Muslim Scholars - 3 Contributions of Medieval Muslim...

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3. Contributions of Medieval Muslim Scholars to the History of Economics and their Impact: A Refutation of the Schumpeterian Great Gap Hamid S. Hosseini Subject Economics » Economic History , History of Thought Religion » Islam Period 1000 - 1999 » 1000-1099 , 1100-1199 , 1200-1299 , 1300-1399 DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631225737.2003.00004.x No historical student of the culture of Western Europe can ever reconstruct for himself the intellectual values of the later Middle Ages unless he possesses a vivid awareness of Islam in the background. Pierce Butler (1933) , quoted by Mirakhor 3.1 The Great Gap Thesis as the Problem In his seminal 1954 work History of Economic Analysis , Joseph Schumpeter proposes a historical gap of some five hundred years in the history of economics after its beginnings in ancient Greece. “Nothing was said, written, or practiced which had any relevance to economics” ( Mirakhor, 1988 [1983] , p. 301) within this “historical gap,” which stretched from the demise of Greek civilization to the writings of Thomas Aquinas (1225–74). For, according to Schumpeter (1954 , p. 74), many centuries within that span are blanks. Emphasizing the contributions of Thomas Aquinas, which, to Schumpeter, were instrumental in ending that five hundred years of “historical discontinuity,” the author of History of Economic Analysis writes: “so far as our subject is concerned we may leap over 500 years to the epoch of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–74) whose Summa Theologica is in the history of thought what the South-Western spire of the Cathedral of Chartres is in the history of architecture” (Schumpeter, p. 74). According to Schumpeter, what distinguished the thirteenth century from the twelfth, eleventh, and earlier centuries was the revolution that took place due to Aquinas and the Scholastics in theological and philosophical thought. This revolution, Schumpeter maintains, had two causes: the rediscovery of Aristotle's writings, and what he calls the towering achievements of St. Thomas Aquinas (Schumpeter, p. 87). De-emphasizing the first cause, Schumpeter writes that: “The reader will observe that I do not assign to the recovery of Aristotle's writings the role of chief cause of the 13 th century developments” (Schumpeter, p. 88). Adherence to the Schumpeterian Great Gap thesis has by no means been restricted to Schumpeter's 1954 book. As several writers – Mirakhor, Essid, Ghazanfaar, Islahi, and Hosseini – have demonstrated, the thesis, which ignores the contributions of medieval Muslim
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scholars, has been “deeply entrenched” (at least until recently) as part of the accepted tradition among historians of economic thought. Although it became more explicit and was perhaps strengthened by Schumpeter's History of Economic Analysis , the thesis was well established in the nineteenth century, as is evident in William Ashley's 1988 book on the history of economics. According to Ghazafar, “Even Jacob Viner, proclaimed by Blaug as the greatest
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This note was uploaded on 03/31/2010 for the course ECONOMICS 321 taught by Professor H during the Spring '10 term at Kadir Has Üniversitesi.

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Muslim Scholars - 3 Contributions of Medieval Muslim...

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