The material and the mental in the birth and expansion of Islamic societies

Jean Batou


Is there a definite relationship between the adoption of Islam as a dominant faith and given social formations? In the 1990s, Manuel Acién Almansa proposed the concept of “Islamic social relations”, putting special emphasis on the peculiar significance of private property and its spatial embodiment in the Islamic city, where public area tends to take a back seat to the profits of market space and private shops.
More recently, S. Michalopoulos, A, Naghavi and G. Prarolo tried to empirically demonstrate the interaction between the surge of trade in the context of an uneven distribution of agricultural resources, and the shaping of the Islamic doctrine. They conjectured that its moral and economic principles were instrumental in finding an acceptable compromise between Middle-Eastern pastoral tribes and merchant cities, allowing them to build a centralized political authority.
Both approaches address the issue of the complex meshing and merging of the material and the mental in the historical development of social formations. My paper intends to underline the great interest of such efforts in the understanding of the birth and rapid expansion of the first Islamic societies from the 7th century C.E. onwards.

Islam - social formations - modes of production