Amir Wahbalbari1, Zakaria Bahari2 and Norzarina Mohd-Zaharim3
ABSTRACT: Mainstream economics postulates the concept of scarcity as the defining concept in economics while heterodox economics denies the proposition of scarcity. In contrast, there is no clear stand among Islamic economists towards the concept of scarcity. This paper explores concept of scarcity ideologically and examines empirically the effect of scarcity thinking on human wants. The concept of scarcity is one of the unresolved issues in Islamic economics. Conceptually, this paper aims to explore and uncover the ideological basis of the concept of scarcity in the writings of Malthus and Robbins with reference to the Islamic perspective. In so doing, analysis of texts was performed. In contrast to positivism that relies on sensible observation, this paper attempts to analyze the concept of scarcity and abundance from the perspectives of critical realism. Critical realism goes beyond the Seen phenomena to include elements from the Un-Seen reality. Empirically, this paper attempts to explore the effect of scarcity thinking on human wants among Muslims. With reference to social psychology and specifically to commodity theory, scarcity enhances desires in people. Consequently, this paper attempts to abstract scarcity thinking out of the concept of scarcity that defines mainstream economics. Scarcity thinking means that there is not enough for everyone to go around. In doing so, this paper has constructed a measurement items for Scarcity Thinking, Human Wants and Islamic Religiosity. The quantitative data used for this empirical research was collected through a questionnaire administered on 345 Muslim individuals working within the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A measurement and structural model were formulated through adopting the structural equation modeling approach (using AMOS version 18). This paper concluded that Scarcity Thinking enhances Human Wants significantly and has opposite relationship to Islamic Religiosity. One major implication of this paper is that the concept of scarcity of mainstream economics reflects scarcity thinking in which Scarcity thinking is causing a dissonance between Islamic Religiosity of moderation in expenditure and excessive buying behavior of Human Wants. Therefore, the concept of scarcity and its thinking state inflates human wants and contradicts the Islamic worldview of cooperation and obedience.
Keywords: scarcity thinking, religiosity, human wants, social psychology, heterodox economics
A student attends the first lecture in economics and learns that economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources to meet unlimited wants. He learns that scarcity is a primary concept in economics. If scarcity did not exist, then he wouldn’t be studying economics. According to mainstream economics, the science of economics exists in order to provide the theoretical and practical tools to solve the problem of scarcity. The concept of scarcity as it is taught in economics refers to the limited resources that fall short of satisfying the unlimited human wants (Samuelsson and Nordhaus, 2010).
In contrast, Heterodox economists in their movement to oppose mainstream economics consider the objects of study of mainstream economics, such as preferences-utility, marginal products, demand curves, rationality, relative scarcity, and homogeneous agents, as ill-defined and having no real world existence (Lee, 2011). Likewise, institutional economics is one of the heterodocx economics streams. Dugger and Peach (2006) have explored the writings of early insituitional economists that convey abundance rather than scarcity. Affluence can be achieved either through producing much or desiring less, in which the gap between means and ends can be reduced by industrial productivity (Sahlins, 1972). Furthermore, Daoud (2010) in his emphasis on the crucial role of socio-cultural mechanisms argued that Malthus and Robbins postulated that scarcity is natural, universal and ignored the possibility of both the state of abundance and sufficiency. In addition, Matthaei (1984) considered scarcity a social product that can be abolished through social, economic and change process.
From another perspective, scarcity has been the object of inquiry in the field of social psychology. Research in social psychology has found that people tend to desire scarce commodities more than comparable available commodities because the acquisition of scarce commodities reveals feelings of personal uniqueness (Brock, 1968).
This paper is classified into six sections. The second section reviews the literature of scarcity from the perspective of heterodox economics and social psychology in addition to exploring the ideological orientation of the concept of scarcity. The third section introduces the conceptual framework while the fourth presents the method and results. The fifth and sixth sections present the discussion and conclusion.
LITERATURE REVIEW The Ideological Orientation of the Concept of Scarcity Malthus (1798) introduced the theory of population. In his famous essay, the principle of poulationas it affects the future improvement of society, Malthus mentioned some core principles among which were: Food is necessary for human existence and Human population, if unchecked, tends to grow faster that the power in the earth to produce subsisitence. However, Malthus’ population principle had a preliminary ideology and thought that influenced Malthus to advocate his thoeory and policy recommendations. According to Hunt (1979), Malthus’s population theory was to have an influential-intellectual impact. Its normative orientation convinces that poverty is inevitable and that nothing can be done to eradicate it and moreover, poverty is due to the weakness or moral inferiority of the poor.
Suppose that by a subscription of the rich the eighteen pence a day which men earn now was made up five shillings, it might be imagined, perhaps, that they would then be able to live comfortably and have a piece of meat every day for their dinners. But this would be a very false conclusion… The receipt of five shillings a day instead of eighteen pence would make every man fancy himself comparatively rich and able to indulge himself in many hours or days of leisure. This would give a strong and immediate check to productive industry, and, in a short time, not only the nation would be poorer, but the lower classes themselves would be much more distressed than when they received only eighteen pence a day (Malthus, 1826: 61).
Despite the impact of Malthus’s principle on theories of economic development, Malthus’ population principle was criticized severely with the contemporary understanding of the concept of scarcity arising from its relative basis, not from its absolute basis. The concept of scarcity as it is taught in contemporary economics refers to the limited resources that fall short of satisfying the unlimited human wants. Lionel Robbins used the term scarcity but he meant the relative term as we will see from his interpretation of scarcity in his definition formulation. In his book, Robbins (1945) postulated the relationship between means and ends where he claimed that the quality of scarcity in goods is not an absolute quality. According to him, scarcity does not mean mere infrequency in occurrence but it means limitations in relation to demand.
From the point of view of the economist, the conditions of human existence exhibit four fundamental characteristics. The ends are various. The time and the means for achieving these ends are limited and capable of alternative application. At the same time the ends have different importance. Robbins (1945: 12)
Importantly, the derivation of these four fundamentals was the result and reflection of Robbins’ thought, perception and ideology towards the behavior of human being and the nature of resources. Hence, such fundamentals and ideology set the establishment for Robbins’ standard definition of the science of economics as “the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses” Robbins (1945: 12). Unlike Malthus who focuses on the aspect of limited resources, Robbins’ scarcity focuses more on the competing ends which are known as unlimited human wants (Daoud, 2010).
Here we are, sentient creatures with bundles of desires and aspirations, with masses of instinctive tendencies all urging us in different ways to action. But the time in which these tendencies can be expressed is limited. Robbins (1945: 13).
The relativity of the concepts of needs and wants is considered to be one of the contrasting aspects between absolute scarcity and relative scarcity. Needs are the desires which take the form of a “must” urgency in obtaining goods and services such as clothing, medicine, food and shelter in order to achieve satisfaction. Needs are a basic organic part of wants while wants include needs but go beyond them; wants are needs plus some residual desires that do not correspond to needs (Uyar & Raiklin, 1996). Keynes has differenciated between needs and wants by classifying them into absolute and relative needs. Absolute needs are the must-fullfilled needs while relative needs are needs that imply supperority as it has appeared in Keynes writings.
