SIX – The Emergence of the Social Problem
6.1 Defining the Problem of Historical-Society
6.1.a The First Major Problematic Stage of the Monopoly of Civilization
6.1.b From Rome to Amsterdam
6.1.c Eurocentric Civilization’s Hegemonic Rule
6.2 Social Problems
6.2.a The Problem of Power and the State
6.2.b Society’s Moral and Political Problem
6.2.c Society’s Mentality Problem
6.2.d Society’s Economic Problem
6.2.e Society’s Industrialism Problem
6.2.f Society’s Ecological Problem
6.2.g Social Sexism, the Family, Women, and the Population Problem
6.2.h Society’s Urbanization Problem
6.2.i Society’s Class and Bureaucracy Problem
6.2.j Society’s Education and Health Problems
6.2.k Society’s Militarism Problem
6.2.l Society’s Peace and Democracy Problem
7.1 Definition of Democratic Civilization
7.2 The Methodological Approach to Democratic Civilization
7.3 A Draft of the History of Democratic Civilization
7.4 Elements of Democratic Civilization
7.4.b The Family
7.4.c Tribes and Aşirets
7.4.d Peoples and Nations
7.4.e Village and City
7.4.f Mentality and Economy
7.4.g Democratic Politics and Self-Defense
EIGHT – Democratic Modernity versus Capitalist Modernity
8.1 Deconstructing Capitalism and Modernity
8.2 The Industrialism Dimension of Modernity and Democratic Modernity
8.3 The Nation-State, Modernity, and Democratic Confederalism
8.4 Jewish Ideology, Capitalism, and Modernity
8.5 The Dimensions of Democratic Modernity
8.5.a The Dimension of Moral and Political Society (Democratic Society)
8.5.b The Dimension of Eco-Industrial Society
8.5.c The Dimension of Democratic Confederalist Society
NINE – The Reconstruction Problems of Democratic Modernity
9.1 Civilization, Modernity, and the Problem of Crisis
9.2 The State of Anti-System Forces
9.2.a The Legacy of Real Socialism
9.2.b Reevaluating Anarchism
9.2.c Feminism: Rebellion of the Oldest Colony
9.2.d Ecology: The Rebellion of the Environment
9.2.e Cultural Movements: Tradition’s Revenge on the Nation-State
9.2.f Ethnicity and Movements of the Democratic Nation
9.2.g Religious Cultural Movements: Revival of Religious Tradition
9.2.h Urban, Local, and Regional Movements for Autonomy
Envisaging the System of Democratic Civilization
Ever since I began to know myself, doubt has never let go of me—it has followed me like a ghost. The depths of my skepticism would be like an affliction at times. When any of my dogmatic beliefs were shaken, it felt like my weakest moment. At the time, I was lackadaisical in life. The most important contribution of this skepticism, which even reared its head around issues that we cannot seriously consider defending, was that it taught me how elusive “the truth” is. I believe that my decision to problematize everything, including the instincts that drive me, finally gave me the strength to break with the dogmatic thinking that is still very strong in the social traditions of the Middle East. The fact that, in the final analysis, the Eurocentric hegemonic way of thinking still holds a certain sway over modernism’s dogmatic positivism and the postmodernist system of thought illustrates the importance of the issue. I tried to determine where I stand by comparing the East’s faith-based intellectual quality with the West’s inquiry-based intellectual power but could not find my place on either side. Naturally, the result of such thinking on my part meant that the gap between my life and these forms of thought deepened every day.
Neither form of thought ever really satisfied me, primarily because of the major role these systems of thought play in the development and growth of the social problem. This both encouraged and required me to adopt a position critical of both the East’s faith-based system and West’s rational system.
