Agricultural Restructuring in Post-1980 Turkey and Persistent Primitive Accumulation

Oyku Safak Cubukcu
Oyku Safak Cubukcu
  The University of York


This paper revolves around the question of how the crises of capitalism contribute to the reproduction of the capital-relation, by focusing on the case of contemporary rural Turkey. Turkish agriculture went through a restructuring process, as part of the broader political and economic restructuring at the country level in post-1980 period. Implementation of neoliberal policies as a prescribed solution to the crisis of late 1970s found its reflections in the agricultural sector through the redefinition of role of the state. This provided a good opportunity –for capitalism- to enclose the commons from forage lands to water, to divorce the peasantry from their means of subsistence and force them to enter into wage relations already established elsewhere or to establish that relation in the rural areas. In the attempt to make sense of this process, the conceptualisation of primitive accumulation by Marx is used. This allows us not only to grasp the restructuring process in Turkey in a more comprehensive way through relating it to capitalist development, but also to underline the fact that it is capitalism per se, rather than a neoliberal form of it, that entails the process of separation of the masses from their means of existence. In this sense, following Bonefeld, it is argued that this very process is not a consequence of crises of capitalism, despite the fact that crises contribute to it; it is the constitutive basis of the capital-relation. The agricultural transformation in Turkey exemplifies its persistence and underlines once again that the capital exists only through limiting human livelihood.

Turkey - neoliberal transformation - Peasant - primitive accumulation - Capitalism