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Between welfare state and (state-organised) charity: How Turkey’s social assistance regime blends two competing policy paradigms

Kerem Gabriel Öktem (Universitat Bielefeld Fakultat fur Soziologie, Bielefeld, Germany)
Cansu Erdogan (Universitat Bielefeld Fakultat fur Soziologie, Bielefeld, Germany)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 28 August 2019

Issue publication date: 9 April 2020

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Abstract

Purpose

Over the last four decades, Turkey has built an elaborate social assistance regime, which provides extensive coverage of the poor but lacks some of the key characteristics of European minimum income protection systems. The purpose of this paper is to explore what ideational roots underlie the regime and how these ideas and paradigms historically shaped the structure of the regime. The paper focuses on two central social assistance legislations: the social pensions law of 1976 and the Law that established the Fund for the Encouragement of Social Cooperation and Solidarity in 1986.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on a discursive institutionalist approach, the paper combines a qualitative content analysis of parliamentary debates and official reports with a policy analysis of social assistance legislations in Turkey.

Findings

The paper shows that two competing policy paradigms shaped the ambivalent structure and design of Turkey social assistance regime: a welfare state paradigm and a state-organised charity paradigm. The welfare state paradigm, which perceives social assistance as a social right, was dominant in the 1970s and is embodied in the social pension programme. The state-organised charity paradigm, which aims to reinvigorate the Islamic tradition of charitable foundations (waqf), was dominant in the 1980s and is embodied in the Fund for the Encouragement of Social Cooperation and Solidarity. Today’s social assistance regime combines both elements in a curious synthesis.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to comparative social policy research and discursive institutionalism by uncovering the historical and ideational foundations of a largely neglected case, social assistance in Turkey.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This paper forms part of a special section “Islamic foundations of social policy and welfare”, guest edited by Ali Akbar Tajmazinani.The authors would like to thank Lutz Leisering for very valuable comments and suggestions. The research has been supported by Stiftung Mercator (Project: “How ‘social’ is Turkey? Turkey’s social security system in a European context”, part of the program “Blickwechsel. Contemporary Turkey Studies”).

Citation

Öktem, K.G. and Erdogan, C. (2020), "Between welfare state and (state-organised) charity: How Turkey’s social assistance regime blends two competing policy paradigms", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 40 No. 3/4, pp. 205-219. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-11-2018-0217

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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