Now it is true that the needs of human beings may seem to be insatiable. But they fall into two classes-those needs which are absolute in the sense that we feel them whatever the situation of our fellow human beings may be, and those which are relative in the sense that we feel them only if their satisfaction lifts us above, makes us feel superior to our fellows. Needs of the second class, those which satisfy the desire for superiority, may indeed be insatiable; for the higher the general level, the higher still are they. But this is not so true of the absolute needs-a point may soon be reached, much sooner perhaps than we all of us are aware of, when those needs are satisfied in the sense that we prefer to devote our further energies to non-economic purposes (Keynes 1972:326).
From the above statement, it becomes apparent how wants or needs in its relative sense induce human insatiablity in which consumpsion becomes subjective to the dynamic standard of living from period to period. In our contemporary time where consumerisim has widely spread across the world through globalization and in fact relative scarcity induced people to consume more for the sake of social prestige and wants fulfillment. In addition, Kasser (2002) showed how widespread materialism has prevailed in our contemporary time as people have started to compromise on community and family values for the culture of consumerism. Relevantly, neo-Malthusians criticize widespread materialism and consumerism by incorporating religious teachings into their argument. They advocate simple living as part of a higher level of existence; that stress cooperation, fulfillment in work, and spiritual development. The widespread consumerism is attributed to the human greed of freely choosing individuals and the only way to overcome it is through elevating consciousness to a higher, non material level (Matthaei, 1984).
Despite the apparent differences between absolute and relative scarcity, both Malthus and Robbins shared common views pertaining to the nature and the tendency for human desires to be limitless. Excessive human wants contradicts the religious teaching of promoting simplicity and moderate standard of living. Accordingly, Malthus ended his first essay with a sanctimonious appeal to religion and God’s Will.
Life is, generally speaking, a blessing…. The partial pain, therefore, that is inflicted by the supreme creator, while he is forming numberless beings to a capacity of the highest enjoyments, is but as the dust of the balance in comparison of the happiness that is communicated, and we have every reason to think that there is no more evil in the world than what is absolutely necessary as one of the ingredients in the mighty process. ( Hunt, 1979: 68 quoting Malthus, 1798)
Similarly and in his ideological orientation, Robbins didn’t differ much from Malthus in terms of looking at nature as niggardly and scarcely.
Here we are, sentient creatures with bundles of desires and aspirations, with masses of instinctive tendencies all urging us in different ways to action. But the time in which these tendencies can be expressed is limited. The external world does not offer full opportunities for their complete achievement. Life is short. Nature is niggardly. Our fellows have other objectives. Yet we can use our lives for doing different things, our materials and the services of others for achieving different objectives Robbins. (1945: 13).
These ideologies and views contradict the religious worldview of abundance creation. One possible explanation of these divergent ideologies from religion lies on the rise of secularism. According to Rothbard (1995), the rise of the secular group contributed significantly to the decline of scholasticism in the sixteenth century where their decline was attributed partly to the scholastic favor for the banning of usury. Indeed, St. Thomas Aquinas was the famous Scholastic thinker whose economic views were against usury. But such views were not welcomed by secular businessmen and it was against the overall interests of secularism, so they attacked it severely until it was eclipsed by the Renaissance Movement. Furthermore, Whitehead (2001) stressed the conflict that arises between science and religion when he stated that the death of religion comes with the repression of high hopes of adventure. According to him, religion obstructs the science from exploring adventure. Even when he discussed Christianity, he mentioned that the general belief among Christians in the early days was that the world was coming to an end in the lifetime of people then living. However, such belief, according to Whitehead, was proved to be mistaken and it resulted in controversies that always put religion in the wrong and science in the right. Releventaly, Whitehead (2001) was referring to the eighteenth and ninteenth century in which secularism was in its stage of growth. Consequently, secularism had an influential impact on the ideologies of early and recent economists such as Thomas Robert Malthus and Lionel Robbins. Therefore and due to the influence of secularism, Malthus and Robbins seemed not to consider religion in their ideological framework.
Scarcity from the Perspective of Heterodox Economics
Heterodox economics has emerged in response to the dissatisfaction with the methodological individualism of mainstream economics that base its knowledge inquiry on deductive mathematical approach. It is worthwhile to define heterodox economics in order to get deeper insight on its approach of studying economics. “Heterodox economics refers to a specific group of theories aimed at explaining it, to economic policies recommendations predicated on the theories, and to a community of economists engaged in this theoretical and applied scientific activity” (Lee, 2011: 6). Furthermore, it approaches economics with different epistemological stand, relying more on critical realism and let Lee (2011: 10) elaborates on the nature of heterodox microeconomics approaches.
….delineation of heterodox microeconomic theory takes the form of theory creation. Scientific theory creation requires a methodology for the task and the methodology is the method of grounded theory, and its philosophical foundation of realism, critical realism, and epistemological relativism.
Interestingly, Heterodox economists consider the objects of study of mainstream economics, such as preferences-utility, marginal products, demand curves, rationality, relative scarcity, and homogeneous agents, are ill-defined, have no real world existence. Not only that, they tend to consider economics as the science of the social provisioning process. In addition, the methods used by the researchers to study the objects and address the problems and issues need to be grounded in the real world (Lee, 2011).
Furthermore, institutional economics is one of the heterodocx economics streams. Dugger and Peach (2006) have explored the writings of early insituitional economists that convey abundance rather than scarcity. Abundance is mainfested clearly in the writings of early economists such as Adam Smith, Veblen and Mill. Instituitonal economists presented an alternative definition of economics that doesn’t indicate scarcity. They follow Allan Gruchy’s definition of economics as “the science of the social provisioning process” (1987: 21). They refer to Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Thorstein Veblen, and John Maynard Keynes as “abundance economists.” In general, instituitional economists consider the era of industrial revoluton as the era of abundance creation. John Stuart Mill (1848) summarized most of the mentioned aspects by the institutional economists. He argued that abundance can be achieved through expansion of man’s power over nature, more preservation of property, increasing business capacities and spreading cooperation.
In fact heterodox economics view economics as nothing but a historical science of the social provisioning process. It inquires the factors that are part of the process of social provisioning. The structure and use of resources, and the structure and change of social wants are among the factors that inquired by heterodox economics. Therefore, the resulted abundance creates a surplus that to be used for social provisioning, that is for consumption, private investment, government usage, and exports (Lee, 2011).
Moreover, affluence can be achieved either through producing much or desiring less, in which the gap between means and ends can be reduced by industrial productivity (Sahlins, 1972). Furthermore, Daoud (2010) in his emphasis on the crucial role of socio-cultural mechanisms mentioned that Malthus and Robbins tend to postulate that scarcity is natural and universal, in which they ignore the possibility of both the state of abundance and sufficiency. In addition, Matthaei (1984) considered scarcity a social product that can be abolished through social, economic and change process. According to Daoud (2011) deflating human wants can overcome scarcity and realize relative abundance. In his analysis, he referred to the ethical practice of the Modus Vivendi of Material Simplicity (VMS).4 The Buddhist ethical practice of VMS enables people to deflate their wants and make their material resources abundant relative to their wants (Daoud, 2011). As a result, relative abundance creates surplus and that surplus plays a vital role in enhancing the process of social provisioning.
