War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God: The Ottoman Role in Europe's Socioeconomic Evolution

War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God: The Ottoman Role in Europe's Socioeconomic Evolution

by Murat Iyigun

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Differences among religious communities have motivated—and continue to motivate—many of the deadliest conflicts in human history. But how did political power and organized religion become so thoroughly intertwined? And how have religion and religiously motivated conflicts affected the evolution of societies throughout history, from demographic and sociopolitical change to economic growth?

War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God turns the focus on the “big three monotheisms”—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—to consider these questions. Chronicling the relatively rapid spread of the Abrahamic religions among the Old World, Murat Iyigun shows that societies that adhered to a monotheistic belief in that era lasted longer, suggesting that monotheism brought some sociopolitical advantages. While the inherent belief in one true god meant that these religious communities had sooner or later to contend with one another, Iyigun shows that differences among them were typically strong enough to trump disagreements within. The book concludes by documenting the long-term repercussions of these dynamics for the organization of societies and their politics in Europe and the Middle East.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226232287
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 05/07/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Murat Iyigun is professor of economics at the University of Colorado Boulder.

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War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God

The Ottoman Role in Europe's Socioeconomic Evolution

By Murat Iyigun

The University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2015 The University of Chicago
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-226-38843-4


Societies, Polities, and Religion

If the modern lexicon reflects a ubiquitous and prominent role for religion in social organization, it is somewhat evolved from its maiden precursors, which essentially emerged with the Enlightenment. Nowadays, we may debate whether "culture matters" for human progress or whether, in the post–Cold War world, geopolitics are defined on the basis of the fundamental cultural rifts that exist among "civilizations." But the essence of it all rests on a functionalist perspective, according to which the social scientist or the casual observer remains—pardon the early pun—agnostic with respect to everything else except the sociopolitical functions of cultures, ideologies, or religion.

This much is clear: a functionalist perspective on the matters of faith arrived neither naturally nor expeditiously in the West. Many key actors of the Enlightenment were nothing if not pious men. Still they lived in an era when seismic shifts in mentality were taking place, with inquiries on the ecclesiastical subjects becoming increasingly more tolerated. One has to put in this context the pursuits of the men of the Enlightenment to comprehend and tally the extent to which religious beliefs and adherence influenced the sociopolitical realm.

In this opening chapter, I will first set the necessary background by reviewing the relevant literature on the role of religion in sociopolitical organization and centralized government. As I will establish shortly, sociologists especially honed in on whether religious, moral, and ethical considerations associated with faith serve as a foundation for social stability. A strand within sociology, in particular, has promoted the notion that monotheism was particularly effective in serving this function. By contrast, political scientists have emphasized the extent to which ecclesiastical and political power complemented each other in influencing the efficacy of centralized government. They have also extensively documented the degree to which religious rivalries or affinities, especially those involving the three major Abrahamic, monotheistic faiths, produced and sustained violent conflicts throughout history. Following this lead, this chapter establishes some fundamental historical and statistical facts that will help put the rest of this book in comparative perspective.

1.1 Faith and Social Order

Progressive thinkers of the post-Enlightenment era, such as Émile Durkheim, Auguste Comte, and David Hume, were mostly of the view that spiritual faith and religion would experience an inevitable decline in the face of scientific and technological advances. Their presumed tradeoff between faith and education was later dubbed the secularization hypothesis. More important for the purposes of what lies ahead is the fact that such progressives also articulated in detail the social functions of faith and religion. According to Hume (1911), for example, benevolence and moral considerations associated with religion are the pillars of social harmony and stability. And Durkheim (1915) saw in group and social cohesion the manifestations of religious practices, norms, and rituals.

In the 1930s, the structural-functionalist school, led by Talcott Parsons, began to assert that the cohesion of societies depended on their members sharing a common purpose, conceptions of morality, and an identity. In this, they were adhering to Durkheim, who saw these social necessities in religion. Whether a shared religion or credence enhances social cohesion is debatable; "social cohesion" itself is an abstraction. For what it's worth, however, Stark (2001, p. 245) does point out that the United States, which is religiously tolerant and pluralistic, is also "socially cohesive" as well as quite nationalistic.

