SIX – The Emergence of the Social Problem

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  • NINE
  • TEN

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

SEVEN – Envisaging the System of Democratic Civilization

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.a Clans
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

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

The Emergence of the Social Problem

Problematic moments in the dialectic of various natures are defined as the periods of a qualitative leap in quantitative accumulation. While theories of order and progress describe moments of transformation as very short intervals, chaos theories emphasize the centrality of the chaotic situation, with order and progress remaining limited moments. Thoughts about the continuity of the chaotic environment and ideas that advocate the continuity of progress have kept human reason busy. While there are those who think that human reason, like a mirror, would reflect reality, there are others who believe that the origin of all reason is to be found in humans.

It is not difficult to identify the universalist and relativist interpretations in these thoughts. To approach these issues more concretely, it is necessary to define and deal with the question of social reason. Therefore, my analysis up to this point—the groundwork providing a deeper understanding—is an introduction to the source of the social problem.

Throughout history, all important intellectual breakthroughs have emerged during one of two periods. When things are going well within the system, social prosperity is satisfactory, and there are no major problems, the result is intellectual development. The thought, which is progressive in nature, brings prosperity, does not give rise to significant problems, and tries to instill confidence in people, speaks of its permanence. It considers problems to be incidental and temporary. It mostly focuses on first nature and does not want to deal with social nature. The thought during other periods, when the system is overwhelmed, cannot carry on as it is, and is consumed with problems, is generally preoccupied with second nature. It is during these periods that new religious and philosophical pursuits proliferate. The solution to problems is sought in new ideas, new religions, and new philosophical insights.

The intellectual flow during both prosperous and problematic periods, with their great intellectual leaps, can be observed in all civilizations. In the highly prosperous period of Sumerian society we witnessed a magnificent leap of mythological thought, which has influenced all major religions, philosophies, sciences, and schools of art. There are no major religions, philosophies, sciences, or schools of art that were not influenced by the emergence of Sumerian thought. Similarly, the intellectual leap attained in ancient Greece was also linked to a period of prosperity. The fertile land in Mesopotamia was at the heart of Sumerian prosperity, while in Greece it was the result of the fertile land on both shores of the Aegean. While the Sumerians developed a magnificent mythology, in Ionia, philosophical thought came to the fore. There were developments of a revolutionary magnitude in both science and the arts. A similar surge of prosperity in Europe led to a great intellectual leap that by sixteenth century had a worldwide impact.

It is noteworthy that the intellectual revolutions seen during all three periods of prosperity started with discussions of first nature. However, when prosperity slows and crises erupt, discussions about second nature begin to predominate, and new ideas fuel fresh exploration. Some thoughts long for the past, charged with the memory of previous prosperity and order, while the avant-garde complain about the disorder and the gravity of the crisis and produce utopian ideas. They talk abundantly of new social forms. The outcome of all this searching is the formation of numerous societies. Various social formations come into being, including religious and denominational communities, new emergent tribal clans, and even nations, as in the European example.

Approaching history as the history of thought brings us face to face with social problems, making it impossible not to actually sense the enormous dimensions of these problems in present-day society.

I am trying not to think in terms of Eurocentric social sciences. I am conscious of the need to think independently of the Western social sciences. Some may underestimate this approach and judge it to be a deviation from the social sciences, but that is of no consequence. The Eurocentric social sciences truly stink of domination. You either dominate or are dominated. What we need, however, is to be democratic subjects and share things justly. European social science is in essence liberalism, which is to say, it is an ideology. But it has hidden this reality so well that it has even had the power to assimilate the thinking of its greatest opponents, using its own outstanding eclecticism. I have no other option but to develop a distinct analytical approach if I don’t want to fall victim to this eclecticism. My position, however, is not one of anti-Europeanism. Anti-Europeanism is also part of Eurocentric thought. I develop my position by discerning which of our values are universal, because Europe can be found in the East and the East in Europe. Many European values reflect the present and further developed state of our own values. More often than not, those who are most anti-European become the most backward proponents of European liberalism. The practice of real socialism and national liberation movements abound with examples.

