Structure of Society
Contemporary Turkish society has evolved both as a consequence of and a response to the major socioeconomic changes initiated by the republican government since the early 1920s. A predominantly agrarian society with little industry and high illiteracy rates when the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of World War I, Turkey by the 1990s had become a predominantly urban and industrialized society in which mass public education and the ability to vote for government leaders in competitive elections are regarded as basic rights. Accompanying the changes has been the growth of new classes and interest groups, especially in the large cities, where the demands of entrepreneurs and industrial workers are championed by various political parties. A notable characteristic of many government programs aimed at inducing specific socioeconomic changes, however, has been the penchant of ruling civilian and military elites for implementing policies without consulting those who might be affected and for using force whenever popular resistance is encountered. One consequence of this approach has been the gradual creation of two distinct cultures in Turkey: a secular, elitist culture that defines what is progressive and modern; and a mass culture that continues to be influenced by Islam, whether in its traditional, mystical, modern, or radical interpretations.
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