Rise of the Bourgeoisie Demise of Empire : Ottoman Westernization and Social Change
The momentous changes in Western countries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries did not occur in the same manner outside the West. The reasons why have long been the subject of debate. Early explanations, fraught with Western bias, have now been largely rejected, but their hidden assumptions persist and are ripe for reevaluation. In Rise of the Bourgeoisie, Demise of Empire, Fatma Muge Gocek challenges the contention that Westernization or the absence of a bourgeoisie caused Ottoman decline. She presents instead a revisionist account of the decline, one that reveals the unique complexities of social change in a non-Western context and proposes a truer paradigm for non-Western social change. Importantly, focusing on the process of class formation, Gocek offers a comprehensive understanding of the critical role of the emerging Ottoman bourgeoisie in social change. Ottoman social structure, she argues, interacted with the effects of war and commerce with the West to produce a divided bourgeoisie, part commercial, part bureaucratic. Though powerful, the bourgeoisie was weakened by its opposing factions; it was strong enough to challenge the power of the sultan, but too divided in the end to salvage the empire. Taking full account of both Ottoman internal dynamics and external influences, the book presents a revisionist approach to modernization that may well apply in many other non-Western contexts.