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Formation of a working class? a study of factory workers in Bolu, Turkey

Kalaycioğlu, Hediye Sibel (1995) Formation of a working class? a study of factory workers in Bolu, Turkey. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86127) (KAR id:86127)


This thesis is an analysis of the process of becoming a wage worker in five medium-sized factories and workplaces in Bolu, Turkey, and thus examines some aspects of class formation among first generation wage workers in a small town. The study is based on my own observations of work organizations and workers, and on systematic open ended interviews with workers which overed their own interpretations, evaluations, and perceptions of their own everyday experiences, in and out of work; their backgrounds, social networks, relations with the trade union leaders, and relations with other several groups around them; and recruitment and future prospects. The main aims is to understand the factory workers' model of their society and of themselves, as individuals and as a class. This data establishes three general sets of conclusions.

In Turkey there is a rapid move from rural areas and argiculture to towns and urban industrial jobs. A large group enter self-employment in the service or 'informal' sector; I deal with those who take factory jobs. A large majority of wage earners maintain their economic and social ties with the rural areas partly because the urban incomes are low. Despite these brief and eclectic experiences in industry and urban life, wage workers in Turkey showed a high rate of unionization, at least until the 1980 political changes. The workers in Bolu had retained their relations with rural areas and land on the one hand but at the same time established themselves in the town as a stratum of the urban classes. The fact that they became 'collective' workers in industrial production, and share common social identities with other workers has made the question "Is there a working class?" redundant.

The effects of this structural transformation was evident from the workers' responses about labour organization, and indicated an incipient awareness of their class position in the system of social classes of their society. My research indicated that they supported their unions mainly both for economic gains, and for maintaining solidarity and unity among themselves. Thus an understanding of the traditional roles of the unions has developed among them spontaneously. They all saw themselves as underpriviledged, and less successful than people "with power and money". An inflationary economy and the lack of social security for many groups in the society dominated their world view. Thus their conceptions of their society was a reflection of the concrete realities of the existing labour market, and of their prospects of future security. They compared themselves with other urban groups above them and below them in the social hierachy. They were living through, and contributing to a newly emerging urban, proletarian culture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86127
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Wage earning; Urban industry; Trade unions; Turkey
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:29 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:27 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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