Middle class’ construction of future through retirement: individual pension system in Turkey

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology, Turkey

Approval Date: 2018

Thesis Language: English

Student: Elif Ertem



With 1980s’ neoliberal reflections starting to be apparent in Turkey, the neoliberal values become the precondition of middle class way of thinking and living. In this context, Individual Pension System (IPS), as a case of neoliberal policy, has become compulsory in Turkey since 1 January 2017; and it has brought immense public discussions and the discourse on this issue in the public sphere. This study has been conducted in such an environment immediately after this transformation has been experienced. The transformation of middle class’ social relationship (with the welfare state, union, work, family and individual itself) has certain consequences on the perception of the future and the retirement parallel with their perception on the private pension system. Middle class in Turkey give up any expectation from any collective mechanisms and no longer show any sense of trust in the social relationships. In this regard, thesis departs from the following questions: how does the neoliberal transformation of the social relationship of middle class construct their future as uncertain through retirement policy? And how the representation of IPS in public sphere is reflected in the perception of middle class individual’s as exemplified in their construction of future? To investigate this relationship, the qualitative data has been collected through unstructured in-depth interviews with the experts of IPS system. The study is the first literature conducted on the new system, for this reason, the thesis conducts the content analysis on the national newspapers, advertisements, discourse of insurance firms and experts to hold a discussion on the representation of the system in the public sphere. To inquire to individual’s construction on the future, the semi- structured in-depth interviews have been conducted from March of 2017 to October 2017 with middle class individuals, who are participants of the system. Consequently, benefiting from the theories of reflexive modernity and risk society with the concept of individualization (disembedded individual), trust and risk, and governmentality approach on risk with the concepts of discursive construction of future through retirement, the study argues that middle class tend to seek for individual solutions for their future. Thinking on middle class’ ambivalent positions and the future expectations under the neoliberal transformations of the pension policy, they construct the future as full of uncertainty, and have concerns to continue their life standards.