Street-Level Governing: Negotiating the State in Urban Turkey, Elise Massicard

Reviewed by Osman Savaskan

Although we are witnessing a new wave of urbanization on a global scale and a reconfiguration of power relations between the central and local authorities in favor of the latter, there is surprisingly little attention given in the mainstream political science literature on urban issues and politics. Few recent studies have been published on intergovernmental relations, local government and urban power structures, local elections, as well as certain urban issues such as housing, work, and poverty. However, these studies generally approach local issues within a narrow framework, focusing either on clientelist networks at the local level or on formal governance mechanisms for participation and accountability. Moving beyond the clientelism-versus-governance divide and engaging critically with fields of the political sociology and the anthropology of state, Massicard’s excellent book on the dynamics of urban politics in Turkey examines state-society interaction in everyday life and successfully demonstrates how they mutually transform, constitute, and produce each other on the ground.

Massicard’s political ethnography, based on in-depth interviews and participatory observation in Istanbul, Turkey’s most populous, urbanized and diverse city, draws our attention to muhtars and muhtarlik as a highly “hybrid” and “le

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