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The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East (review)

The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East (review) The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East. By timur kuran. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011. 405 pp. $29.95 (cloth). Even though Timur Kuran is overall convincing at laying out arguments on the backwardness of Islamic practices regarding partnerships, corporations, banks, loans with interest, waqfs (mortmain properties blocked from circulation), and contracts in general, he seems less convincing at explicating why Islamic societies were held back from competition with Europe from the Middle Ages up to modern times. Indeed, his main assumption that it was Islamic law that held back the economy escapes the problem rather than points at its cause in a convincing way. Legal systems in general are more an outcome of social conditions, rather than the major force that would bring social relations to a more developed level. In other words, history shows that whenever the law is "behind" social practices, whether cultural or economic, they tend to be addressed sooner rather than later. A case in point, which Kuran explains at length, is the ban on loans with interest that both Jews and Christians had to abide by in the early European Middle Ages, which in both instances were bypassed http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of World History University of Hawai'I Press

The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East (review)

Journal of World History , Volume 23 (2) – Aug 9, 2012

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 University of Hawai'i Press.
ISSN
1527-8050
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Abstract

The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East. By timur kuran. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011. 405 pp. $29.95 (cloth). Even though Timur Kuran is overall convincing at laying out arguments on the backwardness of Islamic practices regarding partnerships, corporations, banks, loans with interest, waqfs (mortmain properties blocked from circulation), and contracts in general, he seems less convincing at explicating why Islamic societies were held back from competition with Europe from the Middle Ages up to modern times. Indeed, his main assumption that it was Islamic law that held back the economy escapes the problem rather than points at its cause in a convincing way. Legal systems in general are more an outcome of social conditions, rather than the major force that would bring social relations to a more developed level. In other words, history shows that whenever the law is "behind" social practices, whether cultural or economic, they tend to be addressed sooner rather than later. A case in point, which Kuran explains at length, is the ban on loans with interest that both Jews and Christians had to abide by in the early European Middle Ages, which in both instances were bypassed

Journal

Journal of World HistoryUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Aug 9, 2012

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