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The Economic Ascent of the Middle East’s Religious Minorities: The Role of Islamic Legal Pluralism

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  • Timur Kuran

Abstract

In the nineteenth century, the Middle East’s Christian and Jewish minorities registered conspicuous economic advances relative to the Muslim majority. These advances were made possible by the choice of law available to non-Muslim subjects. Until the late eighteenth century, on matters critical to financial and commercial success, non-Muslims tended to exercise this privilege in favor of Islamic law, and this pattern prompted their own court systems to emulate Islamic legal practices. However, as Western Europe developed the legal infrastructure of modern capitalism, vast numbers of Christians and Jews made jurisdictional switches by obtaining the protection of European states. Along with tax concessions, they thus gained the ability to conduct business under Western laws.

Suggested Citation

  • Timur Kuran, 2004. "The Economic Ascent of the Middle East’s Religious Minorities: The Role of Islamic Legal Pluralism," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 475-515, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:33:y:2004:p:475-515 DOI: 10.1086/422707
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-950, October.
    2. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416-416.
    3. Timur Kuran, 1997. "Islam and Underdevelopment: An Old Puzzle Revisited," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 153(1), pages 1-41, March.
    4. James E. Rauch, 2001. "Business and Social Networks in International Trade," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 1177-1203.
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    Cited by:

    1. Noland, Marcus, 2005. "Religion and economic performance," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(8), pages 1215-1232, August.
    2. Timur Kuran, 2005. "Why the Middle East is Economically Underdeveloped: Historical Mechanisms of Institutional Stagnation," QA - Rivista dell'Associazione Rossi-Doria, Associazione Rossi Doria, issue 1, March.
    3. Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2008. "Religion, politics, and development: Lessons from the lands of Islam," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, pages 329-351.
    4. Anderson, R. Warren & Johnson, Noel D & Koyama, Mark, 2013. "From the Persecuting to the Protective State? Jewish Expulsions and Weather Shocks from 1100 to 1800," MPRA Paper 44228, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Fletcher, Erin K. & Iyigun, Murat, 2009. "Cultures, Clashes and Peace," IZA Discussion Papers 4116, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Bingyuan Hsiung, 2013. "Guanxi: Personal connections in Chinese society," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, pages 17-40.
    7. Rubin, Jared, 2010. "Bills of exchange, interest bans, and impersonal exchange in Islam and Christianity," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 213-227, April.
    8. Saleh, Mohamed, 2013. "On the Road to Heaven: Taxation, Conversions, and the Coptic-Muslim Socioeconomic Gap in Medieval Egypt," TSE Working Papers 13-428, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Nov 2017.
    9. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2013. "Legal centralization and the birth of the secular state," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, pages 959-978.
    10. Mark Koyama, 2013. "Timur Kuran: The long divergence: how Islamic law held back the Middle East," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 154(3), pages 341-343, March.
    11. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2013. "Legal centralization and the birth of the secular state," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, pages 959-978.
    12. Timur Kuran, 2004. "Why the Middle East is Economically Underdeveloped: Historical Mechanisms of Institutional Stagnation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(3), pages 71-90, Summer.
    13. Rehman Scheherazade S. & Askari Hossein, 2010. "An Economic IslamicityIndex (EI2)," Global Economy Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 10(3), pages 1-39, October.
    14. Gani Aldashev & Imane Chaara & Jean-Philippe Platteau & Zaki Wahhaj, 2012. "Formal Law as a Magnet to Reform Custom," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(4), pages 795-828.
    15. Timur Kuran & Scott Lustig, 2012. "Judicial Biases in Ottoman Istanbul: Islamic Justice and Its Compatibility with Modern Economic Life," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(3), pages 631-666.
    16. Cemal Eren Arbatli & Gunes Gokmen, 2016. "Minorities, Human Capital and Long-Run Development: Persistence of Armenian and Greek Influence in Turkey," CESifo Working Paper Series 6268, CESifo Group Munich.

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