The politics of student loan in Turkey: regimenting the youth through authoritarian debtfarism


NEW POLITICAL ECONOMY, vol.29, no.3, pp.447-463, 2024 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 29 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2024
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/13563467.2023.2275014
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, ABI/INFORM, Business Source Elite, Business Source Premier, EconLit, Geobase, Political Science Complete, Public Affairs Index, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.447-463
  • Keywords: authoritarianism, debt, higher education, Student loan politics, Turkey
  • Anadolu University Affiliated: Yes


The mass-scale expansion of student loan schemes in Turkey over the last two decades has been accomplished by a governance technique which the article defines as authoritarian debtfarism. By restructuring the Credit and Dormitories Institution (KYK) as subordinated to the executive and insulated from democratic intervention, the authoritarian neoliberal state in Turkey has sought to fulfil its new economic function, i.e. enabling the societal reproduction of the youth by increasing their financial dependency on credit money. The state-led student loan expansion in Turkey emerged in a tuition-free higher education setting without a sophisticated financial infrastructure and in an economic environment marked with perpetual graduate unemployment as well as inflationary pressures on repayment amounts. Based on a detailed interrogation of the official documents and in-depth interviews with defaulters, this article argues that authoritarian debtfarism has imposed a rigid market discipline over the university youth by using non-transparency and arbitrariness as its governance mechanisms. Consequently, future labour of the graduates is put on hold through a long-term debt relation, compelling them to integrate into labour market precariously as a new segment of the relative surplus population.