Elif Shafak: Authoritarianism Is Changing the Very Fabric of Society

Nathan Gardels

Elif Shafak is a Turkish novelist and essayist whose celebrated works include “The Bastard of Istanbul” and “The Architect’s Apprentice.” She spoke with The WorldPost editor in chief Nathan Gardels following this week’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey.

WorldPost: Turkey is one place where the populist revolt was not fueled by a bad economy or fear of immigration. Thinking it over these many months since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s consolidation of power, what is the primary impulse carrying society in the direction of an autocratic strongman rule?

Elif Shafak: Turkey’s recent trajectory is sui generis in many ways. But in other ways, it has dark echoes of the populist movements we see elsewhere: the sharp loss of what little meritocracy there was; a “might-is-right” macho approach to politics; the erosion of separation of powers; vitriolic attacks on the media; the corrosion of the culture of coexistence; and the subsequent polarization of society, which eventually only benefits populist demagogues. It is exactly what they want.

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