What maintains the collective identity and action of the Gülen Movement over time?

Fethullah Gülen

Its collective identity is constructed through a combination of rational exchange, affective connections and bonds, mutual recognition, purposive calculation and meaningful action. Participants’ personal choices, meaning, emotion, and expectations and interactions are all measured against the collective actor’s field of operation and reality. This assessment comes from the possibilities and limits of action, which help the collective actor to define itself, its environment and relationship with that environment.

The maintenance of the identity of the Gülen Movement is also a collective interactive process because many individuals or networks play a role in defining the meaning of their action. Many take part in maintaining their ongoing relationships with other individuals and groups, and in calculating the field of opportunities, constraints, costs and benefits for any action. So the Gülen Movement’s identity needs to be treated at both the individual and collective levels because human beings create their identities through relationships, not only by what separates them from others, but by their many links with the people and the environment that surround them.

Consequently, people make social, cultural, cognitive and emotional investments in the inter-relational networks in the Gülen Movement. Through these, individuals feel part of a common unity, a social coherence and cohesion. Because people interact and because they exchange ideas and convey them to others through social relationships, they can rationalize, discuss, define and defend their relationships. It is this interaction and communication that maintain the collective identity and action of the Gülen Movement over time.

When a collective actor proves able to handle assaults and counter-mobilization cognitively and intellectually, while remaining within the limits of the System, and while remaining unaffected by environmental and conjunctural changes, the actor or the identity has gained a certain stability and permanence. The collective actor then starts to be easily recognized by friends, opponents and third parties. The ability to recognize and to be recognized over time distinguishes the Gülen Movement from other collective actors and highlights its potentiality.

This collective and continuous process is manifested in forms of organization, internal rules and procedures, and professionalized leadership relationships, all of which feedback and crystallize the identity of the Gülen Movement.

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