Culture or Class? Why Islam is Neither the Question nor the Answer

In: Sociology of Islam
Author: Jeff Tan1
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  • 1 Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations

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The separate study of Islam prioritises religion and culture over other factors that may influence economic development. This approach ultimately focusses on the individual as the starting point and has much in common with the methodological individualism of neoclassical economics. This paper argues that there is nothing exceptional about religion and culture, or essential about Islam that warrants their separate analysis in relation to the process of economic development. It adopts a comparative approach which does not prioritise religion and culture, or essentialise Islam. Instead it seeks to explain the problems of development in Muslim countries in terms of class formations related to the nature of capitalist development, secularisation and social transformations.

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