The Westernisation and Modernisation in
Niza-m-ı Cedid Thought
The memoranda and treatises from the Niza-m-ı Cedid period have hitherto been subjected to isolated studies. Recent attempts to analyze them as a group of texts have made it possible to reinterpret the whole era. In this essay, mental patterns of the Cedidist intellectuals will be analyzed through a categorization of these pro-reform texts according to their audience as well as the discourses they utilize. Despite the modern preconceptions that view modernisation as a process of secular identity creation transcending ethno-religious differences, this era witnessed both modernization and the reinforcement of the Islamic orthodoxy. The Cedidist elite, thus, considered the non-Muslims no less a threat than the Janissaries and Bektaşis.
The memoranda and the ambassadorial accounts that constitute the first two groups of our category targeted the ruling elite as their audience. They diagnosed the ills of the system and offered various models for renovation. The third group is composed of treatises that do not put forward new reform proposals. While some of them attempted to overcome the crisis of legitimacy in the Age of Napoleon by portraying the Western façade of the Niza-m-ı Cedid to the European audience, others tried to turn the renovation program into a social movement through mobilizing the Islamic concepts such as principle of due reciprocity, bowing to the authority, and service to state and religion. Finally, those in the fourth group once again addressed the ruling elite to criticize the inadequacies of the program and propose new reform articles, giving us a balance sheet of the Niza-m-ı Cedid program. We should point out that conjunctural factors (i.e., diplomacy, the disorders caused by the Mountaineers and the Wahhabis, Russo-Ottoman war and so forth) make more sense than religio-cultural factors in explaining the rebellion that ended this period.
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