A second aspect is that my awakening consciousness never detached from my social practice. In this regard, a quality of my personality showed itself quite early on. Even when I was walking to and from primary school (it was a school in the neighboring village of Cibin), I would memorize a few prayers and pretend to be the imam of a small group of students. I took it quite seriously, like a role in a play. I think my motivation was to prove myself by sharing with other children the few suras I had memorized with great difficulty;1 hence the self-respect I felt due to having started to think: “What you have learned is difficult and important, so it must be shared!” Obviously, I was being introduced to a serious moral principle here. In earlier volumes of my defense, I shared a short version of how I experienced the first glimmers of clarity about modernity. I stopped when I truly realized that capitalist modernity had laid waste to my frantic marathon of thinking. Ironically, smashing the gods of the four-hundred-year-old capitalist world-system gave me the emotional strength that I imagine felt similar to the joy of the Prophet Abraham from Urfa when he emerged as an iconoclast. I was both able to easily take control of my skepticism and to engage in a meaningful way with the “truth” I was pursuing.
It is painful to observe that humanity, weakened in every way, has let its contact with truth decline to the most instinctive level. Today, there is almost no one who is not ready to capitulate in return for a life with a partner, a child, and a regular salary. I don’t deny this reality. To worship this material life in the name of rational thought, substituted for philosophy, brings nothing but complete misery. This is the world that the nation-state god has bestowed upon its happy servants. Can we realistically deny that we live in a terribly restricted world? Personally, I would find it a thousand times more meaningful and sacred to live under the symbolic god of ancient times than under the present nation-state divinity. I know, of course, that I am talking about the hollowest theism of the capital monopolies. It pains me to see that even those who receive the hardest of blows remain under the influence of this divinity and cannot think of breaking away. I am also quite aware that this is humanity’s current situation. This is best reflected in the Holocaust, which reveals the tragic levels that this situation has reached. Unfortunately, the Hebrew tribe, whose story we have told, has an important part in both the formation of that situation and the countless victims. Jewish power of thought has a hegemonic quality. I do not deny the reflection of this power of thought on my own personality, as a result of things ranging from memorizing prayers to iconoclasm, or underestimate its importance. But the tragedy of the Holocaust alone indebted the Jewish people to profoundly question themselves—as Adorno did. I too, proportionate to the degree that I have been affected, focused on the “democratic civilization system,” in the hope of paying my share of this debt.
At this point, we are Abrahamic. But when we have some Zoroastrianism in our heads the need to think differently grows. The dominant understanding of history in the form of narratives of civilization has developed significant fault lines. It is now generally accepted that while the march of power and the state may be the official history, it is not the history of society. Narratives about the formation of power and the state should be treated as a faint symbolic endpoint of historical truth that are only useful to capitalist monopolies. It is precisely these sort of marginal narratives that make history boring by not encompassing social tradition. It is clear that given the essentially antisocial nature of this history, it cannot address the society as a tradition. On the contrary, it will obscure and distort it in a multitude of ways. Dynastic stories fall into a similar category. Religious historical narratives, whose social representation is extremely shallow, are nothing more than the history of power and the state, especially when they enter the process of becoming civilized.
Class and economic interpretations of history, which detach social reality from its totality and are close to being reductionist, resemble state histories albeit from a different angle. A partially positivist point of view lacks the capacity to understand history even more than most religions. Although it may look as if they are in conflict with one another, all of these historical narratives are united by having originated in civilization.
I don’t believe that the history of social nature has been properly understood in both a paradigmatic and empirical sense. Historiographies that are called social history have little to offer and are nothing more than the most fragmentary parts of positivist sociology. They are no more than a depiction of the frame, i.e., a depiction of one part of the totality. I could say more about all of this, but it wouldn’t usefully contribute to our discussion.
At the risk of repeating myself, the reason I focus on history—as the narrative of democratic civilization—is because of the stalemate in solving social problems, which I still find difficult to grasp. This stalemate is not only found in daily life, the narrative is also overladen with it. The combination of these two conditions make the official narrative of civilization insurmountable. Squeezing in some bits about social history only serves to complicate matters.
I frequently say that scientific socialism clarified some facts by using the class character of history to explain this situation, but it could not solve the problem and, in fact, could not even avoid becoming part of the problem.
