Religion and Political Development: Comparative Ideas on Ibn Khaldun and Machiavelli

by Barbara Stowasser (2011)

Religion and Political Development

Improving on two earlier versions of this paper, Dr. Barbara Stowasser presents an interesting and unusual comparison of the political philosophy of two great medieval thinkers -- Ibn Khaldun (d. 1402) and Machiavelli (d. 1527). Stowasser probes the idea that Ibn Khaldun was Machiavelli's predecessor "in developing a truly 'modern' (i.e. secular) science of politics and society", but concludes that Ibn Khaldun "never perceived government as an autonomous secular activity capable of making its own morality which could be considered apart from religion." Along the way, she explores Ibn Khaldun's concept of 'asabiyya (social solidarity) and Machiavelli's concept of virtù as the thinkers applied them to understanding why some nations succeed while others fail. And she contrasts Ibn Khaldun's admiration of the political strength of early Islam with Machiavelli's disgust with the political weakness of Christianity.

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