religion, slavery 

Reading this: nyrb.com/products/muhammad …and feeling all sorts of skeptical based on the author's handling of sociology in the introduction. For example, this:

religion, slavery 

Excuse me? Maybe elsewhere, but in the US, at least, there were prominent religious abolitionists who absolutely advocated for the wholesale eradication of slavery. There's evidence to suggest that they helped precipitate the actual end of slavery here — hence, the popularity of "John Brown's Body" as a Civil War marching song. Nor, AFAIK, had slavery outlived its economic usefulness to the ruling class — which is one reason they keep cooking up loopholes, e.g. prison labor.

religion, slavery 

Were religious abolitionists the only, or even principle, force behind the end of US slavery? Obviously not. But Rodinson — on the heels of a warning that sociological causation is too complicated to reduce to one ideology — is diminishing the role of religious opposition to nothing, in order to maximize the appeal of a Marxist interpretation. Ironic, really, and it puts me on guard.

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religion, slavery 

Even more ironically, perhaps, Rodinson's purpose in minimizing the role of religious abolitionists (even to the point of eliding their existence) is to undercut the Occidental view of Islam as essentially theocratic. Religious ideology, he's saying, has very little real influence over government, which is driven by motives related to temporal power.

re: religion, slavery 

@lrhodes This is one of the most annoying tendencies in marxist history & you're right to object to it. It seems to come from a determinist viewpoint of “well, slavery was on the way out anyway” which…no.

But anyway, materially, yes religious abolitionism has always been quite common - in fact, just a couple centuries after Mohammed lived, one of the largest slave uprisings in history was instigated by someone who explicitly justified their opposition to slavery in Islam.

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Merveilles

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