Ibn Haldun University (IHU) launched the 5th International Ibn Khaldun Symposium on Saturday in Istanbul. Scheduled for two days, the international symposium highlighted the significance of understanding Ibn Khaldun's works to help shed light on present matters, while focusing on the relationship between power, economic development and morality. The symposium featured several prominent speakers and scholars from Turkey and abroad. Ibn Khaldun's theoretical approaches and conceptual frameworks were treated as analytical tools to understand the current relations between the social effects of economic development and morality.
Professor Recep Şentürk, the IHU president, in his opening speech, said: "Today, we will discuss a current issue, how we can protect ourselves from the negative effects of affluence. Ottoman scholars assessed Ibn Khaldun's ideas on the issue and took his views as a warning during the Ottoman period. Now, we are facing a similar situation. The Ibn Khaldunian approach offers new perspectives and it is still useful in analyzing our social problems. Therefore, we consider an up-to-date subject here, not an abstract and theoretical academic subject." An academic of Indian decent Prasenjit Duara, a professor at Duke University in the U.S., said that someone like Ibn Khaldun "is very important to understand the ways in which he understood society [which] are actually related to our ways, but he had a different understanding of society."
"Without fully understanding Ibn Khaldun's background and knowledge and his goals [people] tend to isolate certain things that fit with contemporary social sciences without understanding the cosmology and cosmological ideas that are necessary to it," he underlined.
"The idea of the [Islamic] regulation [of the economy] that there are social forces is an important lesson for the modern capitalist world to absorb into its executive and other areas," he said. Bruce Lawrence, a professor at IHU, explained the relevance of Ibn Khaldun in current times, saying that there is a need to understand the relation "between deen [religion] and duniya [world]."
"It is not that they are opposites but they are both necessary because we are in this world because we want duniya. And deen gives us meaning. Religion is also orientation," Lawrence said. He said that Ibn Khaldun's perspective to solve contemporary economic challenges would be "if you do not learn poverty, you do not learn the term."
"One has to learn poverty because the problem is the rich do not have any sense of time. They think time is money but in fact time is really for the benefit of your own development," he said. The professor said that values have to be at the "center [of society] not the periphery. Then [comes] politics, [followed by] economics. Of course, economics is important but it is an end in itself, economics is always instrumental."
Mohamad Hammour, who teaches economics at the host university, said that the specific propositions put forward by Ibn Khaldun should be studied such as the "conceptual and civilizational understanding that he brought to the question of social science including politics and economics, which has a lot to do with the third element that is morality."
"Ibn Khaldun would potentially bring a perspective coming from pre-modern history, in his case, of the Islamic world, and this comparative perspective is very important," Hammour said. "Because without comparison, we take a lot of things as given," he added.
He said that there was a need for comparison of "our modern world with other worlds, including Ibn Khaldun's world and his analysis of the social issues allows us to understand our world today."
The symposium continued with the speech of Necmeddin Bilal Erdoğan, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Trustees, who drew attention to the question of how to link economic growth to social issues. He said: "If the distribution in an economy acts in a way that harms social solidarity, then the efficiency of the economy decreases. As social solidarity decreases, the expectations and decisions of people about the economy are negatively affected." The question of whether it is possible to develop an economic development model that maintains morality, sustainability and fairness was at the heart of the following discussions. It is a relevant subject, especially in the last few years when we think of intensifying social difficulties such as poverty, income inequality, economic crises and environmental pollution generated by the dominant capitalist order. Furthermore, one can argue that recent rising populism and extreme right-wing parties in Europe are also significant political consequence of economic "progress."