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The Political Economy of Law and Economic Development in Islamic History

  • Metin Cosgel

    (University of Connecticut)

There appear to be two seemingly contradictory images of law and economic change in the Islamic world. Whereas some scholars have viewed Islamic societies as rigid and incapable of adapting to a changing environment, others have held the opposite image of Islamic societies as flexible, quick to adapt to change, and conducive to economic development. Researchers have often focused on either stagnation or change as being the more representative image that needs explanation, rarely looking to explain why both images coexisted. Using a political economy approach, this paper explains the nuanced flexibility of Islamic law by focusing on the relationship between the ruler and the legal-religious community. This community has been an influential group in Islamic societies because of its power in the interpretation and adjudication of the law and its ability to confer legitimacy on the rulers. Change or stagnation has emerged as the outcome of the strategic interaction between the rulers and legal community, rather than from a fixed characteristic of Islamic societies or an intrinsic quality of a new development.

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 2012-44.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2012-44
Note: Previously posted as paper 2007-47 in this series under the title "Stagnation and Change in Islamic History"
Contact details of provider: Postal: University of Connecticut 365 Fairfield Way, Unit 1063 Storrs, CT 06269-1063
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  1. 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.
  2. zmucur, S leyman & Pamuk, Sevket, 2002. "Real Wages And Standards Of Living In The Ottoman Empire, 1489 1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 293-321, June.
  3. Barry R. Weingast, 2005. "The Constitutional Dilemma of Economic Liberty," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(3), pages 89-108, Summer.
  4. Joerg Baten & Jan Zanden, 2008. "Book production and the onset of modern economic growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 217-235, September.
  5. Lydon, Ghislaine, 2009. "A paper economy of faith without faith in paper: A reflection on Islamic institutional history," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 647-659, September.
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