Rethinking Religion's Interaction with Neoliberal Ideology: A Comparison between India and Turkey

  • Esra Nartok

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis provides a political economy analysis of religion, with particular attention to its interaction with contemporary neoliberal ideology in India and Turkey. Highlighting religion’s particular importance to the neoliberal transformations of both countries from the 1980s on, it traces religion’s interaction with neoliberal ideology using two religion-based business forums as its case studies: the World Hindu Economic Forum (WHEF) in India and the International Business Forum (IBF) in Turkey. The thesis is based on qualitative research involving the triangulation of document analysis (using the forums’ own documentation) with interviews (with the forums’ elites). It reveals striking similarities between India and Turkey and between their respective business forums in terms of religion’s interaction with neoliberal ideology therein, none of which have yet received any academic interest in the social sciences. The thesis adopts a historical materialist approach based on a Gramscian framework. It combines Gramsci’s own discussions of religion with neo-Gramscian International Political Economy (IPE) approaches to understand the global political economy within which these religion-based business forums operate. Locating WHEF and IBF as collective organic intellectuals which participate in the intellectual and moral leadership underpinning neoliberal hegemonic projects in India and Turkey, this thesis claims that religion interacts with neoliberal ideology by mediating it through the activity of organic intellectuals. As seen in the cases of both WHEF and IBF, which represent particular class fractions in their respective countries, these intellectuals (1) organise and connect religiously-oriented elites worldwide, (2) construct neoliberalism as the ‘correct’ form of the global political economy and (3) act as permanent persuaders of subordinate groups within the business community to secure their class interests. The thesis therefore highlights the elite agency and class character of religion in its mediation of contemporary neoliberal ideology. It ultimately reveals that although India and Turkey represent relatively different historical contexts and although WHEF and IBF are built around fundamentally different religions, the role of religion in mediating neoliberal ideology explained via both forums’ intellectual projects presents unexpected but significant similarities. The thesis claims that these similarities reflect neoliberalism’s variegated political-ideological expressions. It shows that religion is a key component of these expressions because as an important part of common sense, it enables religiously-oriented elites to universalise their particularistic interests, make sense of neoliberalism in the Indian and Turkish national contexts, and stabilise neoliberalism’s discontents.
Date of Award31 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorStuart Shields (Supervisor) & Ian Bruff (Supervisor)


  • WHEF
  • Turkey
  • India
  • IBF
  • Neoliberalism
  • Neoliberal ideology
  • Religion

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