Islam and Underdevelopment : An Old Puzzle Revisited

Timur Kuran


The world's predominantly Muslim countries have long been underdeveloped. This paper classifies, critiques, and extends the mechanisms that have been proposed as explanations for the pattern. One mechanism involves the use of Islam to legitimize worldviews that served vested interests. Another emphasizes religious obstacles to free thinking and innovation. And still another focuses on communalist norms that dampened incentives to develop capitalist economic institutions. None of these explanations elucidates why groups without any stake in the impediments to growth failed to bring about major reforms. The missing element is the role of public discourse in keeping individuals from questioning, even noticing, social inefficiencies.
 

Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 153 (March 1997): 41-71.