It is for this reason I often say that if we don’t completely overcome the capitalist modernist paradigm, grasping historical truth is unthinkable. On the contrary, the modernist paradigm will act to conceal the truth and deem it absurd even more effectively than religion. The historical consequences of Marx’s paradigmatic view can be better understood today. An incorrect grasp of history leads to an incorrect practice. If the paradigmatic and empirical approaches of civilization generally and capitalist modernity particularly are not overcome, a paradigmatic and empirical approach based on social nature will remain out of reach. I am attempting just that here, albeit without sufficient preparation.
1 The 114 chapters of the Koran are referred to as suras.
2 Henri de Saint-Simon (1760–1825) was a French political and economic theorist and businessperson whose thinking influenced politics, economics, sociology, and the philosophy of science. His economic ideology, known as industrialism, recognized an obligation to meet the needs of the working class for the smooth functioning of the economy and society.
Charles Fourier (1772–1837) was a French philosopher and “utopian socialist.” Fourier is credited with having coined the word feminism.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865) was the founder of mutualism and the first person to self-define as an anarchist.
Auguste Comte (1798–1857) was the founder of sociology and positivism, which called for a new scientific doctrine to respond to the problems that arose with the French Revolution.
Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) was a French sociologist, social psychologist, and philosopher whose work addressed the maintenance of social integrity and coherence in the face of the breakdown of social and religious ties in modernist period.
4 Shāhanshāh is a Persian honorific meaning king of kings.
5 The Levh-i Mahfûz, Arabic for the protected tablet, is, in the Islamic tradition, the divine book where all that has happened and will happen is written. See also Öcalan: Beyond State, Power, and Violence, (Oakland: PM Press, forthcoming).
6 Here is the statement referenced: “Whatever the theoretical aspects, the accumulation of capital as an historical process, depends in every respect upon non-capitalist social strata and forms of social organisation.” Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital, section three, chapter 26, Marxists .org, accessed December 4, 2019, https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1913/accumulation-capital/ch26.htm.
7 The author uses the word şebeke, which can mean either gangs or networks; in this case, both meanings are intended.
8 Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeology of Human Sciences (London: Tavistock Publications, 1970 ).
9 Zillullah is an Arabic word meaning shadow of God.
10 For example, the archeological remains at Tepe Gawra.
11 Rabb means Lord, Sustainer, Cherisher, Master, Nourisher. In Islam, Ar-Rabb is often used to address Allah, although Ar-Rabb is not one of the 99 names (or attributes) of Allah.
12 The Sabians were grouped by early writers with the ancient Jewish Christian group the Elcesaites and with gnostic groups like the Hermeticists and the Mandaeans. Today, the Mandaeans are still widely identified as Sabians.
13 Mohammad’s adoption of facing north toward Jerusalem, Islam’s first qiblah, or direction of prayer, later changed to facing toward the Kabah in Mecca, when performing the daily prayers.
14 Ahl al-Bayt means People of the House or Family of the House. Within the Islamic tradition, the term refers to the Mohammad’s family. Khawarij means those who went out and refers to a sect in early Islam that revolted against the authority of Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib after he agreed to arbitration with his rival Muawiyah to decide the succession to the caliphate following the Battle of Siffin.
15 The Mughal Empire, based in the Indian subcontinent, was established and ruled by the Muslim Persianate dynasty of Chagatai Turco-Mongol origin that extended over large parts of the Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan.
16 Asabiyyah is a concept of social solidarity with an emphasis on unity, group consciousness and a sense of shared purpose, and social cohesion, originally in a context of “tribalism” and “clanism.” It was familiar in the pre-Islamic era, but was popularized in Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah, where it is described as the fundamental bond of human society and the basic motive force of history, pure only in its nomadic form.
17 Öcalan uses mülkiyetçilik, derived from the Turkish word for ownership, to describe it as an ideology, similar to nationalism.
18 The saying is thought to have originated with Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who, in 1150, wrote “L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs” [Hell is full of good wishes or desires]. Many people have used some form of the phrase, including Karl Marx.
19 Maqam and tekke are buildings for the gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood.
20 Every wise old religious man or woman is said to belong to an ocak, which is seen as sacred.