Social Sciences, Ideologies and the Problem of Development: The Case of Iran (1958-1978)

The article discusses the development of the social sciences in Iran during 1950's and 60's where, on the one hand, Iran had embarked on a rapid course of economic growth and, on the other, new schools of political and social thoughts regarding the problem of social and economic development were under intense scrutiny by Iranian intellectuals and opposition forces.

Following a discussion on the emergence of social issues in Iran, in the latter part of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth centuries, through publication and dissemination of books, treatises and periodicals both in Iran and abroad, the article reviews the development of social sciences and the establishment of social science research and teaching institutes and departments in Iranian university system in the post World War II period. In this section, the author discusses the nature of social science research in Iran with particular emphasis on various research methodologies and schools of thought prevalent among the teaching and research staffs in Iranian universities, as well as Iranian intellectuals at large.

In the second part of the article, the author discusses the nature and variety of political and ideological tendencies in Iranian society, including Marxism, Islamism and orientalism. Furthermore, he elaborates on a number of popular schools of thought regarding Iran's path toward social and economic progress relative to such topics as national identity and western cultural and economic domination. The interface between the government technocracy, essentially bent on rapid economic growth, and its intellectual critics who were more concerned with the cultural and political dimensions of development, is also discussed in some detail.

The author concludes by an analysis of the various approaches to the adaptation of western science, technology and value systems by non-western societies. He suggests that while no society can realistically hope to create and develop its own independent version of social sciences, the universally-accepted tools, methodology and theories of these sciences may be utilized in better understanding the ingrained cultural mores of each society.

Jamshid Behnam
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