Nevertheless, one can think of less abstract functions of religious beliefs and adherence, such as the sustenance of social order via individual moral self-restraint. As Reinhold Niebuhr (1932, p. 20) eloquently puts it, for instance, societies' survival depends on their efficacy in eliminating—or, at the very least, holding in check—all forms of self-serving violence: "The problem which society faces is clearly one of reducing force by increasing the factors which make for a moral and rational adjustment of life to life: of bringing such force as is still necessary under responsibility of the whole society; of destroying the kind of power which cannot be made socially responsible (the power which resides in economic ownership for example); and of bringing forces of moral self-restraint to bear upon types of power which can never be brought completely under social control."

Human beings are genetically encoded to survive, which is manifested in their will to live. But, according to Niebuhr, that same survival instinct easily morphs into "will to power" because individuals recognize that social, political, and economic power can enhance survival. Since social stability requires the elimination of violence and anarchy and the abuse of various types of power, one way to attain that stability and equilibrium is through the moral self-restraint that religions offer:

Essentially religion is a sense of the absolute. When, as is usually the case, the absolute is imagined in terms of man's own highest ethical aspirations, a perspective is created from which all moral achievements are judged to be inadequate. Viewed from the relative perspectives of the historic scene, there is no human action which cannot be justified in terms of some historic purpose or approved in comparison with some less virtuous action. The absolute reference of religion eliminates these partial perspectives and premature justifications.... The history of religion is proof of the efficacy of religious insights in making men conscious of the sinfulness of their preoccupation with self. (Niebuhr, 1932, pp. 52, 55)

As Ekelund et al. (1996) and Ekelund and Tollison (2011) have argued, it is important to bear in mind that religious services involve metacredence goods. That is, they are in the class of products whose quality cannot be ascertained objectively and certainly even after purchase. And the long-term survival and success of belief systems depend on how easily they can establish credence.

What is clear is that religion is a collective consumption good with large network externalities—that is, individuals' satisfaction from its use depends on others' participation and adherence (Janeba, 2007). It is generally difficult to subsidize activities that generate these kinds of network externalities. In the language of economics, religion is a cultural good for which free riding could be an impediment for its growth and sustainability. Religions have typically overcome such problems by establishing norms and rituals that penalize or inhibit alternative uses of time and resources (Iannaccone, 1992, 1994; Berman, 2000; Berman and Laitin, 2008). The sustenance of such norms and rituals not only helps screen out the less committed free riders but also forms the cornerstone of a common social "culture." Such norms and rituals appear to be crucial for the Durkheimian argument. In this regard, all sociopolitical innovations that raise accountability and loyalty among the adherents help limit free-rider problems and bolster credence. And those belief systems whose credence is more effectively established among the populace would also be the ones with a comparative advantage in serving the sociopolitical stability function.

Wright (2009, pp. 55–57) even attributes the rise of religion to its social-stability, which began to evolve in the transition from hunter-gatherer societies, which were based on personal interaction, to settled agricultural societies, which were more impersonal:

[Laissez-faire] law enforcement is a shakier source of social order in chiefdoms than in hunter-gatherer societies. In a hunter-gatherer village, you know everyone and see them often and may someday need their help. So the costs of getting on someone's bad side are high and the temptation to offend them commensurately low. In a chiefdom, containing thousands or even tens of thousands of people, some of your neighbors are more remote, hence more inviting targets for exploitation.... In this phase of cultural evolution, a supplementary force of social control was called for. Religion seems to have responded to the call.... Whereas religion in hunter-gatherer societies didn't have much of a moral dimension, religion in the Polynesian chiefdoms did; it systematically discouraged anti-social behavior.... Believing that anyone you mistreat might haunt you from the grave could turn you into a pretty nice person.

1.2 Does Theistic Competition Matter?

There isn't much consensus on whether monotheistic faiths structurally differ in their functional impact on their adherent societies. Still there are some scholars who saw in monotheism certain advantages in establishing an ecclesiastical monopoly within societies. We'll get to that debate soon enough. Before we do, however, note that there is hardly a consensus among theology scholars even on the origins of monotheism.

The conventional literature on the topic assumed a linear progression from polytheistic faiths to monotheism during the socioeconomic and political evolution of human societies and held the view that Judaism was the first monotheistic faith. For example, Baring-Gould (1877, pp. 237, 258) observed, "Two facts arrest our attention at the outset—the prevalence of monotheism and the tendency of civilization towards it.... It is the glory of the Semitic race to have given to the world in a compact andluminous form that monotheism which the philosophers of Greece and Rome only vaguely apprehended, and which has become the heritage of the Christian and the [Muslim] alike."

