Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 230–251 | Cite as

Why the Arab Spring turned Islamic: the political economy of Islam

  • Mario Ferrero
Original Paper


This paper argues that the fundamental reason for the ascendancy of political Islam in the wake of the Arab revolutions lies in the uncompetitive nature of the religion and its implications for political economy: the fact that Islam is one and long since unchanged, which makes the Islamists’ call very costly to resist and very attractive to follow. The argument is developed through an examination of sectarian and legal history in Islam and a comparison of the nexus between church, state and individual in Christian and Muslim religious traditions. Special attention is devoted to Islamic Law and the law schools that define it.


Islamic law Political Islamism Political economy of religion Religious competition Sectarianism 

JEL Classification

D72 Z12 



Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the workshop on “Law and Institutional Economics of Revolutions” (University of Hamburg, November 7–9, 2013), at the first European conference of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture (University of Durham, September 5–6, 2014), and at the annual meeting of the European Public Choice Society (University of Groningen, April 7–10, 2015). Participants in these events provided interesting discussion. I am indebted to Mukesh Eswaran, Ronald Wintrobe, and Ekkart Zimmermann for useful comments, and to the editor and two reviewers of this journal for helpful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HumanitiesUniversity of Eastern PiedmontVercelliItaly

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