Araştırma Makalesi

DOI :10.26650/SJ.2022.42.1.0068   IUP :10.26650/SJ.2022.42.1.0068    Tam Metin (PDF)

Türkiye’de Profesyonel Askerliğin Sosyolojik Bir İncelemesi: Meslek, Görev ya da Yaşam Tarzı?

Barış Ateş

Bu makalede Türkiye’de askerlik mesleğinin sosyolojik bir incelemesi yapılmıştır. Kurum olarak ordunun ve birey olarak askerin toplum nezdinde ve devlet bürokrasisi içindeki konumuna rağmen bir sosyal olgu olarak analizi gerekli ilgiyi görmemiştir. Bu durum hem meslek olarak askerliğin anlaşılmasını zorlaştırmaktadır hem de kavram kargaşası yaratmaktadır. Makale şu sorulara cevap aramaktadır: Askerlik bir meslek midir? Kimler profesyonel askerdir? Sivil toplum ve askerlerin mesleğe bakışında farklılıklar var mıdır? Bu sorulara cevap bulmak amacıyla askerlik mesleğine dair teorik tartışma ve meslekle ilgili kavram setleri incelenmektedir. Ayrıca toplumun ve askerlerin mesleğe bakış açısını anlayabilmek için 695 katılımcıya uygulanan tanımlayıcı bir anket çalışması ve mülakatlar ile çalışma desteklenmiştir. Dolayısıyla karma bir yöntem uygulanmış ve bu sayede hem veri toplama problemi aşılmaya çalışılmış hem de askerlik mesleğinin genel bir panoraması çizilmiştir. Sanılanın aksine siviller ve askerlerin mesleğe bakışları arasında farklılıklar olduğu ve askerlerin kendi mesleklerini bir yaşam tarzı olarak görmelerine rağmen sivillerin daha ziyade bir meslek ve ayrıca görev olarak tanımladığı ortaya çıkmıştır. Çalışmanın bir diğer önemli bulgusu ise askerler arasındaki profesyonellik anlayışının daha ziyade kıdem ve tecrübe ile özdeşleştirilmesidir. Ayrıca subayların mesleğe bakışında nesiller arasında bir kopuş olmadığı görülmektedir.

DOI :10.26650/SJ.2022.42.1.0068   IUP :10.26650/SJ.2022.42.1.0068    Tam Metin (PDF)

A Sociological Study of the Military Profession in Turkey: Profession, Duty, or Lifestyle?

Barış Ateş

This article aims to conduct a sociological analysis of the military profession in Turkey. Despite the prominent position of the army as an institution and the soldier as an individual in society and the state bureaucracy, its analysis as a social phenomenon has received little attention. This situation complicates the understanding of the military profession and creates conceptual confusion. Therefore, a theoretical discussion of the military profession and examination of its concepts are necessary. A descriptive survey with 695 participants was undertaken to bolster this theoretical debate and better understand citizens’ and soldiers’ perspectives on the military profession in Turkey. In addition, the study was supported by the unstructured interview method in order to increase the reliability of the survey results and enable a more profound analysis. As a result, mixedmethods research was used to resolve the data collecting constraints and sketch a broad picture of the military profession. Contrary to common perception, citizens and soldiers were shown to hold divergent views on the military profession. While soldiers refer to their job as a way of life, civilians refer to it as a profession and a duty. Another important finding of the study is that the understanding of professionalism among soldiers is mainly associated with seniority and experience. In addition, a continuity was observed to exist between the old and new generations of soldiers regarding their perception of the profession.


The position of soldiers and the army in society and the state bureaucracy in Turkey and the intensity of military operations are not reflected in the literature in the same way. Sociological studies have been the field most affected by this academic drought. This article includes theoretical and conceptual debates on the military profession and attempts to quantify how society and soldiers in Turkey perceive it in order to facilitate these studies. The study seeks to answer the following questions: Is military service a profession; what features distinguish it from other professions, is the view of the military profession in Turkey different from other countries, and do civilians and soldiers have divergent or convergent views about the military profession? A descriptive survey of the military profession was conducted on military and civilian groups in order to answer these questions. The study was additionally supported by unstructured interviews in order to increase the reliability of the survey results and enable a more profound analysis.

Survey studies were carried out with 398 soldiers and 297 civilians between September and October of 2021 using the remote access method due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The distinctive questions on the survey involve the perception of the military profession and whether it is a profession, lifestyle, or duty. The sample, in particular the civilian group, was obviously insufficient; this undermines the reliability of the study but nevertheless opens the door to an understanding of the military profession for further research.

