Timur Kuran : „Islam per se is not harmful to development“

Grand Bazaar in Istanbul: Trade is an important force to improve welfare, history shows. Bild: AP

How does Islam affect economic developement? And what will become of Turkey? Renowned expert Timur Kuran gives answers not only to that in a Q&A with FAZ.NET.

          7 Min.

          Professor Kuran, first of all: What is your opinion an the recent developments in Turkey. After the failed coup, President Erdoğan is going to concentrate even more power on himself. A widespread fear is, that he will try to transform the country into a real dictatorship. But observers like Ian Bremmer say, this attempt is doomed to fail. What is your view on that?

          Alexander Armbruster
          Verantwortlicher Redakteur für Wirtschaft Online.

          The coup and the subsequent witch hunt show that it is already failing. Since at least 2011 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has tried incessantly to concentrate power in his own hands. To that end he has sidelined longtime allies (such as the Gülen movement), co-founders of the AKP (such as former President Abdullah Gül and former Speaker of the Parliament Bülent Arınç), and top-rate economic managers (such as former Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Economics Czar Ali Babacan and Central Bank President Erdem Başçı). A long string of events, including the corruption investigations of 17-25 December 2013 and the failed coup of 15 July 2016 demonstrate that the centralization drive is not working.

          Timur Kuran ist professor for Economics, Political Science and Islamic-Studies at Duke University. He is author of „The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East“.
          Timur Kuran ist professor for Economics, Political Science and Islamic-Studies at Duke University. He is author of „The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East“. : Bild: Duke University

          One could assume the opposite as well.

          In each of these cases, the attempt to topple Erdoğan has come from people he has worked with, hand-picked for important positions, and promoted. For more than a decade the military has been packed with people expected to be loyal to him and his causes. His team has systematically overruled secular generals to promote ostensibly like-minded officers. Similar operations have taken place in the judiciary. Yet, after the coup he felt the need to purge about 40% of the generals in the military and about 20% of all prosecutors and judges. This is evidence of massive discomfort among his own cadres.

          What is going to happen now?

          There is no guarantee that ongoing efforts to restructure the state will result in a more loyal bureaucracy or military. On the contrary, existing discontents are likely grow and generate further troubles. The witch-hunts in progress are creating huge numbers of new victims. They are not signs of strength. Rather, they are signs of desperation on the part of an administration that feels it is losing control. The xenophobia that Erdoğan and his associates are promoting fall in the same category, as do the efforts to keep AKP supporters in the street.

          That Erdoğan wants to turn Turkey into a dictatorship is obvious. That he wants to keep transforming the country’s institutions in his own image is no secret. But now it looks less likely than before the mid-July earthquake that he will succeed. And if he does succeed, the transition will be anything but smooth.

           When people talk about the Middle East (and going forward maybe Turkey too), the often ask, whether Islam plays a special role in shaping economic development there. You did undertake lots of research about that, in particular in “The Long Divergence”. What did you find out?

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