Nonetheless, for relative scarcity to be abolished and relative abundance to be realized, human wants should be decreased. Therefore, this paper seeks explores the factors that make human wants unlimited. The next section integrates the perspective of social psychology on scarcity and attempts to uncover the factors that increase, inflate and acelerate human wants.
Scarcity from the Perspective of Social Psychology
Brock (1968) proposed a commodity theory in which he stated that people may desire scarce commodities more than comparable available commodities because the acquisition of scarce commodities reveals feelings of personal uniqueness. Similarly, Cialdini (2001) has found that perceived scarcity has an effect on human judgment as items and opportunities become more desirable to people as they become scarce. Accordingly, Knishinsky (1982) who was Cialdini’s former PhD student has found respondents who were told that there would be a shortage of Australian beef in the near future purchased twice the amount of beef as compared to respondents who were not given such information.
Following Brock's (1968) commodity theory, Lynn (1991) did a meta-analysis to show that scarcity enhances the value of anything that can be possessed in which the scarcer a commodity is, the more valued or desirable it becomes. As a result, Lynn’s (1991) meta-analysis results supported commodity theory and suggest for marketers to manipulate the perceived scarcity of the products and services to increase their perceived value. He demonstrated examples of practices like advertising a product's scarcity, producing limited editions of products, distributing products through exclusive outlets, prestige pricing of products and services, and restricting maximum order sizes for products and promotional offerings to increase perceived value of such products and services.
Furthermore Verhallen and Robben (1994) have designed an experiment as such that participants had to evaluate three recipe books and to choose one of them. In doing so, information was provided about the contents of the books and their availability. Results from the analyses of variance for the uniqueness data reveal that participants preferred a book of limited availability due to market conditions to books that were accidently unavailable or of unlimited availability. According to the perception of the participants, books of limited availability due to market circumstances were perceived as more costly and more unique than books that were accidentally unavailable or abundantly available.
Likewise, Aggarwal et al. (2011) have observed the tendency of scarcity to create a sense of urgency among buyers that stimulate an increase in the quantities purchased, shorter searches, and greater satisfaction with the purchased products. In carrying their experiment, Aggarwal et al. (2011) have hypothesized that Compared with an unrestricted promotional offer; a restricted promotional offer (scarcity message) will have a greater impact on consumer purchase intentions. The result obtained from ANOVA reveals evidence of significant impact of the restrictive promotion on participants’ purchase intentions and therefore the hypothesis was supported.
In contrast to the above studies that examined scarcity effect by single test, Wu and Hsing (2006) have used SEM (Structural Equation Modelling) to develop and examine how scarcity influences consumer’s value perception and purchase intent through the mediation of assumed expensiveness, perceived quality, perceived symbolic benefits and perceived monetary sacrifices. According to Wu and Hsing (2006), the reason behind the adaptation of SEM is to develop an enhanced conceptual model that can overcome the shortcomings of using single statistical test. The single test approach is not sufficient to explain the scarcity’s value-enhancing effect. However, their results were consistent with the previous studies that adopt single test approach in which the perception of scarcity enhances consumer’s value perception and willingness to buy.
Another study that attempt to demonstrate cross-national differences in proneness to the scarcity effect were conducted by Jung and Kellaris (2004). In their study, they hypothesized that the magnitude of the scarcity effect will vary across cultures such that the effect will be more pronounced in a lower-context culture (U.S.) versus a higher-context culture (France). Results from ANOVA test indicate that a scarce brand was perceived as more desirable across the American and French participants.
Critically speaking, there are two identified implications from the findings of social psychology with regard to the scarcity effect on enhancing desirability and expenditure among people. The first implication appears in the form of the tendency of scarcity to create scarcity thinking among people. Several conceptual studies have examined the concept of scarcity from the mental state of human thinking. Such state of thinking is known as scarcity thinking or mentality. Scarcity thinking means that people believe in scarcity, that they evaluate their life in terms of what it lacks. With scarcity thinking, the focus is on what a person does not have, and this continues to be his or her experience of life. Scarcity thinking is best mainfested as there is not enough to go around (Covey, 1989). With scarcity thinking, people tend to consume more than what they need and to become protective of what they have. If the object is believed to be scarce, it will be valued, kept, hoarded, sought and consumed. With scarcity thinking, no matter how much a person has, it is never enough even if he/she has it in abundance (Johnson, 2005; Thomas, 2007).
The second implication of the scarcity effects is that people tend to consume and spend excessively whenever they have enhanced desires. Nonetheless, most religions have conveyed and advocated moderation in spending and minimization of human desires. Given the fact that God has ordered human being to behave in a moderate way and to decrease their human desire, one of the main objectives of this paper is to examines the effect of scarcity thinking in enhancing human wants among Muslims This research has been conducted in Kuala Lumpur, where Islam is considered to be the dominant and official religion. Therefore, this paper explores the effect of scarcity thinking on enhancing human wants among Muslims, in which Islamic Religiosity is considered to be the determinant measure of the Islamic behavior among Muslims.
Scarcity's Enhancement of Desirability (S-E-D) Model Following his (1991) meta-analysis, Lynn (1992) has studied the effect of scarcity on enhancing desirability among people. In that study, Lynn (1992) postulated that scarcity's enhancement of desirability is mediated by assumed expensiveness, thus several empirical relationships should be investigated. Firstly, people should believe that scarce things cost more than available ones. Secondly, scarcity on the economic market should enhance desirability more than does nonmarket scarcity. Thirdly, thoughts about price should strengthen scarcity's enhancement of desirability. Lastly, blocking assumptions about expensiveness should weaken scarcity's enhancement of desirability. He presented a model of scarcity effects referred to as the Scarcity Enhancement Desirability (S-E-D) model. The S-E-D model posit assumed expensiveness, attributed quality and perceived status as mediators of scarcity’s effect on desirability. Lynn’s study concluded that scarcity’s enhancement of desirability may be explainable to people’s informal or naive economic theories. People might desire scarce products more than available ones because they believe that scarce goods are expensive, of high quality and good investment. In the theoretical framework of S-E-D model, commodity theory and the theory of psychological reactance beside downward social comparison theory and need-for-uniqueness theory explain the scarcity enhancement desirability (Lynn, 1992).
CONCEPTUAL THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK In the conceptual theoretical framework of this paper, there is one independent variable, one mediator and one dependent variable. As it is shown in the below diagram, Islamic Religiosity is the independent variable, Human Wants is the dependent variable while Scarcity Thinking acts as a mediator.
Furthermore, the conceptual theoretical framework is represented by commodity and cognitive dissonance theories and the Islamic principle of moderation. Theoretically and firstly, commodity theory deals with the psychological implications of scarcity. It postulates that that "any commodity will be valued to the extent that it is unavailable" (Brock, 1968:246). Moreover, cognitive dissonance theory states that there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions such as his beliefs and opinions. When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors, something must change to eliminate the dissonance (Festinger, 1957). The Islamic principle of moderation is manifested in Al-Quran (25: 67) and in his interpretation of this verse, Al-Sabouni (1981: 370) stated: “When they spend neither extravagantly nor in niggardly manner which is considered the fifth attribute of God’s servants. However, they spend in a middle way.” Convincingly, Islam unequivocally discourages its followers to cross the limits and follows extremes (Chaudhry, 1999).