The first issue in sociologically analyzing the military profession is how the concepts of profession and military service are used in Turkey beyond or in different ways than in the West. First of all, even academic studies lack clarity regarding ranks (e.g., captain, major) and status (e.g., officer, non-commissioned officer). The conceptual ambiguity surrounding the military profession is additionally exacerbated by the fact that the word “profession,” which is most often employed in foreign languages, has a variety of connotations in Turkish. In Turkey, a profession not only refers to organized professional groups but is also used to characterize personal abilities. In other words, it is a descriptive term that encompasses both organizational and individual qualities. Lastly, the founding role of the military and the favorable attitude society has had toward the military in nearly every era have given it a significance beyond just being a profession.

Another area of contention is the definition of a professional soldier. In accordance with legal requirements, both society and soldiers classify all soldiers apart from conscripted ones as professionals. Thus, officers, non-commissioned officers, specialist sergeants, and contracted privates (i.e., groups having a voluntary long-term relationship with the army) are called professional soldiers. This approach opposes Huntington’s  (1957) view of the professional military as a sphere designated exclusively for commanders responsible for the management of organized violence. Indeed, a similar approach is seen in research conducted in the United States of America after Huntington. As a result, the notion of the professional soldier has been modified to be more ambiguous yet at the same time more inclusive. This study suggests that a third criterion should be added to the criteria of “management of organized violence” and “commitment” Huntington put forth for the definition of a professional soldier. This new criterion emphasizes fulfilling the duty requirements and puts an ethical obligation on all soldiers, regardless of position or rank. Thus, after placing commanders as the direct managers of organized violence at the top of the professionalism pyramid, every other soldier who performs their duty to the best of their ability, regardless of rank or status, earns a place on the pyramid based on the degree to which they execute this duty. 

The requirements for classifying military service as a profession in Turkey seem to have been fulfilled in abundance. The army’s institutional roots and founding role have allowed it to implement its own legal and administrative regulations, exercise control over the theoretical and practical knowledge specific to the profession via military schools, demonstrate competence in regulating both the professional and private lives of its members, and form a strong organizational culture. The quality that comes to the fore among these features is that, apart from a few branches, candidates are educated in military schools. Since the 19th century, the military, having built advanced military schools and even developed a system large enough to assist the civilian education system, has been able to educate its personnel according to its own norms. The length of study at military schools is additionally often longer than in other nations, thus enabling a robust socialization process. Until the 2016 coup attempt, this term was 11-12 years on average and included military high school, war school, branch school, and the staff college. Additionally, this time excludes short-term courses. The army retains control, both during the school admission examinations and throughout the educational process. Thus, Downes’ (1985, pp. 147–148) requirements of “specified theoretical knowledge and control over the associated practical skills” as well as “long-term education training and assessment via official examinations” seem to have been more than fulfilled in Turkey.

Despite possessing the required professional credentials, divergent views and perceptions are found regarding the military profession in Turkey. Although the Turkish military follows the same model as Western armies, the distinction between military service as a lifestyle and military service as a profession becomes more evident in the Turkish case. In the American example, which Moskos (1977b) tried to explain with the institution/occupation model, the military profession is stated to have experienced a similar orientation with other professions in the free market economy, especially with the transition to the professional army. For example, in this case, pay and career  aspirations may take precedence over institutional values inherent in military service, such as sacrifice and courage. Did the rate at which professionalization increased in the Turkish military lead to a similar development in Turkey? In other words, is military service seen as a profession, or is it perceived as a lifestyle or a duty, resulting in institutional values having maintained their dominant position?

According to the survey findings, civilians and soldiers in Turkey have varying perspectives on the military profession. While 77% of soldiers see it as a way of life, just 24% of civilians characterize it as such. Only 19% of soldiers describe it as a profession; in contrast, 44% of civilians see military service as a profession and 32% as a duty. Consequently, society and soldiers have contrasting perspectives about the military profession. Various reasons for this approach were listed in the in-depth interviews. First of all, military service is a life-or-death profession. Second, the frequent relocation of soldiers compared to other professions in Turkey, which places a great deal of strain on military families and soldiers, contributes to the military profession being viewed differently than other professions. Apart from these, the most important factor is the potential the institutional authority of the army has to influence and control not only soldiers’ professional life but also their family life. Military wives and children must also adhere to institutional requirements, as living in military-specific locations such as barracks, officer’s clubs, and army houses shape military families’ lives. In this case, the developed practices have become more of a way of life than a profession.

