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The Quran and the Sword


  • Auriol, Emmanuelle
  • Platteau, Jean-Philippe
  • Verdier, Thierry


This paper elucidates the willingness of an autocrat to push through institutional reforms in a context where traditional authorities represented by religious clerics are averse to them and where the military control the means of repression and can potentially stage a coup. We show that although the autocrat always wants to co-opt the military, this is not necessarily true of the clerics. Exclusive co-option of the military obtains where the loyalty of the autocrat’s army is strong while the organizational strength of religious movements is rather low. Radical institutional reforms can then be implemented. Empirically, the dominant regime in contemporary Muslim countries is the regime of double co-option where the autocrat resorts to a double-edged tactic: pleasing the official clerics by slowing the pace of reforms, and ensuring the loyalty of the military so as to put down clerics-led rebellions.

Suggested Citation

  • Auriol, Emmanuelle & Platteau, Jean-Philippe & Verdier, Thierry, 2022. "The Quran and the Sword," TSE Working Papers 22-1381, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
  • Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:127471

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    1. Alberto Bisin & Jared Rubin & Avner Seror & Thierry Verdier, 2024. "Culture, institutions and the long divergence," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 29(1), pages 1-40, March.

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    More about this item


    Autocracy; Army; Instrumentalization of religion; Islam; Reforms;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries
    • P48 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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