The concept of conservatism may be defined as 'keeping the status quo'. This concept is not a well-grounded concept in Turkey, and therefore its content and variations need to be examined from different perspectives.
Whether conservatism is a political understanding and practice, which tries to conserve the status quo; or is it a social phenomenon that covers up some concerns and reactions against change? How does it possible to define conservatism merely as an ideology; or can we see conservatism in our daily life as a manner and attitude? To talk about and discuss on conservatism in Turkey where many radical cultural and civilizational change took place in recent history bring up many questions.
If we consider conservatism as an ideology except a product of an historical revolution (French Revolution), when did this concept emerge in us? Where should we begin this process? The reform and improvement movements in the Ottoman times belong to a significant curve; but the transformation of these reform movements to revolutions during the Republican period and to a state-supported policy to change the society indicate a distinct threshold, which led to the emergence of reactions by some social groups. Other reasons for the reactions may be defined as the targeting of social institutions as religion as they caused backwardness, and the attempts to eliminate the influence of these institutions in private, social and political realms. At this point, the crucial question seems to be whether the Turkish conservatism is a product of those reactions, or not?
The two keywords in the discussions about conservatism are modernization and tradition. We should undo the following knot while analyzing the connections between modernization-tradition-conservatism: On the one hand, a conservatist thesis in the form of "without having a tradition, it is not possible to experience the modernization"; and on the other hand, a social engineering project that comments on the tradition as an hobble in the way to live the recent times and to construct the future, and thinks tradition as the opposite of modernism, and interprets conservatism identical with religiosity, and religiosity with backwardness.
Another knot seems to emerge in the issue of the reference points of conservatism. The attributes as national, Islamic, democratic etc. wonder us which tradition or the thought system will be taken as reference point. This question still expects an answer.
Another issue to find an answer may be mentioned as to locate the place of Bediüzzaman within the discussions on conservatism. Was Bediüzzaman a conservative, if not, how do we need to understand and interpret his conservative attitudes? Bediüzzaman mentions his distinctiveness with the following sentences: "They assume me a teacher in the madrasa who fasted in the scholastic marshes. Nevertheless, I dealt with every type of natural sciences, and all sciences and philosophies of this age. I already worked out the deepest problems in these sciences". He also fixed the principles of faith and unification as the main pillars of the Islamic societies. He had also a very clear position against the modernization and Wester-nization. He criticized the activities and ideas which made to raze the religious values in the name of Westernization and attended those values: "Our desire is the beautification the civilization, the good deeds benefiting the humanity". Can we argue that Bediüzzaman was a conservative due to this attitude?
Considering all of those, we designate the dossier subject in this 97th issue as "conservatism". We plan to analyze this subject around the concepts of "conservative, conservatism, tradition, traditionalism, culture, reform, change, modernization, Westernization, religion, family, backwardness, revolution, laicism, politics, order, status quo etc." and want to ask the following questions.
How can we define conservatism from the point of view of sociology of knowledge? What are the historical and sociological roots of this phenomenon? What are the sociological conditions to talk about conservatism? What are the conditions leading to the emergence of conservatism from the point of view of social dynamics? Can we consider conservatism a perception of temperament and personality from the perspective social psychology? What are the cultural, political, literal and ideological dimensions of conservatism? What are the correlation between conservatism, tradition, traditionalism? What kind of significance does the Republican Revolution carry for the conservatism? How do the Republican elite approach to the conservatives and conservatism? What are the critics of conservatism against the Republican Revolutions and revolutionism? What are the sociological, political and philosophical tools of conservatives against the concepts like revolution, change, modernisation etc.? How do we need to comment on conservatism politically? How can we interpret the relation between laicism and conservatism? How should be the concept of Turkish conservatism interpreted? How can we compare this phenomenon with the European counterparts and their representatives? What is the connection between Islam and conservatism? Does the religious conservatism stand against the reformation, progress and Westernizaton? How does Bediüzzaman approach to such kind of issues?
We aim to contribute to the discussions on "conservatism" in our country and try to bring in some new ideas to our ideological horizont. We believe that many question will find an answer in our dossier.
Key Words: Conservatism, manner, ideology, human, society, politics
Source: This article is the editorial writing of the akademic magazine Köprü/Winter 2007