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The political economy of mass printing: Legitimacy and technological change in the Ottoman Empire

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  • Coşgel, Metin M.
  • Miceli, Thomas J.
  • Rubin, Jared

Abstract

New technologies have not always been greeted with full enthusiasm. Although the Ottomans were quick to adopt advancements in military technology, they waited almost three centuries to sanction printing in Ottoman Turkish (in Arabic characters). Printing spread relatively rapidly throughout Europe following the invention of the printing press in 1450 despite resistance by interest groups and temporary restrictions in some countries. We explain differential reaction to technology through a political economy approach centered on the legitimizing relationships between rulers and their agents (e.g., military, religious, or secular authorities). The Ottomans regulated the printing press heavily to prevent the loss it would have caused to the ruler’s net revenue by undermining the legitimacy provided by religious authorities. On the other hand, the legitimizing relationship between European religious and political authorities was undermined over a century prior to the invention of the press. European rulers thus had little reason to stop the spread of printing as public policy, nor could the Church have stopped it had it wanted to. The Ottomans eventually sanctioned printing in Arabic script in the 18th century after alternative sources of legitimacy emerged.

Suggested Citation

  • Coşgel, Metin M. & Miceli, Thomas J. & Rubin, Jared, 2012. "The political economy of mass printing: Legitimacy and technological change in the Ottoman Empire," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 357-371.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:40:y:2012:i:3:p:357-371
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2012.01.002
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    Cited by:

    1. Iyigun, Murat & Rubin, Jared, 2017. "The Ideological Roots of Institutional Change," IZA Discussion Papers 10703, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2013. "Legal centralization and the birth of the secular state," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 959-978.
    3. Coşgel, Metin & Histen, Matthew & Miceli, Thomas J. & Yıldırım, Sadullah, 2018. "State and religion over time," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 20-34.
    4. Auriol, Emmanuelle & Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2016. "Religious Seduction in Autocracy: A Theory Inspired by History," CEPR Discussion Papers 11258, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Bagchi, Kaushambi & Kapilavai, Sashank, 2018. "Political Economy of Data Nationalism," 22nd ITS Biennial Conference, Seoul 2018. Beyond the boundaries: Challenges for business, policy and society 190347, International Telecommunications Society (ITS).
    6. repec:eee:exehis:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:1-20 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Jared Rubin, 2014. "Printing and Protestants: An Empirical Test of the Role of Printing in the Reformation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(2), pages 270-286, May.
    8. repec:eee:jeborg:v:158:y:2019:i:c:p:219-235 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Metin Cosgel, 2012. "The Political Economy of Law and Economic Development in Islamic History," Working papers 2012-44, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    10. Koyama, Mark & Moriguchi, Chiaki & Sng, Tuan-Hwee, 2018. "Geopolitics and Asia’s little divergence: State building in China and Japan after 1850," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 178-204.
    11. Grajzl, Peter & Murrell, Peter, 2019. "Toward understanding 17th century English culture: A structural topic model of Francis Bacon's ideas," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 111-135.
    12. Chaudhary, Latika & Rubin, Jared, 2011. "Reading, writing, and religion: Institutions and human capital formation," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 17-33, March.
    13. Lars Boerner & Jared Rubin & Battista Severgnini, 2019. "A Time to Print, a Time to Reform," Working Papers 19-07, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    14. Coşgel, Metin M. & Hwang, Jungbin & Miceli, Thomas J. & Yıldırım, Sadullah, 2019. "Religiosity: Identifying the effect of pluralism," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 219-235.
    15. Basedau, Matthias & Gobien, Simone & Prediger, Sebastian, 2017. "The Ambivalent Role of Religion for Sustainable Development: A Review of the Empirical Evidence," GIGA Working Papers 297, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    16. McCloskey, Deirdre Nansen, 2009. "Britain, China, and the Irrelevance of Stage Theories," MPRA Paper 18291, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. repec:eee:deveco:v:134:y:2018:i:c:p:416-427 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. repec:eee:deveco:v:127:y:2017:i:c:p:395-412 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Auriol, Emmanuelle & Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2017. "Religious co-option in autocracy: A theory inspired by history," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 395-412.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Ottoman Empire; Printing press; Technology adoption; Legitimacy; Military technology;

    JEL classification:

    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N35 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N45 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N74 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N75 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies
    • P50 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - General
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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