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

Timur Kuran, Princeton Univ., $29.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-691-14756-7
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.)
Reviewed on: 10/11/2010
Release date: 11/01/2010
Paperback - 405 pages - 978-0-691-15641-5
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