens within a framework and act of friendship. It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a neighbourhood based on enmity, hostility, and conflict. Friendship may be seen, at least, as a determinant of the boundary of mutual reconciliation in neighbourliness. Any situation beyond reconciliation, in other words a state of neutral-positional non-interaction, will be determined along the lines of aggression and defence. This corresponds to a situation which can only be defined as enmity. Therefore, the fundamental categories of political science in the context of neighbourhood appear within boundaries determined by this concept.

The most important cornerstone of this approach in the history of political theory is Carl Schmitt. When defining the political, Schmitt makes one of the most important determinations of the theory when he suggests that politics is determined by the tension between friend and enemy.4 As a result, political configuration will be based on polarisation. International policy will require division into friendly and hostile camps. What is intriguing is that this division takes place around neighbourhly relations.

This “reasoning” is not limited to Schmitt’s controversial model. Years before Schmitt, the Treaty of Westphalia defined nations of the world on the basis of a “system of nations” as entities linked by neighbourly relations, each therefore an introverted nation with closed boundaries. Similarly, nations will exist only within their boundaries; they will develop friendships and hostilities among each other, and preferably have “good” relations with their neighbours. The significance of the solidarity between friends is to ally against enemies with the purpose of destroying, or at least neutralising them. On the other hand, the approach to international policy after 1945 has attempted to construct a movement that is beyond this early model. As mentioned above, war as a method – based upon the separation of friend from foe – of overcoming this was disqualified as a means of “neutralisation”. More peaceful means were introduced. Nevertheless, the Cold War that dominated much of the twentieth century has to a great extent hampered the functioning of this model.

The configuration or at least proposition of politics that emerged that emerged with the end of the Cold War emphasise the inadequacy of these models. Defined by generic labels like post-modern definitions of politics or globalisation, this new approach proposes the structuring of politics on a foundation beyond the logic of friend-or-foe. As a result, even the adequacy of the institutions mentioned above is questioned. Their inherent weaknesses are pointed out. The development of a new pattern that will surpass these is sought. And there is an effort to shape this new initiative in the form of transnational institutions. Similarly, there is a desire to step over the safe haven of “internal affairs” concept of nation-states by reference to the principles of human rights and the supremacy of law. States are expected to adopt a trans-national understanding, to step beyond their isolationist boundaries and develop a new sense of law. There are initiatives to work out the institutional infrastructure for this, and the concept of neighbourhood is once more placed on the agenda.

New order of conflict and neighbourhood revisited

In the new millennium, this process encountered significant interruptions. The most frequently cited reason is 9/11 and its aftermath. This is not entirely wrong. However, one of the most important reasons behind the change of the global climate is the imperialist approach mentioned above. While the United States claimed to be the sole global power in a uni-polar world, and attempted to shape the new world order in its own interest, thus exacerbating the situation, the first wave of globalisation gave way to a second. Whereas the first wave was founded on law and had universal objectives, the second wave is more economically oriented and has an imperialistic context, rapidly leading the world into an era of war. The momentum following 9/11 has caused more dramatic developments during this period.

This period has introduced a very important phenomenon, expressed through Samuel Huntington’s concept of “the clash of civilisations”, which announces a return to the “bipolar world” which was thought to have disappeared.5 The most prominent feature of the concept is the division of the world into two camps, similar to the situation during the Cold War. However, it can be claimed that this concept is more consequential than the model of the Cold War, because a faith (Islam) that is not ideological in its anthropological, cultural, and primal state is qualified directly as an ideology. What’s more, the world is divided along Islamic and non-Islamic axes, and new maps are drawn. This may be considered an extension to the “end of history” thesis of the early 1990s. Whatever its course of development, this process marks the end of the thinking in the 1980s and 1990s, and initiates a much “harsher” period.