In summary, the military profession is viewed as a combination of professioninstitution and private life. The soldiers’ emphasis on the lifestyle instead of as a profession shows the institution, profession, and private life to be fused. In this case, the fusion of institution and profession as suggested by Van Doorn (1965) for the Western armies has gone one step further and included private life in Turkey. However, although civilians are aware of these practices, they do not interpret the degree of impact in the same way. This situation naturally creates a difference in civilians’ and soldiers’ perspectives toward the profession.

The surveys and interviews have revealed the old generation of soldiers’ perceptions toward the new generation to be incorrect. The interviews reveal retired soldiers to believe that the current generation of soldiers “do not see military service as a way of life, but rather as an ordinary job in a free-market economy.” However, this belief diametrically opposes the survey findings. As much as 84% of the new generation of soldiers (20-30 age group) defined military service as a lifestyle, which is even more than the retired soldiers. One might argue that this contrasting attitude is linked to the political and ideological climate that developed after the coup attempt. This superficial explanation, however, is deemed insufficient. Although its origins are unknown, one of the perceptions that has grown into a near-tradition is that each military school graduation class views those who enter the profession after them as insufficient or doesn’t refer to them as full professionals. This concept, which is often portrayed lightheartedly, seems to stress the significance of rank (i.e., hierarchy). As a result, one should note that Moskos’ (1977b) institution/occupation model has yet to become a viable theory in Turkey. In other words, values such as self-sacrifice, heroism, and commitment, which still stand out as institutional values in Turkey, have more weight than wages and similar personal interests, which Moskos had put forward as occupational characteristics. 

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Ateş, B. (2022). Türkiye’de Profesyonel Askerliğin Sosyolojik Bir İncelemesi: Meslek, Görev ya da Yaşam Tarzı?. İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyoloji Dergisi, 42(1), 21-44.


Ateş B. Türkiye’de Profesyonel Askerliğin Sosyolojik Bir İncelemesi: Meslek, Görev ya da Yaşam Tarzı?. İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyoloji Dergisi. 2022;42(1):21-44.


Ateş, B. Türkiye’de Profesyonel Askerliğin Sosyolojik Bir İncelemesi: Meslek, Görev ya da Yaşam Tarzı?. İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyoloji Dergisi, [Publisher Location], v. 42, n. 1, p. 21-44, 2022.

Chicago: Author-Date Style

Ateş, Barış,. 2022. “Türkiye’de Profesyonel Askerliğin Sosyolojik Bir İncelemesi: Meslek, Görev ya da Yaşam Tarzı?.” İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyoloji Dergisi 42, no. 1: 21-44.

Chicago: Humanities Style

Ateş, Barış,. Türkiye’de Profesyonel Askerliğin Sosyolojik Bir İncelemesi: Meslek, Görev ya da Yaşam Tarzı?.” İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyoloji Dergisi 42, no. 1 (Dec. 2022): 21-44.

Harvard: Australian Style

Ateş, B 2022, 'Türkiye’de Profesyonel Askerliğin Sosyolojik Bir İncelemesi: Meslek, Görev ya da Yaşam Tarzı?', İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyoloji Dergisi, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 21-44, viewed 7 Dec. 2022,

Harvard: Author-Date Style

Ateş, B. (2022) ‘Türkiye’de Profesyonel Askerliğin Sosyolojik Bir İncelemesi: Meslek, Görev ya da Yaşam Tarzı?’, İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyoloji Dergisi, 42(1), pp. 21-44. (7 Dec. 2022).


Ateş, Barış,. Türkiye’de Profesyonel Askerliğin Sosyolojik Bir İncelemesi: Meslek, Görev ya da Yaşam Tarzı?.” İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyoloji Dergisi, vol. 42, no. 1, 2022, pp. 21-44. [Database Container],


Ateş B. Türkiye’de Profesyonel Askerliğin Sosyolojik Bir İncelemesi: Meslek, Görev ya da Yaşam Tarzı?. İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyoloji Dergisi [Internet]. 7 Dec. 2022 [cited 7 Dec. 2022];42(1):21-44. Available from: doi: 10.26650/SJ.2022.42.1.0068


Ateş, Barış. Türkiye’de Profesyonel Askerliğin Sosyolojik Bir İncelemesi: Meslek, Görev ya da Yaşam Tarzı?”. İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyoloji Dergisi 42/1 (Dec. 2022): 21-44.


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