In the Scarcity Enhancement Desirability (S.E.D) model, commodity theory and the theory of psychological reactance beside downward social comparison theory and need-for-uniqueness theory explain the Scarcity Enhancement Desirability (S.E.D) model that was formulated by Lynn (1992). However, this paper refers to the Islamic principle of moderation to explain the indirect path from Islamic Religiosity to Human Wants. Moreover, the relationship between Scarcity Thinking and Human Wants is best explained by commodity theory. Furthermore, the theory of cognitive dissonance explains the path from Islamic Religiosity to Human Wants through the mediator effect of Scarcity Thinking.
Human Wants (HW)
A want is something that is desired. It is said that every person has unlimited wants, but limited resources. Thus, people cannot have everything they want and must look for the most affordable alternatives (American Psychological Association, 2007). Human wants are frequently associated with the concept of scarcity that postulate resources are limited but human wants are unlimited. According to Raiklin and Uyar (1996), the desires which take the form of urgency in acquiring goods and services to fulfil satisfaction are called needs while wants include needs but go beyond them to reflect social and cultural status. Both “needs” and “wants” belong to the realm of personal consumption which is the ultimate goal of the productive and distributive efforts of all economic systems, capitalist or otherwise. Both needs and wants are characterized with desires to satisfy and fulfil the acquisition of goods and services through consumption. Witt (2001: 26) stated that:
Basic wants are part of the human genetic endowment. They can be satisfied temporarily either singularly or in more or less complex combinations by consuming appropriate items in suitable quantities, and the desire to satisfy the wants motivates the corresponding activity.
Based on the above quotation, human wants are manifested through consumption. The social relations that were central in political economy were replaced by the concept of economic man who is deriven by insatiable consumer desires (Gagnier, 2000). According to Pindyck & Rubinfeld (2001) the theory of consumer behavior describes how consumers allocate income among different goods and services to maximize their satisfaction. Given the fact that human wants are best described by consumption, the items of the construct of Human wants are constructed in such a way that tend to measure expenditure and shopping behavior.
Scarcity Thinking (ST) Scarcity thinking is best mainfested as there is not enough to go around. Covey (1989: 219) demonstrates
People with a “Scarcity Mentality” (p. 219) believe that there isn’t enough for everyone—that only a select few will be rewarded with jobs, love, power, money, talent, promotions, gift s, recognition, or other rewards. These people do not trust others and do not share joy in others’ accomplishments, believing that someone else’s success will take away from their own. In a sense, they dam up their emotions behind a wall of mistrust, preventing the flow of good will from them to others. This creates more negativity and resentment, which reinforces their view that the world is a challenging place and their belief that, “I’d better get mine while I have the chance, because it won’t come again.”
From the above quotation, the scarcity way of thinking or mentality affects the human behavior. The items of the Scarcity Thinking (ST) are conceptualized from the literature of scarcity thinking as it is postulated by Covey (1989), Thomas (2007), and Johnson (2005).
Islamic Religiosity (IR) In this paper, the items that measure Islamic Religiosity will be cited from the Religious Personality' subscale of the Muslim Religiosity-Personality Inventory (MRPI) developed by Krauss et al., (2006). Psychometric results of the scale reveal that the scale is reliable, valid and relevant for use with multiple faith groups as Malaysia such as Buddhists, Christian, Hindus, and Muslims. The MRPI is categorized into two main subscales: Islamic Worldview and Religious Personality. Islamic worldview is measured or assessed through the Islamic creed (aqidah), which details what a Muslim should know, believe and inwardly comprehend about God and religion as laid down by the Qur'an and the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. The Religious Personality includes behaviours, motivations, attitudes and emotions that aim to assess personal manifestation of the Islamic teachings and commands. This construct is represented by item statements relating to the formal ritual worship or 'special ibadat', that reflects one's direct relationship with God; and the daily mu'amalat, or the religiously-guided behaviours towards one's family, fellow human beings and the rest of creation i.e., animals, the natural environment, etc. known as the general worship or 'general 'ibadat' (Krauss et al., 2006).
Data was collected through a structured questionnaire. This study was conducted in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The rationale behind selecting Kuala Lumpur as the study area is because it is the home to a large number of migrants from other states within Malaysia and foreign countries. A non probability sampling techniques using purposive sampling method was adopted because this research is exploratory. According to Adler and Clark (2010), the desirable sampling method in exploratory research is the purposive sampling. Furthermore, 450 questionnaires have been distributed to selected Muslim employees from different professional line such as banks, private companies, hotels and other organizations. The rationale behind selecting Muslim employees is that they must earn fixed monthly income so that they can posses the purchasing power to spend and shop. The questionnaire5 was divided into two parts. The first part gathered data on the demographic characteristics of the target sample. The second part consists of three sections to measure Islamic Religiosity (independent variable), Scarcity Thinking (mediator) and Human Wants (dependent variable).
All the responses were measured on a 4-point “Likert” scale with no midpoint known as forced choice with 1 “Strongly Disagree” and 4 “Strongly Agree.” Upon the completion of the data collection, 345 out of the total of 440 distributed questionnaires were considered usable. The remaining 95 questionnaires comprised of omitted and missed data that exceed 25 percent from the total number of items. Following the guideline of Sekaran and Bougie (2010), these questionnaires were excluded from the usable questionnaires. Nonetheless, there were slight missing data in the usable questionnaires accounted for 2-3 percent from the total number of items. Based on the suggestions of Sekaran and Bougie (2010), a similar response pattern imputation was adopted to deduce a logical answer to the missing response questions.
Firstly, Table 1 presents the demographic factors of the sample. Using SPSS (version 20), the obtained data were further subjected to data cleaning, test of adequacy and reliability tests using the kolmogorov-smirnov, KMO and Bartlett’s test of Sphericity, and the Chronbach Alpha tests respectively. The exploratory factor analysis has loaded each latent construct into several factors. Human Wants (HW) has loaded into two factors which are shopping and expenditure; Islamic Religiosity (R) has loaded into three factors which are Obedience, Cooperation, Commitment; Scarcity Thinking (ST) has loaded into three factors which are Lack, Conflict, and Mistrust. As a result, these loaded factors are represented and measured directly by measurement items. This is known as first order measurement model.
Second Order Measurement Model
In confirming the measurement model, the three constructed dimensions of Islamic Religiosity, Scarcity Thinking and Human Wants are labeled as second order measurement model because they are measured indirectly through the first order factors.
