DP14712 The Quran and the Sword: The Strategic Game Between Autocratic Power, the Military and the Clerics

Author(s): Emmanuelle Auriol, Jean-Philippe Platteau, Thierry Verdier
Publication Date: May 2020
Keyword(s): army, Autocracy, instrumentalization of religion, Islam, reforms
JEL(s): D02, D72, N40, O57, P48, Z12
Programme Areas: Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14712

This paper elucidates the willingness of an autocrat to push through institutional reforms in a context where traditional authorities represented by religious clerics are averse to them and where the military control the means of repression and can potentially make a coup. We show that although the autocrat always wants to co-opt the military, this is not necessarily true of the clerics. Empirically, the dominant regime in contemporary Muslim countries is the regime of double co-option. Exclusive co-option of the military obtains only where the autocrat's intrinsic legitimacy and the loyalty of his army are strong while the organizational strength of religious movements is rather low. Radical institutional reforms can then be implemented. Rent economies where ultra-conservative clerics are powerful enough to block any institutional reform that they dislike represent another polar case. More frequently, the autocrat resorts to a double-edged tactic: pleasing the official clerics by slowing the pace of reforms, and ensuring the loyalty of the military to be able to put down an opposition instigated by rebel clerics.