But in the early twentieth century, two anthropologists, Andrew Lang and Wilhelm Schmidt, began to advance that monotheism predated polytheistic faiths, and the recent literature has begun to reflect the view that Judaism was probably not the first monotheistic religion in human history. In his book One True God, Rodney Stark (2001, p. 32) discusses Aten, who the residents of Egypt around 1000 BCE considered as their unique god, possessing omnipotence and unlimited scope. Karen Armstrong (1993, pp. 4–7) seconds Stark's opinion by noting that "there had been a primitive monotheism before men and women had started to worship a number of gods. Originally, they had acknowledged only one Supreme Deity, who had created the world and governed human affairs from afar. Belief in such a High God ... is still a feature of the religious life in many indigenous African tribes."

In any case, what we do know is that spiritual belief systems in general began to proliferate in various different geographic regions of the world more or less simultaneously and independently during what was described by Karl Jaspers (1953) as the Axial Age, covering roughly between 800 BCE and 200 BCE. All three major monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) were born between 606 BCE and 622 CE in the Middle East. The subsequent diffusion of the One God faiths in North Africa, Asia, and Europe was not only rapid and remarkable but also accompanied by the rise of centralized government. In the words of Diamond (1997, pp. 266–67),

At the end of the last Ice Age, much of the world's population lived in [hunter-gatherer societies] and no people then lived in a much more complex society. As recently as 1500 [CE], less than 20 percent of the world's land area was marked off by boundaries into states run by bureaucrats and governed by laws. Today, all land except Antarctica's is so divided. Descendants of those societies that achieved centralized government and organized religion earliest ended up dominating the modern world. The combination of government and religion functioned, together with germs, writing, and technology, as one of the four main sets of proximate agents leading to history's broadest pattern.

In fact, by the year 2000, 161 countries subscribed predominantly to one or more of the three monotheistic faiths, representing 86 percent of the 188 countries and close to 3.3 billion people—roughly 55 percent of the world population (Iyigun, 2010).

While Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are not the only three monotheistic faiths that have emerged in history, they have had and continue to have the most adherents by far. These monotheisms have also been geographically dominant in the Middle East, Europe, and the Near East ever since their advent, and the spread of Christianity and Islam in particular in those regions has been quite extraordinary by historical standards (a topic discussed further in chapter 2).

Moreover, while other religious faiths have been classified as monotheist by some theologians, there have been long-running scholarly disputes about the theistic attribute of many of those. A case in point is Zoroastrianism. Founded by the Iranian reformer Zoroaster in the sixth century BCE, it involves a clear hierarchy among its various divine beings, with Lord Mazda as the supreme god, followed by seven other deities, the Holy Immortals. But precisely due to the fact that Lord Mazda's role in the detailed hierarchy is unambiguous, Zoroastrianism is accepted by some scholars as an early precursor of modern monotheisms (Armstrong, 2006, pp. 9–14).

The date when Judaism became unambiguously monotheist is also subject to debate. By some accounts, this did not occur until the early seventh century, in 606 BCE, although the birth of Judaism is traced back to the twelfth century BCE (Armstrong, 1993, p. 61; Stark, 2001, pp. 24–25).

We know very little if anything about why monotheisms spread as rapidly as they did and came to be so closely intertwined with governments and stable societies. The fact is, not only did many historical civilizations subscribe to and promote Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but also the political elite in these societies often derived their temporal authority from their respective monotheist ecclesiastical institutions. In turn, the latter derived substantial financial and political benefits from being associated with One God. Thus the stability of preindustrial societies came to be linked with their respective ecclesiastical institutions. Stable polities, societies, and economies might not have been sufficient for ushering in human enlightenment, industrialization, and sustainable economic progress but seem to have been the precursors of all those (e.g., Diamond, 1997; North et al., 2006, 2008; Mokyr, 2010).

So if monotheistic faiths were especially adept at sustaining sociopolitical stability, what were their common features that mattered in this regard? Although they are not exclusive to the three main monotheisms, there are at least three salient traits of monotheistic faiths regarding their impact on the economic and sociopolitical realms.

1.2.1 Social Advantages of Economies of Scale

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all acknowledge and promote the "oneness" of God, and the barriers to entry in the religion market are substantially lower when there are many gods. By nature, this introduces monopoly power and elements of increasing returns to scale in the provision of religious services when entry barriers are high (as they are under One God).

