Interns and Infidels: The Transformation of Work and Citizenship in Turkey and the United States under Neo-liberalism


  • Kaan Agartan Framingham State University
  • Cedric de Leon Providence College



How do the dispossessed remain governable under economic insecurity? What explains the persistence of work as a prerequisite to social rights in a time when fewer formal jobs exist? Drawing on a comparison of Turkey and the United States since 1980, we demonstrate that the neo-liberal state deploys different versions of the “work-citizenship nexus” to manage both the shrinking minority who enjoy the benefits of full citizenship and the rest who struggle to attain the rights and privileges of the formally employed. We find that neo-liberal state practices comprise a dual movement. On the one hand, the state in both countries reorients itself toward the market in welfare provision and the regulation of labour relations, capitalising on precarious work structures to bring their populations into the fold of neo-liberal governance. On the other hand, the state directly intervenes in disparate ways to manage those who cannot make it in the market. While the American state uses tactics of mass incarceration and deportation, the Turkish state opts for a blend of social conservatism and authoritarianism. This dual movement of reorientation and direct intervention results in what we call “tiered citizenship regimes” that facilitate the management of the population in each case.

Author Biographies

Kaan Agartan, Framingham State University

Department of Sociology

Cedric de Leon, Providence College

Department of Sociology