Table 1: Distribution of Respondents According to their Background Characteristics
20 – 25 yrs
26 – 30 yrs
31 – 40 yrs
41 – 50 yrs
51 and above
1000 – 2500
2501 – 4000
4001 – 8000
8001 and above
For model estimation, a second order measurement model was performed based on structural equation modeling using AMOS software (Version 18.0). In addition, the Normed chi-square (i.e. CMIN/DF), the Comparative Fit Index (CFI) and the Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA) were adopted in evaluating the model. According to Hair et al. (2010), the threshold of fit indices of a given measurement model with sample size > 250 and observed variables (items) within the range between 12 and 30 items are as follows: CFI is .90 and RMSEA is 0.07. For CIMN/DF, a value of less than 3 is considered a good value for model fit to the data (Bagozzi and Yi, 1988).
The second order measurement model of the three latent variables showed that the overall fit of the model to the data appear as χ² (264) = 404.465. The CFI was found to be .945, which is above the threshold value of .90. Also, the Normed chi-square was 1.735, which is considered acceptable as it is below the cut-off 3. Similarly, the RMSEA value for the second order measurement model was .039, which falls below the threshold of .07.
Figure 1: Second Order Measurement Model
Based in the Goodness of Fit Indices, there is no doubt that the second order measurement model shows encouraging fit to the data. Following the recommendation of Hair et al. (2010), items IR5, IR6 and ST8 showed factor loading below 0.50 and were excluded from the model in order to improve the model fit to the data. Accordingly and as it is apparent in Figure 1, the revised second order measurement model revealed great model fit to the data as it appears as χ2 (198) = 300.043, CFI = .958, RMSEA = 0.039 and CIMN = 1.515.
Second Order Structural Model Bootstrapping is one of the non-parametric methods of resampling (Kline, 2010). The method of bootstrap was used because this study used purposive sampling The structural model was estimated by means of maximum likelihood estimate (MLE) using the AMOS version 18 software. The test of the overall model fit yielded a Chi Square 300.052 with 199 degrees of freedom and a p-value of less than 0.001. Results presented in Table 4 reveal the regression weight which shows that all relationship were statistically significant. It has been found that Islamic Religiosity (IR) has inverse relationship to Scarcity Thinking (ST). The critical ratio between IR and ST is -3.483 which its absolute value is greater than the threshold of 1.96 at p-value < 0.05.
Table 4: Regression Weights: (Second Order Structural Model )
Furthermore, results also show direct relationship between Scarcity Thinking (ST) and Human Wants (HW). The critical ratio between ST and HW is 2.825 which exceeds 1.96 at p-value <0.05. All the fit indices were above the recommended values. The Comparative Fit Index (CFI) = 0.958, the Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA) was 0.038 and CIMN/DF = 1.508 as it is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Second Order Structural Model
In the analysis of SEM, bootstrapping is also considered as one of the methods that can be used to test mediation (Bollen and Stine, 1990; Shrout and Bolger, 2002). One of the main objectives of this paper is to examine whether Scarcity Thinking mediates the relationship between Islamic Religiosity and Human Wants. One of the bootstrap methods that test for mediation effect is the bias-corrected bootstrap. When the mediated effect is nonzero, the bias-corrected bootstrap is accurate in computing confidence interval for the meditational effect (Efron, 1987). Meaning, for evidence of mediation, the p-value must be statistically significant from the null hypothesis that claims no meditational effect.
Table 5 presents the estimate section of AMOS output which reveals that the standardized indirect effect is - 0.021 and the standard error of the indirect effect (bootstrap standard error) is 0.062. In order to determine the significance of mediation effect, the p-value must indicate significance. The bias-corrected percentile method presents two tailed significance for the indirect effects, in which the p-value for the indirect effect is equal to 0.023, indicating evidence of significant mediation of Scarcity Thinking (ST) between Islamic Religiosity (IR) and Human Wants (HW). Therefore the path between Islamic Religiosity (IR) to Human Wants (HW) is mediated by Scarcity Thinking (ST).
In this section, the discussion is classified into two parts. The first part discusses the concept of scarcity from the perspective of critical realism while the second part discusses the effect of scarcity thinking on human wants in the context of a society that assume Islam in its practices.
The Concept of Scarcity: Searching the perspective of Critical Realism In contrast to positivism, critical realism is meant to acknowledge both the creativity of man’s mind, and the existence of patterns in events that are not created by man’s mind (Barbour, 1966). As a result, the existence of patterns in events that are not created by man’s mind can explain the possibility to integrate the belief of revelation into the discourse of economics. Revelation represents the unseen reality, in which it postulates God’s power in creating and providing provisions to living creatures. Accordingly, such unseen reality of revelation could reflect the existence of abundance in contrast to the widespread perception of scarcity. This paper utilizes the wide scope of critical realism to explain the Islamic interpretation of what is known as the Seen World (عالم الشهادة)and the Unseen World (عالم الغيب).
A.L.M. * This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah. * Who believe in the Unseen* And who believe in the Revelation sent to thee, and sent before thy time, and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter (Qur’an, 2: 1-4).
This book, which is in no doubt, as it guides the righteous people; those who fear God, believe in the Unseen and in revelation (Al-Sabouni, 1981: 32). On the contrary, both Malthus and Robbins were depending on their observation and they were not incorporating the unseen elements into their views on nature. From a critical realism perspective, “knowledge of objects is mediated by ideas which are in some sense distinct from the objects of knowledge” (Losch, 2009: 88 quoting Roy Wood Sellars, 1927). Meaning, critical realism claims that an entity can exist independently of our identification of it.Saying that an entity can exist independently of its identification implies that it can exist withoutsomeone observing, knowing, and constructing it (Fleetwood, 2005). Furthermore, critical realism prioritizes and emphasizes ontology over epistemology (Fleetwood, 1999). According to Lawson (2012), mainstream economics often commits the error of the epistemic fallacy. Epistemic fallacy means that a statement about ontology can always be reduced to the statement of epistemology. As a result, Robbins (1945), who advocates the concept of scarcity, committed the error of epistemic fallacy by claiming and asserting that nature is niggardly.
Here we are, sentient creatures with bundles of desires and aspirations, with masses of instinctive tendencies all urging us in different ways to action. But the time in which these tendencies can be expressed is limited. The external world does not offer full opportunities for their complete achievement. Life is short. Nature is niggardly. Our fellows have other objectives. Yet we can use our lives for doing different things, our materials and the services of others for achieving different objectives Robbins. (1945: 13).
According to Robbins, the object of knowledge is nature. From a critical realism perspective, the ideas mediate the objects of knowledge. For example Robbins claims that nature is niggardly. However, and from the perspective of critical realism, Robbins’ idea of “nature is niggardly” is distinct from the object of identification, which is the surrounding nature. Therefore and from the perspective of critical realism, nature is not necessarily niggardly as nature acts as an independent entity from Robbins’ idea towards nature.
On the contrary, the Quran presents several verses6 that promote abundance in nature. Likewise, a believer who is inspired by the Qura’nic postulation of abundance might hold an idea of abundance in nature and s/he might claim that nature is abundant and plenty despite the fact that s/he realizes limitation in resources. Consequently, ideas about nature can be secular ideas or religious ideas depending on the worldview and perspective of the viewer. Therefore, the concept of scarcity cannot be universal as it is subjective to different humans’ interpretations towards nature.