The initiation of a new era is evident from the fact that the concept of neighbourhood is opened up for discussion. The defining concepts of the political situation in previous decades had the content and the capacity to transcend a phenomenon such as neighbourhood, which was determined by a limited geography and a certain level of introversion. Among the dominant discussion points in this period are the transcendence of boundaries, homelessness, migration, and fragmentation. None of these point to stagnancy; on the contrary, they comprise a constant movement. Other indications of the spirit of the era are the prominent concept of fluidity, and similarly, the emphasis on relations between the periphery and the centre. These concepts reveal the desire after the Cold War that the world be an integrated entity. The main effort was to replace the divided and dissociated world with a world formed by elements that were converging mainly due to the deterioration of the nation-state concept. Put the other way around, it was expected that the nation-state and nationalism would be superseded. Rigid, core nationalisms were considered to be obstacles on the way to the desired result. However, the world today is witnessing a very different practice. The micro-nationalisms emerging in the 1990s created a world that is increasingly fragmented, where the fragments are separated along much more rigid ideological lines than those observed during the Cold War. What is more, the world is teeming with wars based on ideology. Most of the time, these wars are unilateral. This is a significant point that goes to show why the concept of neighbourhood is being discussed.

One aspect of the concept of neighbourhood signifies hope. Referring to its nature which is based on friendship and neighbourliness in its historical/ontological meaning, it is thought of as a “shelter” to end war. The primary reason for this, as I mentioned in the introduction, is the assumption that there is communication and solidarity between neighbourhood and friendship. In this sense, neighbourhood, based on friendship, would eventually prevent war.

However, this can only be possible if the dimension of “otherness” in both friendship and neighbourhood is discarded, since friendship and neighbourhood, due to their ontology, are practices that can be restrictive, and essentially isolationist, representing hegemonic relations. It must be noted that this aspect of neighbourhood is behind the reasoning of Schmitt and the Westphalia accord mentioned above. Therefore, the creation of a new policy with a proposition shaped in reference to, or even in the context of, friendship and neighbourhood, or the assumption that the constructive and restorative properties of these two concepts can be used as a leverage to overcome current international and political fragilities, are approaches that need be tested. In this context, the search for neighbourhood may be considered a return to the policies of Schmitt. To phrase it a contrario, because neighbourhood also brews a drive towards hostility, it stands out as a concept whose promotion has to be met with understanding and consideration of the dynamics of our age. This part of the essay will briefly consider this issue, beginning with an analysis of the concept of friendship.

Neighbourhood and borders: Love and its inadequacy

In his Politics of Friendship, Jacques Derrida frequently refers to a maxim that is attributed by Diogenes Leartes to Aristoteles: “My friends, there is no real friend.”6 Derrida would repeat this phrase at the beginning of each lecture during the 1988-89 EHE seminars, where the book began to take its initial shape. The same phrase7 is quoted by Montaigne in his well-known essay titled “On Friendship”, which he wrote after the death of his friend La Boetie.8 In this essay, Montaigne makes another very well known definition of friendship. This definition is very significant in that it establishes the properties of a certain type of friendship: “If you insist that I tell you why I loved him, I feel that this can be expressed only thus: Because he was him, and I was me.” (Parce que c’était lui, parce que c’était moi.) As it can be observed, Montaigne immediately refers to the concept of love when talking about the relationship with his friend, as if to suggest that the two concepts are inseparable.

However, as stated above, love is not an “uncontroversial” concept. Blanchot makes a very interesting analysis of this concept, expressed in ancient Greek as philia. According to Blanchot, philia “involves mutuality, the exchange of the identical with the identical.” However, philia never means opening to the other, or “the discovery of the other”.9 This is a very intriguing approach. Blanchot shows that his friendship does not involve “discovering the other”, and also that there is a relation between identical entities. The inertia and stagnancy here is explained by Michael Naas: “Friendship includes a type of non-interaction and interruption of communication. The lives of friends do not intersect, but in fact diverge further from another the closer they come.”10 An absence emerges in the context of friendship, and this, according to Naas, results from the fact that friendship is an unproductive concept. As seen under close scrutiny, friendship embodies a serious problem, contrary to common presumptions.

