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Timur Kuran is a Turkish American economist, Professor of Economics and Political Science, and Gorter Family Professor in Islamic Studies at Duke University. His work spans economics, political science, history, and legal studies.
Early life and education
Kuran was born in New York City in 1954, where his parents were graduate students at Yale University. They returned to Turkey, and he spent his early childhood in Ankara (where his father taught at the Middle East Technical University). The family moved to Istanbul while Kuran was a teenager, and, for a decade, he lived just off the campus of Boğaziçi University, where his father was president and professor of Islamic architectural history.
Kuran obtained his secondary education in Turkey, graduating from Robert College in Istanbul in 1973. He then studied economics at Princeton University, graduating magna cum laude in 1977. He went on to Stanford University where he obtained a doctorate in economics, supervised by Nobel laureate Professor Kenneth Arrow.
Professor Kuran has written extensively on the evolution of preferences and institutions, with contributions to the study of hidden preferences, the unpredictability of social revolutions, the dynamics of ethnic conflict, perceptions of discrimination, and the evolution of morality. His Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification (Harvard University Press) deals with the repercussions of being dishonest about what one knows and wants. Since its original publication in 1995, this book has appeared also in German, Swedish, Turkish, and Chinese.
Kuran has also written on Islam and the Middle East, with an initial focus on contemporary attempts to restructure economies according to Islamic teachings. Several of his essays on this topic are included in Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism (Princeton University Press), which has been translated into Turkish and Arabic. Since the mid-1990s he has turned his attention to the conundrum of why the Middle East, which once had a high standard of living by global standards, subsequently fell behind in various realms, including economic production, organizational capability, technological creativity, democratization, and military strength.
His thesis is that the economic and educational institutions of Islam, though well-suited to the era in which they emerged, were poorly suited to a dynamic industrial economy. These institutions fostered social equilibria that reduced the likelihood of modern capitalism emerging from within Islamic civilization. His recent articles have identified obstacles involving inheritance practices, contract law, procedures of the courts, the absence of corporations, the financial system, and the delivery of social services.
From 1990 to 2008 Kuran served as editor of an interdisciplinary book series published by the University of Michigan Press. This series was re-established at Cambridge University Press in 2009 under the title Cambridge Studies in Economics, Cognition and Society. He has served, or currently serves, on the editorial or advisory boards of numerous scholarly journals. He taught at University of Southern California between 1982 and 2007, where he held the King Faisal professorship in Islamic thought and culture from 1993 onwards. From 2005 to 2007, he was Director of USC's Institute for Economic Research on Civilizations, which he founded. In 1989–90 he was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; in 1996–97 he held the John Olin visiting professorship at the Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago; and in 2004–05 he was visiting professor of economics at Stanford University. He is currently a member of the Executive Committee of the International Economic Association.
The Long Divergence
In 2011, Kuran published "The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East" summarizing his arguments on the institutional roots of the Middle East's economic stagnation.
Reviews include: "The Crescent and the Company," by Schumpeter in the Economist; "Is Islam the Problem?" by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times; "The Long Divergence," by Ziauddin Sardar in the Independent; "Prophet Motive," by John Cassidy in the New Yorker; "Selling Out the Koran," by Chris Berg in the National Times of Australia; "Long Divergence," by L. Carl Brown in Foreign Affairs; "What Made the Middle East Fall Behind the West?," by Şahin Alpay in Today's Zaman; Kai Ryssdal's radio interview on Marketplace: "Historical Roots of Middle Eastern Uprisings." An essay summarizing key arguments: "Legal Roots of Economic Underdevelopment in the Middle East", European Financial Review (Feb–Mar 2011): 10–11. Peter Passell provides a review and long excerpt in the Milken Institute Review, 13 (2011): 59–76.
- The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 424 pp.
- Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), xviii + 194 pp.
- Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification] (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995), xv + 423 pp.
- (Ed.) Mahkeme Kayıtları Işığında 17. Yüzyıl İstanbul'unda Sosyo-Ekonomik Yaşam / Social and Economic Life in Seventeenth-Century Istanbul: Glimpses from Court Records, 10 vols. (Istanbul: İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2010–11) (Volumes 1–4 in print, 5–10 in press).
- "Sabancı University – Events". 220.127.116.11. March 5, 2009. Archived from the original on October 8, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- Jerry Oster (February 11, 2008). "Meet the New Faculty: Timur Kuran | Duke Today". News.duke.edu. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- "Timur Kuran, Professor of Economics and Political Science and Gorter Family Chair in Islamic Studies". Fds.duke.edu. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- "Schumpeter: The crescent and the company". The Economist. January 27, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- Kristof, Nicholas D. (March 5, 2011). "Is Islam the Problem?". The New York Times.
- Sardar, Ziauddin (January 28, 2011). "The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East, By Timur Kuran – Reviews, Books". The Independent. UK. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- Cassidy, John (August 1, 2011). "Islam and the Lagging Economies of the Arab World". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- "Selling out the Koran". Sydney Morning Herald. March 6, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- Timur Kuran (March 1, 2011). "The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- "What made the Middle East fall behind the West?". Todayszaman.com. Archived from the original on December 6, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- "Marketplace from American Public Media". Marketplace.publicradio.org. Retrieved October 18, 2011.[permanent dead link]
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 27, 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 26, 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2011.