INEQUALITY AND MERIT IN THE MILITARY: ORIGINS AND PERSISTENCE OF RECRUITMENT AND PROMOTION PATTERNS IN THE TURKISH OFFICER CORPS
What factors affect ethnic representation and officer promotions in a multiethnic army? Scholars have studied diversity in the military but almost exclusively focused on the political or professional implications of ethnically imbalanced armies. My book project provides the first systematic study of the origins and persistence of military inequality and largely-ignored organizational and social obstacles to reform it. It addresses a crucial gap in both political science and area-focused literature by investigating historical recruitment and promotion patterns in the Turkish officer corps with special attention to the representation of Kurds between 1848 and 2015 using an unusually comprehensive original dataset derived from extensive archival and ethnographic research in Turkey.
Drawing on about 160 years of original historical recruitment and promotion data and more than 100 interviews, my book shows, contrary to the conventional view, neither war nor democratic reforms automatically lead to a lasting diversification and inclusivity in the officer demography, nor do major political shocks like a long-standing ethnic conflict and military coups that are presumed to heighten interethnic distrust and antagonism necessarily undermine the representation of the minorities. It reveals that demographic patterns in the officer corps, including minority representation, are extremely resilient once they emerge and crystallize. Existing approaches, preoccupied with interethnic competition and threat perception, offer an incomplete guide to understanding why and how an unrepresentative officer demography emerges and self-perpetuates. Drawing on organizational theory, I argue that exclusionary demographic patterns in the officer corps reproduce mainly through two sets of organizational-social mechanisms despite major political and socioeconomic shifts and institutional reform efforts: (1) exclusive officer recruitment networks and (2) autonomous officer promotion patterns.
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