The concept of absence can be traced back to Nietzsche. As is known, Nietzsche took up the phenomenon of friendship in his Human, All Too Human.11 Defining friendship in a very different way than that perceived by modern consciousness, Nietzsche expressed the points emphasised by Naas and placed foe before friend and absence before presence. Furthermore, absence is not just a concept as defined by Blanchot, Naas, and Nietzsche, purely limited to friendship. The phenomenon of absence embeds the concept of love as well. Discussing this issue, Lidell and Scott make the following determination: philein carries connotations like the love of the immortal for man, like a signifier with symbolic meaning. More importantly, according to the authors, philein is a relationship that is effective among the members of a tribe, family, society, or army.

This definition essentially overlaps with preceding interpretations, because on one hand it brings up the relationship between “identicals” as underlined by Blanchot, and on the other, emphasizes that it embodies a hierarchical pattern as well. Later, Lidell and Scott remark that love is a problematic of “affinity”, which should be viewed as an issue that contains, or at least surrounds, the concepts of absence and presence discussed above. To clarify this relationship we can again resort to Naas. Analysing the concept of philos that is conjugate with philen, Naas makes an important determination: “The parts of the body are thus called philos when the self is in dialogue with itself; when it is fearful and so must gather itself, regaining self-control.”

Hence the word philos indicates the border between inside and outside, integrity and disintegration, possession and disposession, life and death.12 None of these definitions show that the concept of love has a coherent “founding” and “constructive” content. In the contrary, the concept is problematic in itself and always points to a limit. The subject limit can be extended in a direction exactly opposite the a priori meaning attached to the concept, and in this respect become more interesting, as it is directed as much to presence as to absence, to use the same metaphor.

This approach is limited neither to philia nor to the phenomenon of neighbourhood. It also covers friendship. In his aforementioned analysis, Blanchot claims that friendship, despite the closeness it creates, also harbours an infinite distance. If we recall the concepts he previously used to define friendship, this is not surprising. In a system where one does not open up to the other, it is inevitable that a certain distance remains between the parties. However, the distance in this sense can be used to construct a more productive relationship. Thinking along these conceptual lines, it may be claimed that a neighbourhood relation based on friendship is not as productive as is thought. On the contrary, neighbourhood, in the context of philia, should be viewed as a limited and limiting concept. What is more, neighbourhood experiences further dilemmas as it develops a cultural structure and is integrated into it.

Neighbourhood and impossibility

Above all, neighbourhood leads to communal relationships. Communities are introverted organisms that live by their own rituals. There are possibly more dynamic models, but societies in general are integrated under the dominance of ritual culture. As such, they have a corporatist content. Moreover, being a geographical/positional institution, the community indicates an introverted structure. Singularity and isolation brought upon by modernisation is the exact opposite of this aspect of neighbourhood. In this sense, it is clear that neighbourhood has a pre-modern dynamic. Furthermore, one should submit that modernity and neighbourhood are in conflict with each other.

The most concrete and organised manifestation of neighbourly relations is the concept of a local “neighbourhood” seen in every culture, albeit in different forms and definitions. As with every introverted structure, the neighbourliness/neighbourhood pattern is conservative by nature. Accordingly, it opposes change. This problem widens its reach in more traditional societies. There are certain rules for recognition in the community, for being accepted and respected, and the foremost is the attitude of the member of the community. The individual is respected insofar as he accepts and implements the traditional. This means integration into the established set of values. A new proposition is only possible as the result of a need, and again, can only be considered insofar as it is met with common acceptance. Being an exception, proposing innovative ideas, behaving differently is not accepted. Moreover, it will lead to the isolation of those who demonstrate such behaviour.

The prevailing understanding of morality in communal structures is constrained with others’ view of the self. What the self thinks of his or her own ontology is not so critical. What matters is what another will say with regard to any act. This requires constant supervision and surveillance of how much each individual conforms to the dominant sense of morality, and its determining norms. Among the most important and functional acts of ritualistic structures of morality is continuous surveillance. We can observe how much this contradicts aspects of individualisation in its modern definition. Therefore, it is clear that there is a serious power inherent in the neighbourhood, even when it is an abstract concept.

In this context, the abstract phenomenon of neighbourhood can be perceived, much like all modes of power, as the name of the father, in Lacan’s terms. Then it can be claimed that patricide is the only means of emancipation, despite the assertions of traditional discourse. If this is not done, the person will remain captive within the traditional. Similarly, stopping the dynamic of the traditional and ritualistic in the smallest scale possible is only viable with the infinite distance expressed by Blanchot.

