Thirteenth Luca d’Agliano Lecture in Development Economics

Thirteenth Luca d’Agliano Lecture in Development Economics: “Religion, Politics and Development: is Islam a special issue?” by Jean-Philippe Platteau (Professor Emeritus, University of Namur), 20 Novembre 2015, 5 p.m., Fondazione Luigi Einaudi, Palazzo d’Azeglio, Via Principe Amedeo 34, 10123 Turin.

In 2002, the American Islamologue Bernard Lewis wrote a well-known book entitled “What is Wrong with Islam?”. The answer provided in this book is that the problem with Islam is the historical merging between religion and politics since the times of its foundation. The implication is that politics is surrendered to religion, giving rise to sorts of permanent theocracies. In this talk, I wish to take the opposite standpoint, namely that in the lands of Islam, during normal circumstances it is religion that is submitted to politics rather than the other way round. It is only in times of state crisis that religion comes to the fore and tends to supersede politics. Because of a special institutional characteristic of Islam, the fact that it has never possessed a centralized church structure, interventions by the clerics may, or may not, improve upon the chaotic predicament born of a weak state. Special attention will be paid to concrete country examples, such as Iran, Pakistan, Algeria and Egypt. Moreover, I will attempt to precise not only the contrasts but also the similarities between Islam and Christianity.

Jean-Philippe Platteau is Professor Emeritus at the University of Namur (Belgium), and an active member of the Centre for Research in Economic Development (CRED) at the same university (Department of Economics). He is also an associate member of the New School of Economics, Moscow. He is presently the Academic Director of the Project on Gender and Development at the World Institute of Development Economics Research (WIDER) of the United Nations at Helsinki, and, together with François Bourguignon, he is the academic leader of the Project Economic Development and Institutions (EDI), financed by DFID, the British Agency for Development Cooperation. Professor Platteau is the author of several books in Development Economics and he has widely published in leading academic journals. He has a book forthcoming at Cambridge University Press, entitled “Is Islam a Special Problem? Exploring the Link Between Religion, Politics, and Development”. His main research area is development economics and the economics of institutions. Most of his work has been concerned with the understanding of the role of institutions in economic development, and the processes of institutional change. The influence of non economic factors and other frontier issues at the interface between economics and sociology are a central focus of his work. Precise subjects are: the transformation of family structures, collective action problems in the management of village-level natural resources, informal insurance and micro-insurance programs, diffusion of technical progress, the impact of statutory laws and the role of customs, aid effectiveness, women’s status under immigration, and the politics of religion.

Text of the Lecture
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