Camouflaged Apocalypse

This is an archived version of the PW Sources newsletter from Saturday, March 4. View the full archive and sign up to receive PW Sources directly to your inbox here.


On February 6, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck large parts of Turkey and Syria. Since then, the death toll has risen above 50,000 and over 160,000 buildings have collapsed. 

Turkey’s construction industry is closely linked to the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP). In a 2012 article, OSMAN BALABAN surveys the hundreds of legal changes that allowed for a boom in private construction. 

From the article:

“The construction boom of the 2000s took place largely in an unplanned manner. In many cities, profit-oriented and speculative attempts of developers were regarded as signs of ‘good business climate’ and welcomed by public bodies without questioning their potential impacts. In this sense, public sector has supported recent construction boom by adopting various legal arrangements and amendments. Most of these were in form of deregulation in order to facilitate real estate and construction investments. The results of thorough review of archives of TBMM indicated that 78 laws and 10 by-laws, totally or partially concerning the production of built environment were enacted from 2002 to late 2007. 198 legal arrangements, majority of which can be considered as attempts and measures for deregulation, have been identified in these laws and by-laws. Certain institutions like Ministry of Public Works and Settlement (MPWS) were given the authority to prepare land-use plans without being amenable and restricted to the rules and conditions of existing urban development legislation.”

+  “Mass housing and construction-generated mass employment contribute to the material basis of consent for the Turkish regime.” Cihan Tuğal on Erdoğanist megaprojects. Link. And İsmail Doğa Karate on the construction sector and the AKP. Link

+  “The state of emergency declared after the attempted coup d’état of 2016 has not only given the state even more power to silence dissent but has also opened up the possibility of overriding existing legal mechanisms that can be used to stop the implementation of new extraction or construction projects.” A 2018 paper by Fikret Adaman, Murat Arsel, and Bengi Akbulut. Link

+  Volkan Yilmaz examines the housing boom and labor conditions for construction workers. Link.


Ghost cities

LINSEY LY is a Presidential postdoctoral fellow at the Henry Luce Foundation. In a recent paper, she examines modern “ghost cities,” empty or abandoned urban landscapes, in Inner Mongolia.

From the abstract

“This paper reads the topography of Inner Mongolia—a province situated in China’s semi-colonial periphery—as an archive holding a repertoire of chronopolitical forms, material substrates of empire, accumulation, violence, and trauma. Throughout the twentieth century, this region has provided the ground for anxious stagings in the state’s campaigns to enact modernity, from the years following agrarian collectivization during Maoist socialism to its current designation as a special economic zone (SEZ) for national urban, financial and environmental experimentation. Today, it is the center of the rare earths mining industries producing 95% of the global supply, a key commodity chain that makes green technology possible. In Baotou and Ordos, where extreme environmental degradation resulting from the mining of mineral ore and rare earths processing competes with demand and massive infrastructural investment over the use-value of broken land, the region confronts and conjoins the twinned contradiction of imminent environmental collapse and long-term interest in urban futures.”

+ + +

+  “Derisking evangelists have conjured a state that replicates the price mechanism of a competitive order without disciplining the private recipients of subsidies and guarantees.” New on PW, Daniela Gabor and Ndongo Samba Sylla on France and the One Forest Summit in Gabon. Link

+  “Will the IMF face any pressure to reverse the measures that have turned the crisis into a slow-moving social, economic, and potentially even political disaster?” Also new on PW, Devaka Gunawardena, Niyanthini Kadirgamar, and Ahilan Kadirgamar on Sri Lanka’s crisis. Link

+  “We argue that the US COVID-19 inflation is predominantly a sellers’ inflation that derives from microeconomic origins, namely the ability of firms with market power to hike prices.” A new paper by Isabella Weber and Evan Wasner. Link. And Francesco Canepa reports on the ECB’s views on profits and inflation. Link

+  Marie Carpenter and William Lazonick on the financialization of Cisco. Link.

+  “Hindu nationalists fashioned a program of small-scale local industrial development and intranational trade as a more authentic alternative to the economic planning being pursued in India and elsewhere.” By Aditya Balasubramanian. Link

+  “We find that papers and patents are increasingly less likely to break with the past in ways that push science and technology in new directions.” By Michael Park, Erin Leahey, and Russell J. Funk. Link

+  “The World Bank stepped up during the pandemic.” By Brad W. Setser. Link

+  “Major EME governments have gradually reduced their reliance on foreign currency debt by borrowing more in their own currencies overall.” A new paper by Mert Onen, Hyun Song Shin, and Goetz von Peter. Link

+  Oleksandr Svitych on USAID in Ukraine’s Donbas. Link

+  “Janissaries were paid in regular quarterly installments, in solemn ceremonies in the second yard of the Topkapı Palace. As for the provincial garrisons, their wages were transported across the country with a security guard. Nevertheless, this precious load was sometimes attacked by bandits—this could happen even at the apogee of the empire, during Suleyman’s reign. Any shortcoming in these payments or any adulteration of the distributed money led to riots among the troops. Besides these regular wages, they received a special bonus (bakhşiş) at every new enthronement. Extraordinary grants were also expected during the campaigns, as an incitement or a reward. To neglect these traditional grants was a serious risk for the sultan. Selim II experienced the consequences when he refused to give the bakhşiş to the janissaries at the beginning of his reign, as did Osman II who, among other foolish mistakes, was not generous enough during the Polish campaign, resulting in his being deposed and in the end in his death.” By Gilles Veinstein. Link

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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