07 April 2020

Is Islam Bad For Economic Development?

I haven't thought this through all the way and neither endorse nor reject this position.

I'm familiar in general outline form with most of the history, although hardly an expert on it. I'm skeptical that there is a global answer because of the diversity of the political economic history of different parts of the Islamic world. The story of Iraq is not the story of Saudi Arabia is not the story of Bangladesh or Indonesia is not the story of the Muslims of the African Sahel. 

The modern globalization of Islamic political economies owes a lot to the post-colonial era, and indeed, to the era after many places that happened to have Islam as a predominant faith learned that they had vast oil resources.

I think Malcolm X was onto something when he imagined Islam as a potential driver of economic development for African-Americans in the U.S., and Islam was likewise a major driver of economic development in the moribund pagan societies that it rapidly conquered in its first century or two, in both case by mobilizing and organization communities that were fractured and lacked visionary leadership.
Why do Muslim-majority countries exhibit high levels of authoritarianism and low levels of socioeconomic development in comparison to world averages? 
Ahmet T. Kuru criticizes explanations which point to Islam as the cause of this disparity, because Muslims were philosophically and socioeconomically more developed than Western Europeans between the ninth and twelfth centuries. Nor was Western colonialism the cause: Muslims had already suffered political and socioeconomic problems when colonization began. 
Kuru argues that Muslims had influential thinkers and merchants in their early history, when religious orthodoxy and military rule were prevalent in Europe. However, in the eleventh century, an alliance between orthodox Islamic scholars (the ulema) and military states began to emerge. This alliance gradually hindered intellectual and economic creativity by marginalizing intellectual and bourgeois classes in the Muslim world. This important study links its historical explanation to contemporary politics by showing that, to this day, the ulema–state alliance still prevents creativity and competition in Muslim countries.
Summarizing the book "Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment" (2019) by Ahmet T. Kuru via Marginal Revolution.

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