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Iran and the Islamic Republic in Historical Context



History is directional though ironic and chaotic. The Constitutional Revolution of 1906 established a set of ideals, including individual freedom, gender parity, economic development, and political democracy, to which Iranians aspired, although, objectively, they did not possess the structural characteristics necessary for its materialization. Iranians then set out on an epic struggle to prepare themselves for those ideals. By the time of the Islamic Revolution, they had achieved significant progress in the economic, social, and cultural realms. They were ready for a genuine participatory political system based on the ideals of 1906. Instead, they ended up with the opposite--a political system based on a totalitarian view of "life," seeking to reeducate them to think and behave according to its version of Islam. Since then, the clash between the demands of the Islamic Republic's encompassing ideology and the objective diversity of the social base resulting from historical change has defined the framework of "macro-politics" in Iran, including the parameters of intra-system struggles. These clashes, historically mandated, will continue until the political system achieves the characteristics needed for an optimal operation of the society.

In the meantime, Iran's progress has been seriously hampered and its capabilities diminished in most fields identified as significant for global engagement and competitiveness at the threshold of the 21st century. To measure the extent of the damage dynamically, we need to look at reasonable scenarios of development projected from the existing trends before the revolution and the opportunity cost to the country of the domestic and foreign policies adopted and pursued by the Islamic Republic.

Author: 
Gholam Reza Afkhami
Volume: 
18
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