Beyond Modernity: The Moral Economy of Ibn Khaldun
The idea of a moral economy has gained salience in the 21st century. It has been used by economists, political scientists, and to a lesser extent, scholars of religion, for alternative values of money, exchange, debt, poverty, and prosperity. As an actual moral economy seems elusive in the presence of a dominant capitalist market, this essay reflects on the work of Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldun, the 14th-century historian and philosopher. Ibn Khaldun’s reflections on the different ways in which individuals seek a livelihood (maʿāsh) reveal systematic and also ethical considerations. The essay examines some key terms which he uses to understand human sustenance and ethical reflections on various crafts. His ‘moral economy’ combines economic considerations with divine beneficence, rational thought, and ethical purpose.
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