Professional Organizations, Civil Society and Liberal Democracy

Association for Liberal Thinking, ALT has run this research project in 2010 - 2012. Within this project ALT has run an academic research to determine the situation of the professional organizations in Turkey with respect to the values and institutions of civil society, constitutional democracy, freedom of competition and those of civil, democratic countries. ALT has also conducted a public opinion survey among the members of professional organizations all around Turkey to question the satisfaction on the applications, accountability, and the ability of representation as well as the need of such institutions. 

A Reform Proposal for Restructuring the Professional Organizations with Public Authority Status in Turkey


The largest and the most influential section of the professional organizations in Turkey are the ones that were endowed with public authority and established with law according to the Article 135 of 1982 Constitution of Turkey. In its current state, both members of professions, such as, physicians, lawyers and pharmacists, and those who conduct commercial activities, and thus, may not be related to any profession, such as, shopkeepers and artisans, farmers, merchants, industrialists, brokers, and bankers, are organized under public professional organizations that have the identical legal status and similar structures.


The current structuring of professional organizations with public authority contains some anomalies with respect to values and institutions of pluralist democracy, civil society, freedom of association, and competitive free market economy. The organizational structure with its public authority status and its functioning create a tutelary and bureaucratic structure in political, economic and social spheres. In summary, the following elements with respect to the current organization of professional organizations can be given:


·        The current organizational model is an extension of the tutelary order and administrative approach that were brought about by Ittihadist (Unionist) mentality, single party regime, and 1961 Constitution.  Members of professions face a strict control in conducting their professions and forced to bear the material and immaterial costs of becoming a member on a mandatory basis.


·        Mandatory membership principle and monopolistic organization are restrictive with respect to the democratization, civil liberties and individual rights. The inability to establish alternative professional organizations is contradicting with the freedom of association and individual freedom of choice.


·        Professional organizations with public authority status and their higher organizations are not successful in representing all of their members, effective service provision and satisfying their members.


·        The public organization of these bodies destroys the development of non-governmental organizations and the civil society and cause unjust competition among professional organizations. 


·        Some of the services that are provided and some of the powers that are used by professional organizations are interventions to the functioning of free market economy and thus a limitation of free competition.


·        The intervention by professional organizations to the prices of commodities and services and the costs of membership work for the disadvantage of the consumers.


·        Different implementations in professional organizations are causing inequalities among professions, members of professions, and professional organizations.


·        These organizations keep the members of the profession under strict control and tutelage of the state.


·        The current structure also cause problems for the state, government and the authorities that are in charge of inspecting professional organizations with public authority.


Above given remarks indicate that the current organizational model of professional organizations with public authority status must be reviewed and reorganized with a new approach. There needs to be a comprehensive reform at this stage.


The debates of making a new constitution provide an important opportunity. Therefore, it is very important that a new model for the organization of professional organizations must be developed and chronic problems in the field of professional organizations which have been neglected since the foundation of the Republic must be solved. With this purpose we need to restructure the professional organizations.




First of all, in the new constitution, professional organizations should not have constitutional institution status. They must be private law corporate bodies based on voluntary membership and freedom of association and pluralism.


The new model must be;

*  based on “freedom” with respect to establishment,

*  based on “voluntariness” with respect to membership and finance,

*  “private law corporate bodies” with respect to foundation and legal status,

*  based on “freedom” with respect to activities and services,

*  based on “autonomy” with respect to relations to the state.


        In this framework the following models are proposed:


Ø  Model I: Association type organization based on freedom and voluntary membership

Ø  Model II: Union type organization based on freedom and voluntary membership

Ø  Model III: Chamber type organization with the status of association


While reforming the professional organizations, the issues of merit/proficiency and their forming an interest/lobbying group must be separated from one another. In order to determine the merits of a profession, an autonomous professional proficiency committee that includes members of profession, representatives of professional organizations and public authority can be established.


Thus, the current model of professional organizations with public authority status and their higher organizations should be replaced by a model in which professional organizations must be established freely on a voluntary basis as either associations or unions or chambers that are subject to private law. In this way, they will be more in line with the values of civil society, liberal democracy and a market economy.


When professional organizations become civil society organizations, they will be more accountable to their members and this will lead them to focus on the needs of their members. Moreover, with the end of interventions that disturb the functioning of free market economy and limit the competition, the quality of the goods and services provided by the members of profession will be improved and the consumers’ interests will be protected.

In the final analysis, professional organizations with their new organizational structures will become independent actors of civil society, pluralist democracy and free market economy. As real civil society organizations they will both defend the rights of their members and check the power of the state. In a sense, members of a profession and their association will be liberated from tutelage of the state and they will become institutions that will keep the state under control.

For further information please contact Association for Liberal Thinking:

GMK Bulvarı No: 108 / 17

Maltepe, Ankara, 06570 Türkiye

Phone: + 90 312 231 6069 – 231 1185 

Fax: + 90 312 230 8003


For the full reform proposal please click: Restructuring Public Professional Organizations: A Reform Proposal for Civil Society and Democracy in Turkey

ALT GMK Bulvarı No: 108 / 17 Maltepe, 06570 Ankara, Türkiye, T: + (+90) 312 2316069 – 231 1185, F: + (+90) 312 2308003, info[at]
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