The Foundational Elements of Development in Islam

  • Abbas Mirakhor
  • Hossein Askari


The prevailing Western concept of development can be viewed as a return to the traditions of the Scottish Enlightenment, particularly to Adam Smith. Amartya Sen’s contributions revived a considerable portion of classical thinking on the progress of societies. Sen changed the content, meaning, and direction of the discourse on development by demonstrating that reasoned arguments in economics could contain an ethical component. He did so by arguing against the neoclassical dogma that sharply separated “positive” from “normative,” and “facts” from “values,” as well as by rejecting the neoclassical position on the “meaninglessness” of value claims. The most devastating charge leveled against the neoclassical dogma by Sen is the “narrowing” of Smith’s view by “the believers in, and advocates of, self-interested behavior.” Support for this view “in Adam Smith is, in fact, hard to find on a wider and less biased reading of Smith. The professor of moral philosophy and the pioneer economist did not, in fact, lead a life of spectacular schizophrenia. Indeed, it is precisely the narrowing of the broad Smithian view of human beings in modern economics that can be seen as one of the major deficiencies of contemporary economic theory. This impoverishment is closely related to the distancing of economics from ethics.”1


Human Dignity Moral Sentiment Ultimate Source Intimate Knowledge Prescribe Rule 
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  1. 1.
    Vivian Walsh, “Smith after Sen,” Review of Political Economy Vol. 12 No. 1 (2000): 5–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Mineola, NY: Dover, 2006), 186–198.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Mohammad Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi (Tehran: al-Matba’ah al- Islamyyah, 1967).Google Scholar

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© Abbas Mirakhor and Hossein Askari 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abbas Mirakhor
  • Hossein Askari

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