A Critique of world - system inspired historiography of transition to capitalism in the Ottoman Empire

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Turkey

Approval Date: 2013

Thesis Language: English

Student: Beyhan Erkurt



This thesis examines world-system inspired historiography on transition to capitalism in the Ottoman Empire that has been developed as a criticism of the modernization theory that was dominant in the analyses of the Ottoman transformation. It is argued that although the world system inspired analyses overcome the restrictions imposed by the modernization analyses that are based on the deficiencies of Ottoman society compared to the West, they are also crippled with their own restrictions. Considering change as a product of external dynamics, and ignoring internal relations and potentials, it commits the same mistake of regarding the ‘periphery’ as stagnant and shorn of any life, dynamics for creating change and therefore history. In this perspective, the peripheral societies such as the Ottoman society do not have the potential to be the actor of change but can only be subjected to it. Therefore, it is argued that the world-system inspired accounts fall short in understanding the process of change in the Ottoman Empire and the dynamics behind it. On that account, this thesis stresses the importance of studying the uneven but mutual relations between internal and external factors in order to understand social transformations that occur in and through the social relations and contradictions. There is, therefore a need to develop an account of the transition of the Ottoman Empire to capitalism with the help of such an approach.