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The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In the year 1000, the economy of the Middle East was at least as advanced as that of Europe. But by 1800, the region had fallen dramatically behind--in living standards, technology, and economic institutions. In short, the Middle East had failed to modernize economically as the West surged ahead. What caused this long divergence? And why does the Middle East remain drastically underdeveloped compared to the West? In The Long Divergence, one of the world's leading experts on Islamic economic institutions and the economy of the Middle East provides a new answer to these long-debated questions.

Timur Kuran argues that what slowed the economic development of the Middle East was not colonialism or geography, still less Muslim attitudes or some incompatibility between Islam and capitalism. Rather, starting around the tenth century, Islamic legal institutions, which had benefitted the Middle Eastern economy in the early centuries of Islam, began to act as a drag on development by slowing or blocking the emergence of central features of modern economic life--including private capital accumulation, corporations, large-scale production, and impersonal exchange. By the nineteenth century, modern economic institutions began to be transplanted to the Middle East, but its economy has not caught up. And there is no quick fix today. Low trust, rampant corruption, and weak civil societies--all characteristic of the region's economies today and all legacies of its economic history--will take generations to overcome.

The Long Divergence opens up a frank and honest debate on a crucial issue that even some of the most ardent secularists in the Muslim world have hesitated to discuss.

Review:

"Kuran (Islam and Mammon), a Duke University professor of economics and political science, continues his exploration of Islam and economics in a dense volume that debunks the most common apologies for the economic plight of the Middle East, such as colonization, or the economic importance of the annual hajj pilgrimage. Kuran argues instead that the failure of Middle Eastern economics is not due to Islam itself, but to the fact that Muslims failed to reinterpret previously successful economic concepts at the onset of the Middle Ages, while the West went on to create the corporation (see InProfile in this issue). Muslims may demur, but Kuran points out that many have abandoned some Qur'anic economic practices they disagree with, including the ban on interest, and, more progressively, they have updated and refreshed the tax code described in the Qur'an. His most controversial argument is that Islam, liberated from stagnant interpretation and practice, is very adaptable to modern institutions. (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

Review:

"Professor Kuran’s research suggests that, at least looking forward, the more correct view is: Islam isn’t the problem and it isn’t the solution, it’s simply a religion — meaning that the break is over, there are no excuses, and it’s time to move forward again." --Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

Synopsis:

"Kuran's book is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in the Middle East and the Islamic world. The path toward economic and legal reforms for the Islamic world can only be charted by understanding the historical impediments to economic development in the region. There is currently no better starting point to contemplate such reforms and development efforts than this book."--Mahmoud El-Gamal, author of "Islamic Finance: Law, Economics, and Practice"

Synopsis:

"Sophisticated, purposive, and insightful, this book brings the powerful thinking of an economist to bear on a central question of Middle Eastern history. The argument is lucid and compelling; anyone with a serious interest in the way the world has changed in recent centuries will find this book rewarding."--Michael Cook, author of A Brief History of the Human Race

"The Long Divergence is a turning point in the understanding of Middle Eastern economic history and a must-read for everyone interested in economic development in the Islamic world more generally."--Avner Greif, Stanford University

"Kuran's book is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in the Middle East and the Islamic world. The path toward economic and legal reforms for the Islamic world can only be charted by understanding the historical impediments to economic development in the region. There is currently no better starting point to contemplate such reforms and development efforts than this book."--Mahmoud El-Gamal, author of Islamic Finance: Law, Economics, and Practice

Synopsis:

In the year 1000, the economy of the Middle East was at least as advanced as that of Europe. But by 1800, the region had fallen dramatically behind--in living standards, technology, and economic institutions. In short, the Middle East had failed to modernize economically as the West surged ahead. What caused this long divergence? And why does the Middle East remain drastically underdeveloped compared to the West? In The Long Divergence, one of the world's leading experts on Islamic economic institutions and the economy of the Middle East provides a new answer to these long-debated questions.

Timur Kuran argues that what slowed the economic development of the Middle East was not colonialism or geography, still less Muslim attitudes or some incompatibility between Islam and capitalism. Rather, starting around the tenth century, Islamic legal institutions, which had benefitted the Middle Eastern economy in the early centuries of Islam, began to act as a drag on development by slowing or blocking the emergence of central features of modern economic life--including private capital accumulation, corporations, large-scale production, and impersonal exchange. By the nineteenth century, modern economic institutions began to be transplanted to the Middle East, but its economy has not caught up. And there is no quick fix today. Low trust, rampant corruption, and weak civil societies--all characteristic of the region's economies today and all legacies of its economic history--will take generations to overcome.

The Long Divergence opens up a frank and honest debate on a crucial issue that even some of the most ardent secularists in the Muslim world have hesitated to discuss.

About the Author

Timur Kuran is professor of economics and political science and the Gorter Family Professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University. He is the author of "Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism" (Princeton).

