REL 276
Islam and Capitalism Spring 2020
Division II Difference, Power, and Equity

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Islam’s relationship with capitalism, in popular media as well as mainstream scholarship, is often posed as a question of compatibility. “Is Islam compatible with capitalism?” experts ask. The question itself rests on historical, epistemic, and moral premises that frame Islam and capitalism as distinct categories of comparison. Their juxtaposition, however, is beset with conceptual difficulty and anachronism: do religion and economics overlap, or do they demarcate discrete configurations of reality? Does religion latently influence economics or has capitalism subsumed all forms of spirituality? Is Islam’s regulation of commercial conduct a symptom of insufficient modernization? Conversely, is faith in the rationality of free markets akin to religious belief? What makes Islamic values, rituals, and institutions “religious” and those of capitalism “secular”? What are the historical conditions, disciplinary practices, and forms of desire that have led to the articulation of “homoislamicus” as a rival to the “homoeconomicus” of consumer capitalism? Finally, how do Islamic conceptions of human prosperity, socioeconomic justice, and ecological preservation relate to neoliberalism, socialism, and other religious traditions? We will explore these questions and unpack their underlying assumptions through the disciplinary frameworks of religious studies, history, and anthropology. Students will develop a critical appreciation of both Islam and capitalism as complex assemblages of cultural, institutional, and discursive formations with intersecting genealogies. In addition to thinking critically about religion and economy as conceptual categories, students will acquire a concrete understanding of the Shar¿’a, its commercial laws and institutions. Students will also examine the history of Muslim societies through economic regimes of agrarianism, mercantilism, extractive/settler colonialism, postcolonial development, petrodollar capitalism, and modern Islamic finance.
The Class: Type: The class will be conducted in a seminar format. Students will submit weekly responses to the readings. For each session, two students will be assigned as leaders of the discussion who will be assisted by the instructor
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 4039
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Weekly reading responses (300 words): 20%; Class participation: 15%; Leading class discussion: 15%; 2 short essays (750 words each): 20%; Research paper (3000 words): 30%
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for enrollment. However, an elementary exposure to the history of economic thought will be useful.
Enrollment Preferences: none
Distributions: Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
DPE Notes: This course examines trajectories of capitalism--beyond its isomorphic relationship with Western culture--in the Muslim world. It offers a critical perspective on economic inequality and underdevelopment in postcolonial Muslim states and their historical linkages with extractive/settler colonialism. Students explore connections between petrodollar capitalism, climate change, exploitation of migrant labor in the Arabian Gulf, and the fight for regional domination through proxy religious wars.

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