Timur Kuran
  • Timur Kuran

  • Professor and Gorter Family Professor of Islamic Studies
  • Economics
  • Department of Economics
  • Phone: (919) 660-1872
  • Office Hours: Mondays 1:30-3:30 PM, Social Sciences 234
  • Homepage
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Bio

    Timur Kuran is Professor of Economics and Political Science, and Gorter Family Professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University. His research focuses on social change, including the evolution of preferences and institutions. He is an authority on the economic history and thought of the Middle East. His current projects include a study of the role that the traditional institutions of the Middle East, including Islamic economic institutions, played in its political development. Among his publications are Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification (Harvard University Press); Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism (Princeton University Press); and The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East (Princeton University Press).

    After graduating from Robert Academy, Istanbul in 1973, he went onto study economics at Princeton University (AB 1977) and Stanford University (Ph.D. 1982). Between 1982 and 2007 he taught at the University of Southern California. He was also a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the John Olin Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago, and a visiting professor of economics at Stanford University. He is currently a member of the Executive Committee of the International Economic Association, directs the Association for Analytic Learning about Islam and Muslim Societies (AALIMS), edits a book series for Cambridge University Press, and serves on the editorial boards of five academic journals.
  • Specialties

    • Economic History
    • Development Economics
    • Law and Economics
  • Research Description

    Timur Kuran’s research spans the fields of political science, economics, history, and legal studies. He has written on the economic history and modernization of the Middle East, economic development in general, the political evolution of the Middle East, the political economy of social values, religion and economics, preference falsification, the dynamics of revolutions, cascades, and cultural evolution. For the past decade his primary project has been to explain why the Middle East, once an economically advanced region of the world, subsequently failed to match the institutional transformation through which western Europe vastly increased its capacity to pool resources, coordinate productive activities, and conduct exchanges. Several mechanisms contributed to the Middle East’s economic retardation, his publications on the subject show. Certain distinctly Middle Eastern institutions, including ones rooted in Islam, unintentionally blocked the transition to the modern economy. The institutions that generated evolutionary bottlenecks include: (1) the Islamic law of inheritance, whose egalitarian character inhibited capital accumulation, (2) the strict individualism of Islamic law and its lack of a concept of corporation, which hindered organizational development and contributed to keeping civil society weak, and (3) the waqf, Islam’s distinct form of trust, which locked vast resources into inflexible organizations that tended to become dysfunctional over time. None of these institutions posed an economic disadvantage at the time of their emergence. Nor did they ever cause an absolute decline in economic activity. They turned into handicaps by perpetuating themselves during the long period when western Europe took the lead in developing the institutions of the modern economy. Kuran is now working on the puzzle of why most Middle Eastern countries are governed autocratically.
  • Selected Publications

      • Timur Kuran.
      • (2009).
      • Explaining the Economic Trajectories of Civilizations: The Systemic Approach.
      • Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization
      • ,
      • 71
      • ,
      • 593-605.
      • Timur Kuran.
      • (2010).
      • The Scale of Entrepreneurship in Middle Eastern History: Inhibitive Roles of Islamic Institutions.
      • In William J. Baumol, David S. Landes, and Joel Mokyr (Eds.),
      • Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship in Economic History
      • ,
      • (pp. 62-87).
      • Princeton:
      • Princeton University Press.
      • Timur Kuran and William Sandholm.
      • (2008).
      • Cultural Integration and Its Discontents.
      • Review of Economic Studies
      • ,
      • 75
      • ,
      • 201-228.
      • Timur Kuran.
      • (2005).
      • The Absence of the Corporation in Islamic Law: Origins and Persistence.
      • American Journal of Comparative Law
      • ,
      • 53
      • ,
      • 785-834.
      • Timur Kuran.
      • (2005).
      • The Logic of Financial Westernization in the Middle East.
      • Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization
      • ,
      • 56
      • ,
      • 593-615.
      • Timur Kuran.
      • (2004).
      • Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism.
      • Princeton University Press.
      • Timur Kuran.
      • (2003).
      • The Islamic Commercial Crisis: Institutional Roots of Economic Underdevelopment in the Middle East.
      • Journal of Economic History
      • ,
      • 63
      • ,
      • 414-446.
      • Timur Kuran.
      • (1995).
      • Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification.
      • Harvard University Press.
      • Timur Kuran.
      • (2011).
      • The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East.
      • Princeton University Press.
      • Timur Kuran.
      • (2010-13).
      • (Ed.) Mahkeme Kayıtları Işığında 17. Yüzyıl İstanbul’unda Sosyo-Ekonomik Yaşam / Social and Economic Life in Seventeenth-Century Istanbul: Glimpses from Court Records, Vols. 1-10.
      • Istanbul: İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları,.
      • Timur Kuran and Scott Lustig.
      • (2012).
      • Judicial Biases in Ottoman Istanbul: Islamic Justice and Its Compatibility with Modern Economic Life.
      • Journal of Law and Economics
      • ,
      • 55
      • ,
      • 631-66.
  • View All Publications
  • Teaching

    • ECON 751.01
      • POLITICAL ECONOMY INSTITUTIONS
      • Social Sciences 105
      • M 06:15 PM-08:45 PM
  • wall_background