Timur Kuran is professor of economics and political science and the Gorter Family Professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University. He is the author of Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism (Princeton).
Professor Kuran's book offers the best explanation yet for why the Middle East has lagged. After poring over ancient business records, Professor Kuran persuasively argues that what held the Middle East back wasn't Islam as such, or colonialism, but rather various secondary Islamic legal practices that are no longer relevant today. -- Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times This is a book to be not just tasted but chewed and digested. Instead of facile claims that Islam is the solution or Islam is the problem, readers get a detailed history of economic institutions in the Middle East as compared to those in the West. Kuran shows that the Islamic law and practices underlying Middle Eastern commerce worked well for a long time and were much more flexible than usually assumed... Clearly presented quantitative data and illuminating anecdotes add up to a fine feast. -- Foreign Affairs Mr. Kuran's arguments have broad implications for the debate about how to foster economic development. He demonstrates that the West's long ascendancy was rooted in its ability to develop institutions that combined labour and capital in imaginative new ways. -- Economist The Long Divergence offers a pathbreaking analysis of why the flourishing premodern economies of the Islamic world fell into relative decline as Western Europe rose. And it explores the issue of whether conservative Islam is compatible with modern economic institutions. You'll be surprised by many of his conclusions. -- Peter Passell, Milken Institute Review [The Long Divergence] explains a large part of why the Middle East and Turkey fell behind the West and law and economics has a lot to do with it. Various laws in Islamic societies were not conducive to large-scale economic structures, at precisely the time when such structures were becoming profitable and indeed essential as drivers of economic growth. This is not a book of handwaving but rather he nails the detail, whether it is on inheritance law, contracts, forming corporations, or any number of other topics. -- Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution In an interesting new book called The Long Divergence, Timur Kuran of Duke argues that Islam's economic restrictions, rather than its cultural conservatism or isolationism, stunted development in countries where it was the dominant religion. -- Massimo Calabresi, Time.com's Swampland blog Kuran's thesis is contentious; but it does provide us with an incentive to reformulate Islamic law. It is an excellent starting-point for a debate long overdue. -- Ziauddin Sardar, Independent [G]round-breaking... In this wide-ranging study, Kuran explores other possible factors which favored the non-Muslim business ethos over the Islamic one, but as a true scholar he rehearses other possible explanations. -- Arnold Ages, Chicago Jewish Star A ground-breaking book... Kuran argues Islamic law primarily failed to develop the concept of a corporation: an economic and legal construct, separated from family and tribal loyalty, designed to encourage investment and profit sharing. -- Chris Berg, Sydney Morning Herald Timur Kuran is an avid reader of Islamic economic and legal history and an immensely well informed scholar. This latest work not only combines his earlier arguments but also provides some new perspectives. -- Murat Cizakca, EH.Net [A]n invaluable contribution to the debate. -- Choice