Feb 16, 2014

Islamic Societies and Economic Development

From a paper by Ayman Reda in the January-2014 number of The American Journal of Economics and Sociology:
In the final page of General Economic History, Weber confidently predicted that capitalism would eventually abandon its religious roots towards a complete rationalization of economic life. Capitalism would eventually create a self-sufficient ethic with minimal religious substance. This raises an important issue that has been surprisingly overlooked in the literature on Weber and Islam. If the religious nature of capitalism in the West diminished or transformed over time as a result of increasing economic rationalization, is this development an inevitable consequence of capitalism? This question unavoidably represents a serious concern to an Islamic society that distinguishes itself chiefly by its religious nature. If such rationalization is in fact inescapable, such an assessment offers clear support to Sadr's incompatibility thesis, as it exposes the contradiction between a rationalizing method and a religious context. More importantly, it proposes an enlightening explanation for the failure of capitalism to develop within Islamic societies. The moral practice of Islamic societies would naturally be at odds with an economic system that gradually eradicates its religious nature. It follows, then, that this incompatibility can only be resolved if the moral practice of Muslims undergoes a radical transformation. But such a transformation entails a shift from “looking to the heavens” to “looking to the earth.” It would mean replacing divine satisfaction with worldly satisfaction.
It is very hard to imagine now a Latin America or Africa with "minimal religion substance."  

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