Dissertation Abstracts

A Comparative Analysis of Islamist Movements in the Neoliberalization Process: Jama’at-e- Islami in Pakistan and the Fethullah Gulen Movement in Turkey – Reactions to Capitalism, Modernity and Secularism

Author: Keskin, Tugrul , tugrulk@vt.edu
Department: Sociology
University: Virginia Tech, USA
Supervisor: Dale Wimberley
Year of completion: 2009
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Modernity , Neoliberalism , Secularism , Islamic Movements
Areas of Research: Theory , Political Sociology , Social Classes and Social Movements


In my research, I examine the way in which neoliberal capitalist globalization and economic conditions in the marketplace have shaped and continue to shape the assessment by Islamic groups of modernity, secularism and their place within it as a mutually constitutive process. I conduct this analysis utilizing two country case studies: that of Turkey and Pakistan, each within the context of the theoretical frameworks of Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim and their study of the impact of religious ideas upon economic structures.
 Over the last three decades, from the start of market neoliberalism, the political economy has shaped religious ideas in Muslim-populated regions as a result of privatization, market deregulation, and urbanization. I found this process similar to that of the industrialization and emergence of modern capitalism in early 19th century Europe, which produced rapid urbanization. This, in turn, created a different lifestyle, family structure and, most importantly, produced a unique and secularized individual that was and is a product of modernity. The process can also be described as a departure from tradition and God. Economic transformations of this period restructured the concept of the social and politics. The politics of God have been replaced by the politics of economy. On the other side, neoliberal economic policies have instigated a desecularization process within Muslim-populated countries.

In Turkey, privatization and deregulation of the market have actually helped Muslims and Political Islam to move upward in the social stratification ladder, resulting in the emergence of an Islamic-oriented middle class. The Gulen movement in Turkey is one of the best examples of this process.

In Pakistan, the Jama’at-e-Islami has been a key player in the political and social sphere and has been supported by the middle class since the country was established in 1947. However, the polarization of Pakistani politics has weakened Jama’at and has consequently led to the formation of even more religious groups and movements. Both countries share similar social, political and economic characteristics and, in both, the desecularization process is taking place rapidly.

My study compares the Fethullah Gulen Movement and the Jama’at in a context of strengthening neoliberalism. Specifically, I look at how and why economic policies have led to a de-secularization of the social and political spheres, unlike the case of 19th century Europe. According to my research, desecularization in Muslim populated societies is a temporal process, which represents larger social and political transformation that have been fueled by the market economy. Even though we witness the increasing trend of Islamization in Pakistan and Turkey, these movements are being absorbed by new market conditions. In the Turkish case, the Gulen Movement has already been integrated into the market economy and should be characterized as a market-oriented movement rather than Islam based Nurcu movement. In the Gulen Movement, establishing a Islamic order is not a primary objective; rather, the movement seeks political power and economic prosperity. I therefore describe the Gulen Movement as an Islamic movement without Islam. By contrast, the Jama’at in Pakistan represents the lasting figure of classical Islam that conflicts with market conditions. However, despite this conflict, the neoliberal economy has transformed the Jama’at-e-Islami of Pakistan from classical Islam to reactionary Islam. Both movements, I argue, are being domesticated by new market conditions; however, a complete domestication will occur in a larger time period. In this global age, I argue that there is a smaller space for community while market-based individualism is a dominant factor shaping social relations and Islam has not been able to escape this domestication process.