Culture, institutions and the long divergence

Alberto Bisin, Jared Rubin, Avner Seror, Thierry Verdier

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    During the medieval and early modern periods the Middle East lost its economic advantage relative to the West. Recent explanations of this historical phenomenon—called the Long Divergence—focus on these regions’ distinct political economy choices regarding religious legitimacy and limited governance. We study these features in a political economy model of the interactions between rulers, secular and clerical elites, and civil society. The model induces a joint evolution of culture and political institutions converging to one of two distinct stationary states: a religious and a secular regime. We then map qualitatively parameters and initial conditions characterizing the West and the Middle East into the implied model dynamics to show that they are consistent with the Long Divergence as well as with several key stylized political and economic facts. Most notably, this mapping suggests non-monotonic political economy dynamics in both regions, in terms of legitimacy and limited governance, which indeed characterize their history.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1-40
    Number of pages40
    JournalJournal of Economic Growth
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Mar 2024


    • Cultural transmission
    • Institutions
    • Legitimacy
    • Long divergence
    • N34
    • N35
    • O10
    • O33
    • P16
    • P48
    • Political economy
    • Religion
    • Z12

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Economics and Econometrics


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