At a time when an authoritarian-nationalist right is on the rise in Europe and elsewhere, the history of modern Turkey offers instructive lessons on the sources and hold of authoritarianism. Democracy in Turkey has been undermined by class politics and by the decades-long hegemony of populist-authoritarian right-wing politics. The Turkish right has established its hegemony by recasting the class conflict as a cultural conflict between the people and the elite. The Turkish case offers similarities to political developments in countries such as India and Israel. Similarly, it highlights the fatal consequences for democracy in the absence of a democratic leftist alternative and it provides a comparison to the present alienation of the popular classes from the centre-left in Europe and the Middle East. Fundamentally, the history of modern Turkey sheds new light on the relation between capitalism and authoritarianism, showing how capitalism is served by religious-nationalist identity politics that subvert democracy.