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Association Lecture—The Economic Roots of Political Underdevelopment in the Middle East: A Historical Perspective


  • Timur Kuran

    () (Department of Economics, Duke University, Box 90097, 213 Social Sciences, Durham, NC 27708, USA)


Key institutions of the pre-modern Middle Eastern economy, all grounded in Islamic law, blocked the development of democratic institutions. This talk identifies three mechanisms that played critical roles. Islam's original tax system failed to produce lasting and credible constraints on governance. The waqfs (Islamic trusts) founded to provide social services to designated constituencies were politically powerless. Profit-making private enterprises remained small and ephemeral, hindering the formation of stable coalitions capable of bargaining with the state. The last two mechanisms jointly delayed the rise of a civil society able to provide the checks and balances essential to democratic rule.

Suggested Citation

  • Timur Kuran, 2012. "Association Lecture—The Economic Roots of Political Underdevelopment in the Middle East: A Historical Perspective," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 1086-1095, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:78:4:y:2012:p:1086-1095

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    Cited by:

    1. Grigoriadis, Theocharis, 2016. "Religious origins of democracy & dictatorship," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 785-809.
    2. Noha Farrag & Hebatallah Ghoneim, 2016. "Challenges to the Development of an Islamic Economic System," Working Papers 42, The German University in Cairo, Faculty of Management Technology.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N95 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Asia including Middle East
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies


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