Turkey, EU(rope), and the constraint of neighbourhood/friendship

The relations between Turkey and Europe, recently institutionalised as the European Union, go far beyond what is known in actuality. Sultan Selim III, who was crowned in 1789, the year of the French Revolution, was exchanging letters with the King of France before that time.13 The history of the era after 1789 evolved through important milestones in 1839, 1876, 1908, and 1923 into the present, when Turkey desires to be a full member of the European Union.

Turkey’s relations with Europe have been defined by different concepts at different times. At first, the relationship did not include any discourse of “Europeanization”, and foresaw the transfer of a certain technology created in that geographic space (whose major point of crystallisation is France, and England to a second and much more limited degree) to Turkey. Westernisation became a serious “movement” in itself after 1908, and evolved to reach its apex in the political circumstances and institutions formed after 1923. Westernisation has now become an act of integration, hence the Kemalist reforms manifest in many different aspects of society.14

Turkey strives to become a part of Europe and expects the latter to have the same perspective towards itself. It must be noted that Turkey has been viewing itself with a self-directed orientalist perception during this process. Intent on becoming Europeanized, it belittles all of its innate values and due to its self-perceived incompetence commits itself to change.

In time, this process has rapidly gone behind far beyond being just an element of a discourse. Between 1923 and 1950, Westernisation turned into a systematic process that rejected all local attributes. From 1950 onwards, Turkey entered a progressive period of self-reconciliation and integration with its own local values. In this period, Westernisation attained a dual meaning: While Turkey held on to its intention of becoming part of Europe, it also tried to maintain traditional features which were particularly defined within a religious discourse and expressed by the emergence of religious values in daily life. This approach manifests itself fully in the bid for EU membership. The ambitious desire of the currently governing political party, one with a markedly Islamicist background, to integrate with the EU solidifies the new phase of this relationship.

As mentioned, the relations of neighbourhood and community the world seeks in an era of wars, of divisions based on religion, and a clash of civilisations –expressed in religious terms – contains a reasoning that determines the relation of Turkey to the EU. Turkey claims that accession into and integration with the EU will eliminate the present circumstances beset with conflict. Moreover, it views the exclusionary stance of EU towards Turkey as the result of this isolationist mindset. Turkey views this as a relationship of “friendship” and “neighbourhood”. Comments on this subject imply that integration with the EU, rather integration of the EU with Turkey, is seen essentially as a communalisation.

The point where this understanding manifests itself most is the criticism and reservation of France towards Turkey. Any statement by France on this issue meets with a strong condemnation from Turkey. Turkey’s reaction to France is much sharper than its reaction to other countries; the reason being explained by reference to the “history” of Turkey’s relationship with France. This relationship, its duration strongly emphasized, is seen by Turkey as more of a “love affair”. For years, Turkey accepted France as its “partner”, tried to emulate it, adopted, defended and institutionalised its values. French culture and literature were the indispensable source of reference for Turkish intellectuals for a very long time. Turkey had, in its own opinion, honoured all its obligations due to an “affair of love”. In return, it implicitly expects, even demands, an acceptance on the part of France, or at least that it not be rejected. Yet France does not display any attitude that would acknowledge such a relationship and bases its decisions and declarations on its own interests.

This “one-sided” love may or may not yield returns among the manoeuvres of international politics; apart from that, it hardly has any function. However, since Turkey cannot come to terms with this fact, it applies the same mentality to its relations with the EU. In this case, Turkey claims that since it has fulfilled the Copenhagen Criteria, has made the changes required in the process, it expects the EU to grant membership. Going further, it refers to the centuries-long history of its relationship with Europe.

As I have tried to demonstrate above, there is absolutely no meaning or functionality in Turkey’s definition of this relationship along the lines of neighbourhood and love. This approach, consciously or unconsciously, realises the inherent “natural hierarchy” of neighbourhood. Upon scrutiny, it will be realised that the relationship is identified as “unilateral”. Accordingly, Turkey is the party on the chase, while the EU is on the run. In this sense, the EU is in power, and Turkey agrees to be the object of this power. It is clear that such a relationship does not comprise the logic of equality.