Marx and Engels developed the concept of scientific socialism as a solution to the social problem of their time, and they truly believed in it. They believed that they had defined the problem correctly by conceptualizing capitalism as a system; so when it came to building the socialist system they were certain they would find a way—so much so that they believed the “scientific socialism” that they had developed guaranteed it. But history developed otherwise. Previous utopians had similar expectations, and Lenin hoped for different results from the Russian Revolution. Many French revolutionaries were also terribly disappointed. The revolution devoured many of its own children.1 The depths of history overflow with similar examples. There is no question that those who wanted to solve the problem were fully committed and conscious of what they were doing. However, there was obviously something wrong and incomplete in their experience of defining and analyzing the social problem, given the huge deviations and contrary developments in practice. As has been frequently emphasized, the issue is not the lack of effort or of rebellion and war. These exist in abundance. For all of these reasons, I feel the definition and solution of the social problem must be approached with caution. If we know how to learn from experience and respect the memory of the great heroines and heroes, each step we take will certainly be rife with the lessons learned from them and charged with a deep respect.


1 Jacques Mallet du Pan (1749–1800) coined the adage: “The revolution like Saturn devours its own children.” The saying became popular and was used by many people, most famously Georges Danton (1759–1794), a leading figure in the French Revolution.

2 Andre Gunder Frank and Barry K. Gills, eds., The World System: Five Hundred Years or Five Thousand? (London: Routledge, 1993).

3 They are the ones who possess the quality of ʿilm, or “learning.” Speaking broadly, they are the guardians, transmitters, and interpreters of religious knowledge, i.e., Islamic doctrine and law.

4 This is a Turkish play on words. In Turkish genelev euphemistically means a brothel and literally means a public house whereas özelev means a private home and refers to the family household.

5 Hittites established an empire centred on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia around 1600 BCE, and Mittanis in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia, from 1500 to 1300 BCE.

Karums were Assyrian trading posts from the twentieth to the eighteenth centuries BCE; kârhaneler is a play on words: the word itself means places of profit and is similar to kerhane, a word meaning brothels.

7 The Hittite Empire and the Egyptians fought for over two centuries to gain mastery over the lands of the eastern Mediterranean. The conflict culminated with an attempted Egyptian invasion in 1274 BCE that was stopped by the Hittites at the city of Kadesh (in what is now Syria). The conflict continued inconclusively for about fifteen more years before the treaty was signed. Both sides had common interests in making peace; Egypt faced a growing threat from the “Sea Peoples,” while the Hittites were concerned about the rising power of Assyria to the east. The treaty continued in force until the Hittite Empire collapsed eighty years later.

8 Carthage fell in 146 BCE at the Battle of Carthage. The end of a series of wars marked the end of Carthaginian power and the complete destruction of the city. The Romans pulled the Phoenician warships out into the harbor and burned them, then went from house to house, capturing and enslaving the people. Fifty thousand Carthaginians were sold into slavery. The city was set ablaze and razed to the ground, leaving only ruins and rubble.

9 Maimonides’s history (Laws of Idolatry 1:3) tells us that Abraham was educating people about monotheism. Terach informed on Abraham to Nimrod. According to the Midrash, Abraham was then cast into a furnace but was miraculously saved.

10 The Ummayad dynasty, which ruled in Damascus in 661–750 CE, claimed descent from Umayya, the cousin of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandfather.

11 Here the author is referring to a play on words: Amr ibn Hishām was a pagan Quraysh leader whose epithet was Abu al-H.akam, meaning Father of Wisdom. He showed relentless animosity to Islam and rejected Mohammad’s message. Therefore, Mohammad referred him as Abu Jahl, meaning Father of Ignorance. 12 In volume 2, at the end of section I and continuing into section 2, Öcalan addresses historical-society, civilizations, and capitalism. While there Öcalan often uses the term that Anthony Giddens popularized—“discontinuity”—in this case he prefers “unprecedented.”

13 Klaus Schmidt, “Göbekli Tepe, Southeastern Turkey: A Preliminary Report on the 1995–1999 Excavations,” Paléorient 26, no. 1 (2000), accessed November 17, 2019,

14 Charles V (1500–1558), also known as Charles I of Spain, was the Duke of Burgundy and ruler of Netherlands beginning in 1506, the ruler of the Spanish Empire beginning in 1516, and Holy Roman Emperor from 1519 until he voluntarily stepped down from all positions between 1554 and 1556. He ruled extensive territories in Central, Western, and Southern Europe, and the Spanish colonies in the Americas and Asia. His domain spanned nearly four million square kilometers and was the first to be described as “the empire on which the sun never sets.” Philippe II (1527–1598) was King of Spain beginning in 1556 and of Portugal beginning in 1581. Beginning in 1554, he was King of Naples and Sicily, as well as Duke of Milan. During his marriage to Queen Mary I (1554–1558), he was also King of England and Ireland. Beginning in 1555, he was lord of the Seventeen Provinces of Netherlands. During his reign, Spain reached the height of its influence and power.

