Law and Economics
Ph.D., Stanford University, 1982
M.A., Stanford University, 1979
Research Description: Timur Kuran is Professor of Economics and Political Science, and Gorter Family Professor in Islam and the Social Sciences at Duke University. His teaching and research draw on multiple disciplines, including economics, political science, history, and legal studies. He has written extensively on the evolution of preferences and institutions, with contributions to the study of hidden preferences, the unpredictability of social revolutions, the dynamics of ethnic conflict, perceptions of discrimination, and the evolution of morality. His best known theoretical work is Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification (Harvard University Press), which deals with the repercussions of being dishonest about what one knows and wants. Since its original publication in 1995, this book has appeared also in German, Swedish, Turkish, and Chinese. Kuran has also written on Islam and the Middle East, with an initial focus on contemporary attempts to restructure economies according to Islamic teachings. Several of his essays on this topic are included in Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism (Princeton University Press). Since the mid-1990s he has turned his attention to the conundrum of why the Middle East, which once had a high standard of living by global standards, subsequently fell behind in various realms, including economic production, organizational capability, technological creativity, democratization, and military strength. He is at work on books and articles on this general subject. His thesis is that the economic and educational institutions of Islam, though well-suited to the era in which they emerged, were poorly suited to a dynamic industrial economy. These institutions fostered social equilibria that reduced the likelihood of modern capitalism emerging from within Islamic civilization. His recent papers have identified obstacles involving inheritance practices, contract law, procedures of the courts, the absence of corporations, the financial system, and the delivery of social services. Since 1990 Kuran has been the founding editor of an interdisciplinary book series published by the University of Michigan Press. He has served, or currently serves, on the editorial or advisory boards of numerous scholarly journals. He taught at University of Southern California from 1982 to 2007, holding the King Faisal chair in Islamic Thought and Culture from 1993 onward. Since 2005, he has been Director of USC's Institute for Economic Research on Civilizations. In 1989-90 he was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; in 1996-97 he held the John Olin Visiting professorship at the Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago; and in 2004-05 he was Visiting Professor of Economics at Stanford University.
Teaching (Fall 2019):
Representative Publications (More Publications)
Timur Kuran is Professor of Economics and Political Science, and Gorter Family Professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University. His research focuses on (1) social change, including the evolution of preferences and institutions, and (2) the economic and political history and modernization of the Middle East. His current projects include a study of the role that the Middle East’s traditional institutions played in its poor political performance, as measured by democratization and human liberties. Among his publications are Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification (Harvard University Press); Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism (Princeton University Press); The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East (Princeton University Press); and a tri-lingual edited work that consists of ten volumes, Socio-Economic Life in Seventeenth-century Istanbul: Glimpses from Court Records (İş Bank Publications). After graduating from Robert Academy in Istanbul in 1973, Kuran went on to study economics at Princeton University (AB 1977) and Stanford University (PhD 1982). Between 1982 and 2007 he taught at the University of Southern California. He was also a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the John Olin Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago, and a visiting professor of economics at Stanford University. He currently directs the Association for Analytic Learning about Islam and Muslim Societies (AALIMS); is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Economic Association; edits a book series for Cambridge University Press, serves on numerous editorial boards; and is a member of the Turkish Academy of Sciences. He has served on the World Economic Forum’s Arab World Council.