Caring for the Poor: Islamic Benevolence and the End of Neoliberalism

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Lecture with Cihan Tuğal (UC Berkeley)

For centuries, Islamic logics of charity mostly shaped along two lines: communitarian and state-making. Drawing on fieldwork in Egypt and Turkey, I demonstrate the rise of a new logic of care, which can be called entrepreneurial. Nevertheless, communitarian and state-making charity persist vigorously, even if unevenly. Contrary to what “world society” scholars would predict, entrepreneurial charity is highly circumscribed. Moreover, redistributive charity – an occasionally robust challenge to established religion throughout the history of Islam – has gained new force in response to neoliberalization. Counterintuitively, the melding of redistributive and entrepreneurial charitable practices has precipitated the end of neoliberal Islam. Fields of charitable organizations, as well as the state and other political forces, will determine which logics survive and thrive as the neoliberal era comes to an end.

Cihan Tuğal is Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley. Tuğal works on politics, economic change, and religion. His first book Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism (Stanford, 2009) studied pro-capitalist Islam and its popularization among the poor. In his second book The Fall of the Turkish Model: How the Arab Uprisings Brought Down Islamic Liberalism (Verso 2016), Tuğal analyzed Islamic movements and regimes in Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Iran. His most recent book Caring for the Poor (2017, Routledge) discusses liberalism's uneasy relations with charitable ethics. He now explores populism and revolution in the contemporary world system.

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Published: Wednesday, April 21, 2021