European Journal of Law and Economics

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 103–129 | Cite as

Religion, law and development: Islam and Christianity—Why is it in Occident and not in the Orient that man invented the institutions of freedom?



This article answers the following question: why were institutions of freedom not invented in the Orient but in occident? It upholds that Christianity predisposed the West to discover institutions of freedom when Islam didn’t. In the first section it explains the decline and economic rise of the Orient and Occident as derived from Kant’s hypothesis (2.1) and geographical conditions (2.2). It explains in the second section the invention of institutions of freedom in Europe by two moral innovations: the secularising of law and the invention of the individual (3). The secularising of law was the result of Christian property theology which recognised man’s place in God’s creation (3.1). Secularising of politics and the Christians’ desire for autonomy vis-à-vis political authorities originated in individual rights being conceived as normal and incited man to insist upon respect from public authorities. The advent of individual rights was at the origin of the implementation of a secular constitutional right applying to all men, even the sovereign (3.2). The third section explains why political and social Islam did not predispose Muslims to discover the institutions of freedom, capitalism. Islamic law distanced the Orient from capitalism as it developed a religion of community salvation hostile to individualism and its rights (4.1); it never disassociated the rule of God from the rule of law (4.2) and it did not consider individual rights sacred or private property (4.3). The article concludes with the way in which economic theory could conceive of the religion variable in economic growth and development (5).


Religion Liberty Development and property rights 

JEL classification

O57 K11 D72 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ReimsReimsFrance
  2. 2.CESUniversity of Paris 1ParisFrance

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