15 Fernand Braudel specifically says: “Imperialism and colonialism are as old as the world and any reinforced form of domination secretes capitalism”; Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Century, Volume 3: The Perspective of the World (London: Collins, 1984), 295.

16 Öcalan defines the aşiret as a kind of federation of tribal communities, see page 182 in this book.

17 Sharia, an Arabic word meaning the right path, refers to traditional Islamic law. As well as being Koranic, sharia stems from Prophet Mohammad’s teachings and interpretations of those teachings by certain Muslim legal scholars.

18 Zillullah means shadow of God; the title given to sultans.

19 Dr. Hikmet Kıvılcımlı (1902–1971) was among the first generation leaders of the communist movement of Turkey. In total he was in prison for twenty-two years, and he was only able to publish his theoretical work after the mid-1960s. Most of his work written in prison was published only after his death. Kıvılcımlı developed a Marxist interpretation of history that was not economic reductionist and one that emphasized the importance of cultural traditions. His monumental work called “Tarih, Devrim, Sosyalizm” (History, Revolution, Socialism) has examined the five-thousand-year-long historical period not only through the lenses of Marxist literature but also from the perspective of social and political theory of İbn-i Haldun (whom he called Marx of Islam). He has numerous books, and was also the first Turkish Marxist to define Kurdistan as Turkey’s colony, which he did while in a prison located in a Kurdish town. His works can be found at the website of Institute of Social History, accessed February 7, 2020,

20 This is a reference to the Latin proverb “Homo homini lupus est,” which translates as “a man is a wolf to another man,” or more tersely, “man is wolf to man,” which was also used in Thomas Hobbes, On the Citizen (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998 [1642]), 3.

21 Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2003 [1913]), chapter 26, accessed February 7, 2020,

22 This is a play on words; the original Turkish word used is “şebeke,” which can mean either gangssystems, or networks.

23 These are Turkish idioms and sayings.

24 In Turkish, millet means an ethnic nation, which is how the author is using it; in Arabic it means a community that shares similar ideals.

25 Hozan Serdarî was born in Şarkışla, Sivas. The date of his birth is uncertain, but his poems suggest 1834. He died either in 1918 or 1921. The quote is from a poem titled “Nesini Söyleyim Canim Efendim,” accessed July 25, 2019,

26 This refers to a 1963 play by Sadik Sendil, the story of Hürmüz, who married seven different men who were unaware of one another. Will she survive?

27 Hemşehriler means fellow townspeople in Turkish; bajariler means city dwellers in Kurdish.

28 The Hanseatic League was a mercantile league of medieval German towns. It was amorphous in character; its origin cannot be dated exactly. Originally a Hansa was a company of merchants trading with foreign lands. After the German push eastward and the settlement of German towns in the Slavic lands of the Baltic in the thirteenth century, the merchant guilds and town associations became leagues; see “Hanseatic League,”, accessed July 26, 2019,

29 This is the use of “term” as Fernand Braudel used it.

30 Eschatology, from the Greek word eschaton (the last), is the theological study of the last things, the final state of each individual, of the community, of all individuals, and of reality itself. Thus, traditionally eschatology has dealt with the themes of death, judgment, heaven, hell, purgatory, the resurrection of the dead, the end of the world, and “the new heavens and the new Earth”; William R. Stoeger, “Eschatology,”, accessed November16, 2019,

31 In 64 CE, most of Rome was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome, which many Romans believed Nero had purposely set to clear land for his planned palatial complex, the Domus Aurea. Nero’s rule is often associated with tyranny and extravagance. He is known for many executions, including that of his mother, and the probable murder by poison of his stepbrother.

32 One important example of this practice from the Ottoman Empire was the selection and training of children for the military or the civil service, also known as the blood tax or tribute in blood.

33 There were four institutions within the Ottoman Empire state structure. The function of the ilmiye was to propagate the Muslim religion, while the kalemiye was administrative.

34 Max Weber has used the term stahlhartes Gehäuse (hardened steel casing), translated as “iron cage,” to describe the increased rationalization inherent in social life; Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2003).

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