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The Political Economy of Mass Printing: Legitimacy and Technological Change in the Ottoman Empire

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Listed:
  • Metin M. Cosgel

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Thomas J. Miceli

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Jared Rubin

    (Chapman University)

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 eighteenth century after alternative sources of legitimacy emerged.

Suggested Citation

  • Metin M. Cosgel & Thomas J. Miceli & Jared Rubin, 2010. "The Political Economy of Mass Printing: Legitimacy and Technological Change in the Ottoman Empire," Working papers 2010-02, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2010-02
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Technology; Printing; Political Economy; Legitimacy; Ottoman Empire;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation
    • N7 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O5 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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