Table of Contents

Preface ix

PART I Introduction

Chapter 1: The Puzzle of the Middle East's

Economic Underdevelopment 3

Chapter 2: Analyzing the Economic Role of Islam 25

PART II Organizational Stagnation

Chapter 3: Commercial Life under Islamic Rule 45

Chapter 4: The Persistent Simplicity of Islamic Partnerships 63

Chapter 5: Drawbacks of the Islamic Inheritance System 78

Chapter 6: The Absence of the Corporation in Islamic Law 97

Chapter 7: Barriers to the Emergence of a Middle Eastern Business Corporation 117

Chapter 8: Credit Markets without Banks 143

PART III The Makings of Underdevelopment

Chapter 9: The Islamization of Non-Muslim Economic Life 169

Chapter 10: The Ascent of the Middle East's Religious Minorities 189

Chapter 11: Origins and Fiscal Impact of the Capitulations 209

Chapter 12: Foreign Privileges as Facilitators of Impersonal Exchange 228

Chapter 13: The Absence of Middle Eastern Consuls 254

PART IV Conclusions

Chapter 14: Did Islam Inhibit Economic Development? 279

Notes 303

References 349

Index 393

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691147567
Author:
Kuran, Timur
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Subject:
Economic History
Subject:
Islamic Studies
Subject:
Public Policy - Economic Policy
Subject:
Middle East Economic conditions.
Subject:
Economic development -- Religious aspects.
Subject:
Economics
Subject:
Middle Eastern Studies
Subject:
World History/Comparative History
Subject:
Law
Subject:
Political Science and International Relations
Subject:
Religion
Subject:
World History-Middle East
Publication Date:
20101131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
12 halftones. 8 line illus. 10 tables. 2
Pages:
424
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 25 oz

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Related Subjects

Business » History and Biographies
History and Social Science » Economics » General
History and Social Science » Middle East » General History
History and Social Science » Sociology » Islamic Studies
History and Social Science » World History » Middle East
Religion » Islam » Law

The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$48.91 In Stock
Product details 424 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691147567 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Kuran (Islam and Mammon), a Duke University professor of economics and political science, continues his exploration of Islam and economics in a dense volume that debunks the most common apologies for the economic plight of the Middle East, such as colonization, or the economic importance of the annual hajj pilgrimage. Kuran argues instead that the failure of Middle Eastern economics is not due to Islam itself, but to the fact that Muslims failed to reinterpret previously successful economic concepts at the onset of the Middle Ages, while the West went on to create the corporation (see InProfile in this issue). Muslims may demur, but Kuran points out that many have abandoned some Qur'anic economic practices they disagree with, including the ban on interest, and, more progressively, they have updated and refreshed the tax code described in the Qur'an. His most controversial argument is that Islam, liberated from stagnant interpretation and practice, is very adaptable to modern institutions. (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review" by , "Professor Kuran’s research suggests that, at least looking forward, the more correct view is: Islam isn’t the problem and it isn’t the solution, it’s simply a religion — meaning that the break is over, there are no excuses, and it’s time to move forward again." --
"Synopsis" by , "Kuran's book is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in the Middle East and the Islamic world. The path toward economic and legal reforms for the Islamic world can only be charted by understanding the historical impediments to economic development in the region. There is currently no better starting point to contemplate such reforms and development efforts than this book."--Mahmoud El-Gamal, author of "Islamic Finance: Law, Economics, and Practice"
"Synopsis" by , "Sophisticated, purposive, and insightful, this book brings the powerful thinking of an economist to bear on a central question of Middle Eastern history. The argument is lucid and compelling; anyone with a serious interest in the way the world has changed in recent centuries will find this book rewarding."--Michael Cook, author of A Brief History of the Human Race

"The Long Divergence is a turning point in the understanding of Middle Eastern economic history and a must-read for everyone interested in economic development in the Islamic world more generally."--Avner Greif, Stanford University

"Kuran's book is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in the Middle East and the Islamic world. The path toward economic and legal reforms for the Islamic world can only be charted by understanding the historical impediments to economic development in the region. There is currently no better starting point to contemplate such reforms and development efforts than this book."--Mahmoud El-Gamal, author of Islamic Finance: Law, Economics, and Practice

"Synopsis" by , In the year 1000, the economy of the Middle East was at least as advanced as that of Europe. But by 1800, the region had fallen dramatically behind--in living standards, technology, and economic institutions. In short, the Middle East had failed to modernize economically as the West surged ahead. What caused this long divergence? And why does the Middle East remain drastically underdeveloped compared to the West? In The Long Divergence, one of the world's leading experts on Islamic economic institutions and the economy of the Middle East provides a new answer to these long-debated questions.

Timur Kuran argues that what slowed the economic development of the Middle East was not colonialism or geography, still less Muslim attitudes or some incompatibility between Islam and capitalism. Rather, starting around the tenth century, Islamic legal institutions, which had benefitted the Middle Eastern economy in the early centuries of Islam, began to act as a drag on development by slowing or blocking the emergence of central features of modern economic life--including private capital accumulation, corporations, large-scale production, and impersonal exchange. By the nineteenth century, modern economic institutions began to be transplanted to the Middle East, but its economy has not caught up. And there is no quick fix today. Low trust, rampant corruption, and weak civil societies--all characteristic of the region's economies today and all legacies of its economic history--will take generations to overcome.

The Long Divergence opens up a frank and honest debate on a crucial issue that even some of the most ardent secularists in the Muslim world have hesitated to discuss.

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