Islamic Economics: Justice, Identity and Pluralism in Market Economy Theory

Valentino Cattelan, Oxford University

This paper aims at locating the current debate on Islamic economics identity within the broader context of property rights and market economy theory, under the light of pluralism. More precisely, challenging both the universality of (Western) free market and the subsequent conceptualization of Islamic economics as a particular example of moral economy, the paper argues that the recognition of the peculiar identity of Islamic economics requires a preliminary disclosure of the specific legal structure/function of Islamic justice and property rights, contextualizing human agency within a Qur’anic Creator paradigm where God’s Will is realized through the allocation of property rights according to the primacy of real economy, transactional equilibrium and risk an profit-loss sharing principles. In other words, only by moving from the Western postulates of division/competition (in a free market conceived in individualistic terms) to the Islamic postulates of participation/cooperation (in a free market conceived, on the contrary, in mutualistic terms), Islamic economics can find a self-founding frame, thus indirectly fostering the shift from a monolithic (Western-based) market theory towards a plural market economy theory. Accordingly, the paper will conclusively remark how issues of identity and pluralism cannot be marginalized in the theoretical discourse of Islamic economics: on the contrary, they are essential for the promotion of a free market economy re-conceptualized in the light of diversity.

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