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Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
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"A clear and readable account of politics in the Islamic Republic."--The Washington Post
"A comprehensive overview of Iran's history on its way towards democracy...shed[s] new light on already well-known facts, recombining them into an unfamiliar but conclusive shape; and on top of that is an impressive read."--Iranian Studies
"Democracy in Iran unravels the jumble of paradoxes that have marked Iranian politics over the last century. The country has experienced considerable success in state-building and development but has periodically undermined both by failing to consolidate democracy. Presently, it has many of the elements of a lively democracy but, somehow, is not a democracy at all. Iranians have successfully challenged candidates supported by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic but have failed to weaken clerical control of the state. Vali Nasr and Ali Gheissari do an outstanding job of explaining how Iran keeps flirting with democratic governance, more than practically any other Islamic country in the Middle East, yet somehow always seems to fall short of sealing the marriage."--Joel Migdal, Professor of International Studies, University of Washington, and author of State in Society
"A comprehensive account of political developments in Iran in the last century, theoretically sophisticated and yet very accessible. Easily the best book in a decade on Iran's bumpy road to democracy through two revolutions and much anti-democratic state-building."--Said Amir Arjomand, author of The Turban for the Crown
"Democracy in Iran is a bold and sweeping survey of the past century of Iranian political history, an absorbing drama of contending ideologies, social classes, revolutionary movements, international pressures, political factions, and charismatic leaders. Nasr and Gheissari vividly expose Iran's ongoing struggle between democratic principles of freedom and accountability, the authoritarian-modernist quest for order and development, and revolutionary idealism, both secular and religious. In the process, they show once again the folly of all forms of utopianism and the necessity of constitutional and representative government. This is not just a book about Iran, but an insightful study of how regimes rise, evolve, stagnate, fragment, and fall." --Larry Diamond, author of Squandered Victory
"Iran is often portrayed in the West as 'despotic,' 'autocratic,' and 'totalitarian.' This lucid and succinct book is an excellent antidote to the conventional view. It narrates eloquently the history of modern Iran through the prism of democracy--its birth, growth, trials and tribulations, and, despite recent setbacks, its continued vibrancy and extensive social roots. Those interested in modern Iran would do well to read this highly informative book." --Ervand Abrahamian, author of Tortured Confessions
Top Customer Reviews
The authors demonstrate that Iran has had something to do with democracy at least as far back as 1906. Even if you are not interested in Iran you should read this book to more fully understand Western democracy . . . and to understand how global democracy is taking shape.
While Geissari and Nasr make a very good case for the potential strength of democractic practice in Iran and opportunities for conversion to real democracy, they don't discuss a real danger of this situation. Authoritarian regimes under domestic challenge from strong domestic democratic pressures have a tendency to resort to reckless foreign policies to distract domestic attention and to build domestic legitimacy.
Iran's weakness as a state became apparent even before the 20th century, when Britain and Russia overwhelmed her frail military forces and carved out considerable occupation zones. This weak state was a result of the arbitrary power granted to the shah ("king"), who readily gave foreigners concessions in return for payments. The tobacco boycott of the 1890s had been the result of a concession of the exclusive right to sell tobacco. Iranians reacted by refusing to smoke. The shah got the concession cancelled after paying a huge indemnity. Here we see popular disaffection with the shah, who was granted too much power by tradition. The Constitutional Revolution of 1906, gave Iran its first constitution and a national assembly (majles). The middle-class merchants and ulama (clergy), seeing the problem as an excessively powerful shah, set conditions on monarchical absolutism. The authors comments; "... the term constitutionalism was translated as 'mashroutiyat' (setting conditions) which implied placing conditions on monarchical absolutism." (p. 27) Here we see democratization. But Russia was a powerful force for the old order.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Democracy in Iran provides a good base to dive deeper into understanding the political history of Iran. Read morePublished on September 3, 2011 by Stephen List
My impression is that the author wants democracy to develop (further) in Iran, but may be too optimistic about its prospects -- at least in the short term, without clear plans on... Read morePublished on November 30, 2010 by D. Harris
An excellent history of modern Iran and the Islamic Republic, as well as the struggle for democracy, all the way up until Ahmadinejad and the elections he stole and the democracy... Read morePublished on January 23, 2010 by John Roemer
In this book, Gheissari and Nasr propose to use Iran as a way to study the relationship between democracy and the state. Read morePublished on April 24, 2009 by Arnold