Aware of this fact, Turkey resorts to a special reasoning and claims that “friendship” should emerge exactly where inequality resides. This is an approach that is derived by Turkey from a practice of neighbourhood, excessively dominant in daily life. Neighbourhood is a practice that also includes inequality; it exists only on its own set of rules which preclude equality. The mindset, summarised in the Hadith as “he who sleeps with a full stomach when his neighbour is hungry does not belong to us”, shows that the practice of neighbourhood is more tolerant to inequality, in the most radical form. Basing its relationship with the West on this reasoning, Turkey expects the West to accept it despite inequalities.

This reasoning cannot possibly be expected to advance the relations between Turkey and Europe. Moreover, it is wrong and unnecessary. The internal contradiction of Turkey’s reasoning lies within Blanchot’s definition of friendship as a relation between identical entities based on infinite distance. Turkey, seeking acceptance on the grounds of diversity, while at the same time trying to reach the same goal through its claims of friendship based on likeness, creates the internal constraints of the process. What is more, if friendship is to be taken into consideration, non-interaction will emerge.

Nevertheless, Turkey is aware of the presence of an inequality. In order to maintain a dynamic relationship, it should keep the issue of inequality alive so as to activate interaction. The productivity of Turkey’s relationship with the West depends solely on this. To use the same definition, Turkey can and should use the infinite distance pointed out by Blanchot to its own benefit and as a concrete parameter in order to establish a productive relationship.

Under these circumstances, Turkey should approach the issue not with such subjective concerns and concepts, but an objectivity that will surpass these. This will allow Turkey to become an adult, and becoming an adult is only achievable through patricide. Turkey should grasp this reality without wasting any more time and “kill” its neighbours. Achieving this in a period when impossible quests for neighbourhood are emerging would bring Turkey more returns than it has been expecting. Thus Turkey would be freed from the quest for “affinity”, from the effort to attain likeness, and from the concern for sameness. If, on the contrary, it remembered the “infinite distance”, it will be not so difficult at all to achieve those returns.

This article is based on a contribution to the panel discussion, “Only Neighbours? – Turkey and EUrope”, which took place at the 18th European Meeting of Cultural Journals in Istanbul from 4 to 7 November 2005.

  1. The promotion or even commandment of the concept of jihad by some religions comprises an altogether different concept.
  2. One source of this interpretation is Karen Armstrong's Muhammad.
  3. For example, recm (stoning to death) or berdel (exchange of brides among two families) are primarily traditional rituals but incorporate a degree of law.
  4. Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political; translation, introduction, and notes by George Schwab; with Leo Strauss's interpretations of Schmitt's essay. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1976.
  5. The concept "remaking of world order" in Huntington's book alone can explain this claim. Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.
  6. Jacques Derrida, Politics of Friendship; translated by G. Collins. London: Verso, 1997.
  7. The phrase is used by Blanchot in his essay for Foucault: Maurice Blanchot, "Michel Foucault as I Imagine Him", Foucault/Blanchot¸ translated by J. Mehiman and Br. Massuni. Zone Books 1987.
  8. Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays of Montaigne; translated by Donald M. Frame. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press 1965.
  9. Anan, Michael Naas, Taking on the Tradition. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 136.
  10. Ibid., 138.
  11. Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, translated by R. J. Hollingdale, introduction by R. Schacht. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996; 24-241; 251-252.
  12. Naas, 149.
  13. For details cf. Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 2001.
  14. Hasan Bülent Kahraman, "The cultural and historical foundation of Turkish citizenship: modernity as Westernization", in: E. Fuat Keyman and A. Icduygu (eds.), Citizenship in a Global World: European Questions and Turkish Experiences. London: Routledge, 2005.

Published 12 May 2006

Original in English
Translation by Sila Okur
First published in Varlik 4/2006 (Turkish version)

Contributed by Varlik
© Hasan Bülent Kahraman / Varlik / Eurozine


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