Ekelund et al. (1996, 2002) and Barro and McCleary (2003, 2005) claim that the fixed setup costs of religion influence the equilibrium number of faiths that can be sustained by a society or state. Most germane to what I discuss here is the idea that a state religion is more likely to emerge when the cost of establishing a religion is high. Monotheisms entail relatively high costs of entry into the religion market. Ekelund et al. (1996, p. 28) elaborate, for instance, how, as an institution, the Roman Catholic Church benefited from its association with an omnipotent God:

As an extensive and pervasive monopolist in medieval society, the Church held a major advantage as producer of the credence good of salvation, which included intercession with God. The monopoly status of the Church, coupled with its great temporal power, reinforced the credibility of its claims concerning the quality of its nontestable product. The Church could convincingly maintain that its temporal position was testament to the veracity of its claims. Thus, aspiring entrants to the medieval religious market faced a daunting task: convincing their potential customers that the alternative product they offered was more reliable than that already available from an institution endorsed by an Omnipotent God.


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Table of Contents

I             The Preliminaries
1                                                                      Societies, Polities, and Religion
1.1       Faith and Social Order
1.2       Does Theistic Competition Matter?
1.2.1                Social Advantages of Economies of Scale
1.2.2                Personalized Spiritual Exchange
1.2.3                Longer Time Horizons Due to Afterlife
1.3       Monotheisms Rule…
1.4       …and Conflict
II            The Rise of Monotheism
2                                                                      Empires Strike Back…under One God
2.1       Some Definitions
2.2       Sources and Data
2.3       A Brief History
2.4       Some Generalizations
2.5       Hypothesis
2.6       Identifying Monotheisms’ Impact
2.7       Monotheisms Reign Supreme
3                                                                      Globalizing Abrahamic Monotheisms
3.1       Judaism
3.2       Christianity
3.3       Islam
3.4       The Early Contacts
3.4.1                Mohammed and Charlemagne
3.4.2                Holy Crusades
3.4.3                Moorish Spain (al-Andalus)
3.4.4                Medieval Islamic Science
3.5       From Triumph to Confrontation
III           Monotheism, Conflict, and Cooperation
4                                                                      A Conceptual Framework
4.1       An Outline
4.2       Resources, Conflict, and Territorial Conquests
4.3       What’s Faith Got to Do with It?
5                                                                      The “Dark Side” Rises
5.1       From Local Tribe to Global Empire
5.1.1                Foundations
5.1.2                Government and Polity
5.2       Gaza, Islam, and the Ottoman State
5.3       Western Conquests
5.3.1                The Golden Era
6                                                                      Ottomans’ Faith and Protestants’ Fate
6.1       Charles, Francis, and Ferdinand
6.2       The German Diets, Austria-Hungary, and the Papacy
6.3       Deals with the Infidel
6.4       Hypothesis
6.5       Data Sources and Definitions
6.6       A Descriptive Look
6.7       Main Findings
6.7.1                Ottoman Wars and Intra-European Violence
6.7.2                Ottomans and the Protestant Reformation
6.8       At the Dawn of an Oasis of Prosperity
7                                                                      Those Harem Nights
7.1       Trends in Ottoman Conquests
7.2       The Harem Hierarchy and Genealogical Links
7.3       Hypothesis
7.4       Main Results
7.5       Discussion
7.6       Mom Knows Best?
7.7       Cultural Identity, Ethnicity, and Religion
IV          Pluralism, Coexistence, and Prosperity
8                                                                      Culture, Clashes, and Peace
8.1       Ethnicity, Religion, and Conflict
8.2       What the Data Say
8.3       Key Findings
8.4       From Ethno-Religious Battles to Huntington and Beyond
9                                                                      Conflict, Political Efficacy, and National Borders
9.1       Conflicts and Institutional Quality
9.2       Caveats, Qualifications, and Channels of Impact
9.3       Borders Are a Manifestation of Conflict, Too
10                                                                    Religious Coexistence, Social Peace, and Prosperity
10.1     Is There a Link?
10.2     Individual Effects
10.3     Institutional Effects
10.4     A Comparative-Development Coda
11                                                                    Meanwhile, in the Orient…
11.1     The Cognitive Dissonance of the Sick Man of Europe
11.2     External Foes and Islamic (Dis)unity
11.3     The Pending Islamic Reformation?

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