Ibn Khaldun and the Wealth of Civilizations

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Received scholarship often recognizes Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) as a major Islamic philosopher of history preoccupied with the rise and fall of civilizations. His profound reflections on civilizational cycles serve as an indispensable medieval contrast to modern accounts commonly available in Spengler, Gibbon or Toynbee. Less appreciated in standard historiography is Ibn Khaldun’s status as a political economist seeking answers to the secret of wealth creation and the materialist foundations of civilization. The boundary between the medieval and modern worlds produces not only the fiction of cultural incommensurability, but also reveals the implicit hierarchy undergirding teleological thinking. This essay seeks to recover Ibn Khaldun’s contributions to political economy as an attempt to rebuild bridges between the two worlds that are traditionally separated by time and culture. The task of reconstruction relies on a critical reading of Ibn Khaldun’s Introduction (the Muqaddimah) to his magnum opus, the Kitāb al-ʻIbar or "Book of Lessons," as well as an engagement with scholarly commentaries sheltering interdisciplinary horizons. The essay is also based on a refusal to embrace rigid binaries between religious and secular worlds. Ibn Khaldun’s work melds the two worlds without succumbing to analytical paralysis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Ethics and International Relations
EditorsBrent Steele, Eric Heinze
Place of PublicationLondon and New York
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781315725932
ISBN (Print)9781138840201, 9780367580636
Publication statusPublished - 02 Jul 2018


  • International Relations
  • Economy
  • civilisation
  • IBN Khaldun
  • Ethics
  • Political


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