the rıse of authorıtarıan socıal welfare states ın mıddle ıncome countrıes (MICs)
Situated in the broad agenda of understanding the making and political consequences of social welfare regimes in middle-income countries (MICs), this strand of my research particularly focuses on the regime-related outcomes of social assistance programs, that have been adopted in a number of MICs in the last two decades. It enquires about the intersections between the expansion of redistribution, the rise of populism and democratic backsliding, pointing out a phenomenon of authoritarian welfare states.
In a paper which my co-author Kerem Yildirim (Duke University) and I recently published (“Political Consequences of Welfare Regimes: Social Assistance and Support for Presidentialism in Turkey“), we examined broader political consequences of social assistance programmes, that are part and parcel of the recent expansion regarding redistribution in MICs. Drawing from the Turkish case, where social welfare expanded since the 2000s, we focused on the attitudes of social assistance beneficiaries towards transition to presidentialism, which was approved in a referendum in 2017, and took effect in 2018. Using the results of an original survey, we found that social assistance benefits played a significant role in increasing support for presidentialism, by garnering votes from opposition voters, especially those with high-risk perceptions, in return for benefits. Given the character of Turkish presidentialism, devoid of vital checks and balances, our findings reveal that incumbents can mobilise support by using redistributive instruments in the context of democratic backsliding. The Turkish case epitomizes the making of authoritarian social welfares.
I also work on the regulation of social assistance schemes in MICs. My co-author Salvador Parrado and I carried out a comparative analysis of social assistance regimes in Brazil, Mexico and Turkey, focusing on their regulatory constellations. Finding a significant variation across these countries regarding the ways in which these regimes are regulated, beneficiaries are selected, and benefits are renewed, we identified varieties of regulatory regimes installed in social assistance schemes in the respective countries. We explored the consequences of such differences with respect to creating/ expanding or diminishing clientelistic spaces in the distribution of benefits.
EDUCATION-GAP and the “MIDDLE-INCOME TRAP”
Politics of skill institutions in the MICs: A strand of my research agenda scrutinizes the links between institutions of education and the “middle-income-trap,” focusing on both basic education and skill institutions. In collaboration with Merve Sancak (Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute), the skill-gap project explores the recent institutional changes in labor market institutions specialized in skill-formation and development, aiming to explain differential outcomes. Along those lines, we published an article drawing from the cases of Mexico and Turkey and examining the ways in which these two markets have gone through varying paths of institutional change regarding their skill systems. We analyzed the differential impact of state-business alliances in the making of skill institutions in the respective countries, along with their outcomes. Entitled, “When politics gets in the way: domestic coalitions and the making of skill systems,” the article came out of the Review of International Political Economy (RIPE).
The Rise of Downgrading Coalitions in the MICs: This current project that I am working on is on preferences on education policy and institutions in MICs along with their reforms. It also examines the ways in which collective action is generated in forming coalitions to transform education policy.
POLITICS OF REGULATION AND REGULATORY REFORMS
A strand of my research focuses on the politics of regulation and regulatory reforms, particularly focusing on the MICs. So far, I have looked at the cross-national and cross-sectoral variation in regulatory reforms, accountability, politics of regulatory agencies and the varying impact of external actors in the making, sustainability and the erosion of regulatory institutions in the MICs.
Regulatory Agencies in the MICs: My co-author Aslı Unan (King’s College, London) and I have been working on the determinants of agency independence with a particular focus on the MICs. In a recent paper entitled “Decoupling trends: Drivers of agency independence in telecommunications: An analysis of high and middle-income countries,” we specifically looked at the independence of regulatory agencies in telecommunications, shedding light on the factors behind cross-country variation in agency independence. Enquiring about the differential impact of economic and political parameters on different income groups, finding out a trend of decoupling between high-income and middle-income countries.
Europeanization beyond Europe: European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and Regulatory Reforms in North Africa: This project focuses on the recent regulatory reforms in the countries included in the ENP, examining the impact of the EU and other external actors as well as domestic institutional set-ups. Exploring the regulatory changes in competition, energy and telecommunications, it examines cross-national and cross-regional variation regarding the levels of institutional adoption.
TRANSFORMATION of INTEREST POLITICS
I have been working on interest politics and their transformation in the context of domestic markets’ increasing exposure to the forces of globalization, especially focusing on upper-middle income countries that have gone through substantial liberalization processes since the 1980s. I am particularly interested in the diverging national trajectories against the backdrop of global market integration.
In a recent article, “Market integration and transformation of business politics: diverging trajectories of corporatisms in Mexico and Turkey,” which came out of Socio-Economic Review, I analyzed the major changes in business politics in different directions in these two countries through their integration to global markets, marked by the rise of ‘elite-pluralism’ dominated by large firms in Mexico, and the emergence of ‘competitive corporatism’ vastly controlled by the executive branch in Turkey. Pointing out the ways in which domestic political arrangements refract the impact of global forces, this study indicates that the market integration process engenders diverging effects in national settings contingent upon executive–legislative relations. Where power is concentrated in the executive, market integration upholds a form of corporatism; and where legislative power increases, it promotes a form of pluralism. Based on the empirics of Mexico and Turkey, this article shows the links between increasing legislative power and emerging legislative lobbying in Mexico in contrast to increasing executive power and centralization and concentration of interest politics in Turkey.
In an earlier research project, Basak Kus (Wesleyan University) and I worked on the diverging trajectories in labor politics in Mexico and Turkey. In “United we restrain, divided we rule: Neoliberal Reforms and Labor Unions in Turkey and Mexico,” we analyzed the dynamics behind the varying transformations of labor politics in these two countries. Identifying the ways governments dealt with unions in the context of global integration, we cross-examined the evolution of labor union movements in the respective polities, finding increasing concentration in Turkey, as opposed to intensifying fragmentation in Mexico. We discussed how the historically varying patterns of state-labor interaction played a role in the emergence of such divergent forms of change in these nations’ union movements, notwithstanding the common objective shared by both their governments of appeasing the unions.