For a critical realist, an entity is said to be real if it has causal efficacy; has an effect on behavior; makes a difference.There are four modes of reality: materially real, ideally real, artificially real and socially real (Fleetwood, 2005). In this paper, the focus is directed only on materially real and ideally real for explaining the elements of the Seen and Un-Seen world. Materially real refers to material entities like oceans, the weather, the moon and mountains that can exist independently of what individuals or communities do, say, or think. This can be referred to as the Seen World. In contrast, ideally real refers to conceptual entities like discourse, language, genres, tropes, styles, signs, symbols, ideas, beliefs, meanings, understandings, explanations, opinions, concepts, representations, models, theories and so on7. Such ideally real can be referred to as the Un-Seen worldand in this context; the researcher limits the discussion to the entity of belief as the reference to it represents the religious belief of revelation.
In his explanation of the Islamic worldview of the Seen and Un-Seen world, Al-Attas (2003) interprets the following Quranic verse: “So I do call to witness what ye see, And what ye see not” (Qur’an, 69: 38-39). According to him, in Islam, the worldview is not merely the mind’s view of the physical world and of man’s historical, social, political and cultural involvement. The Islamic worldview, according to him, is not based upon philosophical speculation formulated mainly from observation of the data of sensible experience, of what is visible to the eye; nor is it restricted to the universe, which is the world of sensible experience, the world of created things. The worldview of Islam includes both worldly life and the Hereafter, where worldly life mustbe in harmony with the Hereafter. At the end, the Hereafter has ultimate and final significance. Obviously, there is a strong relationship between the Un-Seen world, the Hereafter and Revelation in which the belief in the Hereafter will be determined through the belief in the Revelation. Revelation, in turn requires the belief in the Un-Seen world. Consequently, those who deny Revelation will certainly deny the existence of the Unseen world and automatically ignore the Hereafter whereas those who believe in Revelation will believe automatically in the Un-Seen worldand then, of course, the Hereafter (Wahbalbari, 2010). Therefore, we see our environment including the earth, sea, river, lakes, mountains and the apparent sky; however, we do not see God, although many people believe in God8. Therefore, God is unseen because we do not see him. Likewise, God who is unseen creates the abundant resources and provisions which are unseen. As a result, Robbins falls into the trap of attributing scarcity and niggardliness to nature as he excluded religion from his discourse which leads him to ignore Revelation and by ignoring revelation; the belief in the Un-Seen World disappeared from his framework (Wahbalbari, 2010). However, critical realism can explain the existence of revelation as an independent entity from our sensible observation. Accordingly, critical realism also can explain the aspect of the Un-Seen worldwhich is denied from the perspective of positivism. There are various verses in the Quran that postulate the belief in abundance and in God’s power to give provision and sustenance despite the fact that we do not see the resources abundantly. Consequently, the belief of abundance in nature acts as a mediating idea between the object of knowledge (nature) and the human mind. Therefore and based on critical realism, resources are considered to be abundant even though they appear in proportion and finite quantities, assuming that we look at them from the Islamic perspective of abundance. As a consequence, abundance thinking rather scarcity thinking will prevail.
Relevantly, Scarcity Thinking is often contrasted with abundance thinking. Several conceptual studies have been consistent with the religious belief of abundance that postulates abundance thinking or mentality. “Abundance Mentality as that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody” (Covey, 1989: 220). Even corporations and organizations are coaching abundance thinking. As Johnson (2005) stated, abundance is the state in which there is more than one as there are pelntiful resources available to everyone. Furthermore, he postulates a philosophy of shared abundance that teaches that a world of giving is a world of receiving and a key principle of Shared Abundance is that all resources are available to all; and the more you give, the more you will receive; and the more you share, the more you will receive abundance by sharing. Abundance thinking or mentality causes cooperation and generous behavior. It is not surprising to find that both religious teachings and abundance thinking postulate cooperation and generous collective behavior among human beings. As a result, people cooperate with each other through the act of support, motivation, giving donation and charity. Nevertheless, the mainstream postulate of the concept of scarcity creates scarcity thinking. The next subsection discusses the effect of scarcity thinking on human wants.
The Effect of Scarcity Thinking on Human Wants
Results have revealed direct relationship between Scarcity Thinking (ST) and Human Wants (HW). This result resembles the findings of the relevant literature of social psychology on the effect of scarcity in enhancing desirability and expenditure among people [Brock, 1968; Cialdini (2001; Aggarwal et al., 2011; Knishinsky (1982); Lynn (1991); Lynn, 1992); Verhallen and Robben, 1994]. Several conceptual studies have claimed that scarcity thinking stimulates people to consume more than what they need and to become protective of what they have and as a result scarce object will be valued, kept, hoarded, sought and consumed [Johnson, 2005; Thomas, 2007]. Therefore, the above empirical result proves those conceptual studies that have examined the implication of scarcity thinking on human behaviour.
Furthermore and before explaining the path from Islamic Religiosity (IR) to Scarcity Thinking (ST), it is worthwhile to explain the first order factors that explain Islamic Religiosity (IR). The exploratory factor analysis has revealed three factors for Islamic Religiosity (IR) which is Obedience, Cooperation and Commitment. Firstly, the Islamic perspective of obedience appear in the form of obedience to God, the Prophet of Islam and the Authority of the state. “O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you” (Al-Quran, 4: 59). Obedience has been a subject of inquiry in social psychology. According to Milgram (1963), obedience is one of the fundamental elements in the structure of social life in which some system of authority is a requirement of all communal living through submission, to the commands of others. Moreover, Milgram (1963) was interested in examining and investigating how far people would go in obeying an instruction if it meant to harm another person9. He found that people are likely to follow orders instructed by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being. Obedience implies that a person obeys a rule, order and command even if it goes against his/her desire and wants. From the Islamic perspective, the greatest form of obedience is reflected on the full submission to God’s orders and commands. The story of prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail demonstrated the highest model for obedience and submission to God’s commands.
He said: "I will go to my Lord! He will surely guide me!. "O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!" So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: "O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what thy view is!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!" So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah, and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We called out to him "O Abraham!"Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!" - thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For this was obviously a trial- And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice: And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times: "Peace and salutation to Abraham!" Thus indeed do we reward those who do right? for he was one of our believing Servants (Al-Quran, 37: 99-111).
The objective of the divine’s test on Ibrahim was not to sacrifice his son Ismail, but to determine the level of their obedience and submission to God’s commands. Because Ibrahim and Ismail were obedient through the submission of their wills to God’s will, God has rewarded Ibrahim with a momentous sacrifice instead of sacrificing his son Ismail. The above verses revealed two crucial facts. The first fact is that this worldly life is nothing but a test and trial from God on human being. The second fact demonstrates obedience to God through full submission to His orders and commands. Therefore, obedience is the effect of the divine test and trial on human beings. Accordingly, Islam in itself is nothing but a full submission to God’s orders, rules and commands (Al-Sabouni, 1981).
