Modernization and Reforms in Iran

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Active ImageBy: Professor Ahmad Movesseghi, Law and Political Science Faculty, Tehran University

Modernization is a social change process which is rooted in modernity and aims to create developed societies. This process has been successfully experienced in the European countries where social changes have been fundamental, structural, integrated and systematic.

The question about Iran is why despite more than a century of reform history, the country is not still a developed state? Presumed answer to that question, which is the main hypothesis of this research, is absence of a clear theoretical framework for modernization and reform efforts in Iran. Being inspired by an imported ideology of development instead of being based on profound, scientific, and philosophical concepts of modernity, such efforts have led to incomplete and erratic social changes. Therefore, although the Iranian society is not a traditional society anymore, it is not a modern and developed one either.

This research assumes that weakness of the central government combined with deep-rooted social crises and foreign interventions have caused lasting instability, instead of lasting stability, which is the prerequisite of development. On the other hand, vicious circle of crisis, failure of state-sponsored reforms, further weakening of the government, social protests and uprisings which have failed to achieve their reform goals, foreign invasions and deterioration of an already critical situation have caused the country to lag behind the developed world despite all superficial changes.

The first chapter of this book deals with the existing literature on modernization followed by detailed discussion of the quality of government in Iran and the country’s economic, social and cultural structure before the beginning of reform process under Qajar dynasty. Then, reasons behind continuation or disruption of those structures, before and after reforms, are reviewed to determine success or failure of reform efforts.

Chapters three to six discuss reform experiences in Iran in four historical junctures. Religious reformists under Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties and after the Islamic Revolution are the main subjects of chapters seven and eight.

The foremost goal of the book is to discover and identify reasons behind theoretical and practical failure of reform efforts in Iran.

It is interesting to note that due to deep-rooted social crises and extensive problems facing Iran at theoretical, political and administrative-executive levels, whenever a statesman has tried to strengthen the central government and introduce vertical reforms to overcome those crises, certain centrifugal forces governing social structures and helped by foreign countries have thwarted those efforts causing failure of state reformists. Failure in consolidating society and government and realizing domestic production capacities, has further undermined central government and led to its subsequently overthrow through domestic unrests or foreign invasions.

Table of contents

Chapter I – Modernization literature

Chapter II – Historical and sociological background of Iran

Chapter III – First period: Abbas Mirza, Qaem Maqam, Amir Kabir, and Sepahsalar

Chapter IV – Second period: Reformist movements in Constitutional Revolution

Chapter V – Third period: Modernization and reforms under Pahlavi rule

Chapter VI – Fourth period: Modernization and reforms after the Islamic Revolution

Chapter VII – Religious reformists in Qajar and Pahlavi eras

Chapter VIII – Religious reformists after the Islamic Revolution


طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم