Monday, November 01, 2010

Religion and Work Ethic Values: The Case of Turkey

The Case of Islam and Turkish SME Owner-Managers

Selçuk Uygur, Phd Thesis, 2009
Brunel University, London

The aim of this thesis is to explore the influence of religion on the work ethic values of small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owner-managers in Turkey. The emergence of religious/pious business people in Turkey has been regarded as a phenomenon. This research pays special attention to the religious transformation and secularism in Turkey. It is based on semi-structured qualitative interviews with 32 Turkish SME owner-managers. The sample of the study has been divided into two groups: The practicing Muslim Turkish managers (the religious group), and non/less practicing Muslim Turkish managers (the secular group).

Discourse analysis of the qualitative data, first, clarifies where to seek the religious influence on business activities. It indicates that the influence of religion should be sought within individuals‘ conduct/manner of living leading the moral values and the mentalities of the business people, rather than seeking cause and affect relationship. The contemporary Islamic interpretation in Turkey, as it is called Turkish/Anatolian interpretation of Islam, is found to re-shape the existing teachings of the religion and reproduce the religious structure through the practices. In this respect, five distinguishing characteristics emerged as signs of the religious influence behind the pious business people‘s actions: Hard work as an Islamic duty, good will (intention), responsibility, bounty/benevolence and the balance/equilibrium in one‘s life. It is also observed that the new Islamic discourse in Turkey provides moral energy exclusively for the religious business people in terms of influencing and encouraging entrepreneurial activities.

Meanwhile, the study demonstrates that the work ethic values of the religious Turkish SME owner-managers have been evolving to be more rational and professional, especially after the 1980s liberal economy. This transformation has been evaluated within the concept of secularisation.

Concluding Remarks
It could be concluded that Turkey has entered a healthier modernization process which seems as a road of no return by making the peace between Islam and modernity. It seems that after more than a century of soul-searching‘ has settled upon the idea of re-producing traditional values within the contemporary framework. In the context of this research, the newly emergent business class appears as the carrier of this transformation process. In particular, it has been observed that Turkey‘s new entrepreneurs have been re-shaping their mentalities towards business activities and re-producing the existing work-related values and ethics. Max Weber regards this ethical transformation (Protestantization) as the fundamental prerequisite of an extensive development process, and calls it the spirit‘ of Western capitalism. In this respect, Turkey has been experiencing a similar process in the context of Islam. In terms of being worldly, the secularization of Islam is attempting to provide its own view on several aspects of modern life, including business ethics.

The findings of this research give the impression that Islam, in a Turkish context, has considerable potential to contribute new angles to the modern capitalist system. This moderate view of Islam, which does not contradict with free market or liberal economy, seems to have promising views on business ethics beyond the Western perspective. In a way, it can potentially create new views of capitalism.

Overall, the assimilation of liberal values and being articulated to the modern world makes us optimistic about the future of Turkey. Regardless of the level of religiousness, this tendency seems to be shared by the majority of the society. This study regards secularization of Islam as the catalyst of this broad tendency. In this respect, the new‘ work ethic, which is re-producing the tradition based on a rational way of thinking, could play a vital role in creating a strong enterprise culture in Turkey. Additionally, it can be claimed that this development will make Turkey‘s hand stronger in the EU accession process.

Full-text of the PhD Thesis (pdf, 257 pages) is available at:

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Düşünce Kahvesi



Reset Dialogues on Civilazations

NPR: World Music

NYT: Travel and Cities

H-Net Academic Announcements