Another factor that explains Islamic Religiosity (IR) is cooperation. Cooperation is central to human existence and social behavior (Argyle, 1991). Moreover, human beings are social and are disposed to cooperate (Tuomela, 2000). However, mainstream economics replaces the social relations that were central in political economy with the concept of the economic man. The economics man seeks to maximize his self interest as he is driven by insatiable consumer desires (Gagnier, 2000). Nonetheless, there are several verses from the Quran that promote and advocate cooperation: “Help ye one another in righteousness and piety” (Al-Quran, 5: 2). Cooperation is manifested clearly in several verses in Al-Quran through the act of spending charity for the poor and needy.
And the likeness of those who spend their wealth Seeking to please Allah And to strengthen their souls, Is as a garden , high And fertile : heavy rain Falls on it but makes it yield a double increase of Harvest, and if it receives not Heavy rain, light moisture Sufficeth it, Allah seeth well whatever ye do (Al-Qur’an, 2: 265).
In examining the empirical relationship between Religiosity (R) and Scarcity Thinking (ST), it has been found that Islamic Religiosity (R) has an inverse relationship with Scarcity Thinking (ST). The finding reveals that Scarcity Thinking goes against the Islamic Religiosity. Consequently, the three extracted factors of lack, conflict, and mistrust that represent Scarcity Thinking construct have no reference in the Quran and Islam.Instead of scarcity, most religions propagate abundance. It was found in Genesis (17:6), God promised Abraham, “I will make thee exceeding fruitful and I will make nations of thee.” Likewise and according to the Old Testament, God is supposed to have been resource optimist (D'Oyly& Mant, 1839). “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness and let them have dominant over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26, 28). In addition, “The Almighty did not seem worried about the limitations of the earth’s resources for Abraham’s descendents as God also said “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is upon the sea shore” (Genesis 22:17). Similarly, Al-Quran goes in parallel with Genesis and Old Testament. “And there is not a thing but its (sources and) treasures (inexhaustible) are with Us; but We only send down thereof in due and ascertainable measures” (Qur’an, 15: 21).It has been proven empirically that Islamic Religiosity (IR) has an inverse relationship with Scarcity Thinking (ST) and therefore Scarcity Thinking does not promote the Islamic worldview of cooperation and abundance.
In addition and as stated earlier, several verses in Al-Quran postulate moderation in expenditure and condemnation of excessive desires. “Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes); (Qur’an, 25: 67). Furthermore, the following verse condemns excessive desires “But after them there followed a posterity who missed prayers and followed after lusts soon, then, will they face Destruction” (Al-Quran, 19: 59). Then there were a people who follow their desires and lust and they will be in great loss, destruction and in the state of evil (Al-Sabouni, 1981).
Supporting the above literature, this paper has found that the relationship between Islamic Religiosity (IR) and Human Wants is indirect (see Table 5). This result reveals an opposite relationship between Islamic Religiosity (IR) and Human Wants (HW), which explains the Islamic principle of moderation that condemns extravagance and excessive desires. It also indicates the significance of religious belief in determining buying behavior. Accordingly, Mokhlis and Spartks (2007) have confirmed that highly religious individuals are less likely to make impulsive purchase decisions. In addition, Essoo and Dibb (2004) have discovered that devoutly religious consumers are less demanding in their shopping behavior than casually religious consumers. However, Bailey and Sood (1993) have examined the effects of religious affiliation on consumer behavior in Washington DC and they found that Muslims tend be imperious and impulsive shoppers. Indeed, the level of religiosity tends to vary among Muslims as people vary in terms of their religious beliefs. People might believe in moderation in their expenditure but at the same time they spend excessively in their shopping, which raises a tradeoff between religious beliefs and buying behavior. Such tradeoff is termed as dissonance in the literature of social psychology. According to Festinger (1957), dissonance occurs most often in situations where an individual must choose between two conflicting beliefs or actions. When these two conflicting beliefs have equal attractions, the extent of the dissonance between them will be greater. Consequently, obedience to God’s orders and commands in terms of moderation in expenditure explains Islamic Religiosity while excessive shopping and buying behavior explains Human Wants. Accordingly, the dissonance will be created when the person demonstrates obedience in terms of moderation in expenditure and at the same time s/he spends excessively whenever s/he goes for shopping. Then, the question arises, what is causing the dissonance?
One possible answer for the above question could lie on examining the mediation effect of Scarcity Thinking between Islamic Religiosity and Human Wants. As has been discussed previously, Scarcity Thinking enhances Human Wants while at the same time; Scarcity Thinking shows an inverse relationship with Islamic Religiosity. The test of mediation provides evidence for Scarcity Thinking to mediate the relationship between Islamic Religiosity and Human Wants. Meaning, Scarcity Thinking is causing the dissonance between the Islamic Religiosity of Obedience in terms of moderation in expenditure and the extravagant buying behavior of Human Wants. As a result, Scarcity Thinking acts as the source of dissonance between the Islamic Religiosity (that is explained by obedience to God’s order of Moderation) and Human Wants (that is explained by extravagant shopping and buying behavior) among Muslims.
Convincingly, Mokhlis and Spartks (2007) in addition to Essoo and Dibb (2004) have confirmed that highly religious individuals are less likely to make impulsive purchase decisions and less demanding in their shopping behavior than casually religious individuals indicates that the more religious the individuals are, the less likely they are to experience dissonance of Scarcity Thinking and vice versa. Indeed, the theory of cognitive dissonance explains the mediation effect of Scarcity Thinking on the relationship between Islamic Religiosity and Human Wants among Muslims.
Nonetheless, Festinger (1957) have presented three ways to eliminate dissonance: to reduce the importance of the dissonant beliefs, to add more consonant beliefs that outweigh the dissonant beliefs, or to change the dissonant beliefs so that they are no longer inconsistent. As it was mentioned previously, Scarcity Thinking causes the dissonance between the Islamic Religiosity of Obedience and Human Wants of excessive shopping and expenditure. In order to eliminate the dissonance of Scarcity Thinking, Muslims have to reduce, eliminate the Scarcity Thinking and revive their beliefs towards God. In doing so, abundance thinking should overcome the Scarcity Thinking as there are numerous verses in the Quran that postulate abundance rather than scarcity.
In contrast to abundance thinking, Scarcity Thinking implicitly indicates that God does not provide enough resources to fufill the unlimted Human Want that He Imputed on His creatures. This was clearly stated in the writings of Malthus and Robbins10. However, God has the power that makes Him continuously creating resources and provisions in abundance. But because of the nature of this worldly life that is characterized as the world of test and trial upon human beings, God expands and restricts the resources. “See they not that Allah enlarges the provision and restricts it, to whomsoever He pleases? Verily in that are Signs for those who believe” (Qur’an, 30: 37).Do not they see God’s Power in enlarging and restricting the provisions so that they do not give up if they are poor in which the fact of God power is the sign for those who believe in God’s wisdom ( Al-Sabouni, 1981). Therefore, reviving the belief in God and in His power of creation and provisions helps Muslim to reduce and eliminate the dissonance of Scarcity Thinking (ST).
Towards a Holistic Model of Scarcity Thinking, Islamic Religiosity and Human Wants As has been discussed previously, Scarcity Thinking is explained by lack, conflict and mistrust which in turn enhance Human Wants through excessive shopping and expenditure. Moreover, the elements of obedience to God’s order and commands, cooperation behavior and commitment to follow the teachings of Islam represent Islamic Religiosity. In the model of Scarcity Thinking and Human Wants, two scenarios are presented.
The first scenario represents the disobedience of Muslims to God’s order of moderation, which results in excessive shopping and buying behavior. As a result, resources don’t meet the unlimited Human Wantsand as a consequence, Relative Scarcity prevails as a product of disobedience to God’s order through following excessive desire. In contrast, the second scenario (see Figure 2) reflects the obedience of Muslims to God’s order for moderation. As a result, the available resources fulfill the moderated and regulated Human Wantsand as a consequence, Relative Abundance prevails as a product of obedience to God’s orders and commands. Furthermore, such Relative Abundance is shared through the mechanism of cooperation.
Several verses in the Quran obligate and recommend spending charity and donation for the poor. Lastly, commitment to obedience and cooperation create sustainable abundance. The historical case of the Islamic state during the period of the caliph Omer Ibn Abdul-Aziz confirms the possibility of realizing abundance. The caliph, who was obedient to God propagated and conveyed obedience and cooperation for his citizens. As a result, abundance was realized, poverty was eradicated and there was no evidence of poor people to receive charity and donations (Najeebabadi, 2001). This historical case confirms the finding of Matthaei (1984) that scarcity is a social product that can be abolished through social, economic and change process. Obedience to God’s order of moderation in expenditure and wants can abolish relative scarcity. Human wants can be easily moderated and with the belief in God’s Power that creates abundance, the dissonance of Scarcity Thinking will be reduced. Likewise, by reducing the dissonance of Scarcity Thinking, Human Wants will be moderated.
Figure 3: Towards A Holistic Model of Scarcity Thinking, Islamic Religiosity and Human Wants
Scarcity Thinking enhances
Human Wants uman Wants
GOD order human being to
moderate their Wants
Moderate Human Wants, Excessive Human Wants,
Shopping and expenditure Shopping and Expenditure
Consequently, the belief in God’s creation of absolute abundance and in His power to expand and restrict the resources stimulates Abundance Thinking. As a result, Abundance Thinking promotes obedience and cooperation that can overcome Scarcity Thinking. The findings of Daoud (2010) question the postulation of mainstream economics that relative scarcity is universal whereby they ignore the possibility of realizing sufficiency and abundance. As was stated in the beginning of this section, God tests human beings by expanding and restricting their resources. The outcome of this divine test appears as a phenomenon that might exhibit scarcity or abundance at certain point of time and place. From the Islamic perspective, such phenomenon is temporary and not permanent as God tests human beings by the means of good and evil. “…and we test you by evil and by good by way of trial. to Us must ye return” Al-Quran, 21: 35). SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
To summarize and conclude, this paper has explored the concept of scarcity ideologically and examined the effect of scarcity thinking on human wants among Muslims. Conceptually, this paper has integrated critical realism in explaining the Seen and Un-Seen world as it does not have any contradiction with the religious belief of revelation. In contrast, positivism which is adopted by mainstream economics restricts and reduces knowledge inquiry to sensible observation and therefore it does not incorporate revelation in the discourse of economics. Nonetheless, critical realism can explain the possibility of the existence of revelation as an independent ideally-real entity that mediates the knowledge of abundance from nature. At the same time, critical realism can refute the scarcity postulate as it tolerates revelation to play a role in the analysis. Therefore, abundance can be rationalized if it is viewed from the perspective of critical realism. Empirically, it has been found that Scarcity Thinking enhances Human Wants, while at the same time it shows an inverse relationship with Islamic Religiosity. The test of mediation provides evidence for Scarcity Thinking to mediate the relationship between Islamic Religiosity and Human Wants. This indicates that Scarcity Thinking is the source of dissonance between the Islamic Religiosity (that is explained by obedience to God’s order of Moderation) and Human Wants (that is explained by excessive shopping and buying behavior). Scarcity Thinking indicates that God does not provide enough resources to fufill the unlimted Human Wants that He Imputed on His creatures. However and from the Islamic perspective, God has the power that makes Him continuously to create resources and provisions in abundance. However, God expands and restricts the resources to human beings because He is testing them in this worldly life. Therefore, reviving the belief in God and in His power of creation and provisions helps Muslim to reduce and eliminate the dissonance of Scarcity Thinking (ST). Eliminating and reducing the dissonance of scarcity thinking helps the Muslims to moderate human wants and by moderating human wants in relation to the available resources, relative abundance will be realized. Al last, the concept of scarcity of mainstream economics and its state of Scarcity Thinking enhances Human Wants. Nevertheless, Human Wants if not moderated in relation to the available resources will create relative scarcity. Therefore, the mainstream postulate of relative scarcity is not universal but a phenomenon that can be abolished by moderating Human Wants and reducing the dissonance of Scarcity Thinking. Furthermore, Islamic Religiosity in the form of the belief in God’s creation of abundance in addition to obeying His rule of moderation in expenditure reduce and eliminate the dissonance of Scarcity Thinking. Hence, Scarcity Thinking is responsible for accelerating and making Human Wants to be unlimited. This paper suggests a future research such as a cross-sectional study that attempts to compare the relationship between Islamic religiosity, scarcity thinking and human wants across different Muslim societies. Moreover, this paper suggests further research that can attempt to test the relationship between religiosity, scarcity thinking and human wants in the contexts of societies that adhere to different religious faiths such as Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.
Lastly, the concept of scarcity as it is postulated by mainstream economics tends to clash with the Islamic worldview as itdoesn’t have any reference in Islam. Relative scarcity can act as a phenomenon in economic activities but not as the defining concept of economics in general and Islamic economics in particular. Finally, this paper calls for isolating the concept of scarcity from economics in general and Islamic economics in particular. Hopefully by doing that, abundance will be realized, poverty will be eradicated and sustainable development will be achieved.
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1 Amir Wahbalbari is a research fellow reading PhD of Economics at the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia. Email: email@example.com, Tel: +60133440907.
2 Dr. Zakaria Bahari is a senior lecturer in the economics section and the Centre for Islamic Development Management Studies in the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +6046532664.
3 Dr Norzarina Mohd-Zaharim is a development psychologist in the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia. Email: email@example.com, Tel: +6046532801.
4 For further discussion on Modus, see Daoud, A. (2011). The Modus Vivendi of Material Simplicity: Counteracting Scarcity via the Deflation of Wants. Review of Social Economy, LXIX(3), 276-305.
5 The questionnaire is available from the authors upon request.
6 Refer to (Qur’an, 14: 32-34) and (Qur’an, 15: 21) for the Qur’anic promotion of abundance.
7 For further explanation of the modes of reality, see Fleetwood, S (2005) 'The Ontology of Organisation and Management Studies: A Critical Realist Approach', Organization 12 (2), 197-222
8 According to Fleetwood (2005) God may or may not be real, but the idea of God is real because the idea of God makes a difference to people’s actions.
9 For further illustration of Milgram experiment, refer to Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience.The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology,67(4), 371.
10 Robbins (1945) claims nature to be niggardly while Malthus (1798) questioned “ How can God who is good, wise and omnipotent will scarcity on His creatures”