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Imagining Iran

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022487/00001

Material Information

Title: Imagining Iran Contending Discourses in Modern Iran
Physical Description: 1 online resource (304 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Sharifi, Majid
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: building, development, discourse, interpretation, iran, islam, law, modernity, nationalism, pahlavi, politics, state
Political Science -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Political Science thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Since the 1906 Constitutional Revolution that established the first representative government in the Middle East, all Iranian regimes have aimed to build a modern nation-state. But the main body of the literature depicts the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which resulted in the establishment of the Islamic Republic, as a failure of Iran's struggle to modernize. This dissertation moves away from the false dichotomy of modernism versus traditionalism and instead conducts an in-depth survey of Iranian political discourses dating back to the 19th century when Iran first encountered the West. Tracing competing interpretation of Iran?s political development describes and analyzes how the Iranian state elites have had competing ideas of Iran as a nation-state. Inspired upon post-structuralist and post-colonialist literature written by Charles Taylor, Michel Foucault, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, and Edward Said, the research examines the social content of competing political discourses in Iran. A comparative analysis of pre-modern and modern texts illustrates that six signifiers show up in the representation practices and policies of all political discourses since the late 1800s. These basic signifiers are security, development, law, democracy, class equality, and Islam. By showing how these basic signifiers coalesce to form a particular official state discourse, my dissertation examines how contending discourses shaped the basis of Iran's state building, nationalism, and foreign policies since the early 1900s.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Majid Sharifi.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Brown, M. Leann.
Local: Co-adviser: Oren, Ido.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022487:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022487/00001

Material Information

Title: Imagining Iran Contending Discourses in Modern Iran
Physical Description: 1 online resource (304 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Sharifi, Majid
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: building, development, discourse, interpretation, iran, islam, law, modernity, nationalism, pahlavi, politics, state
Political Science -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Political Science thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Since the 1906 Constitutional Revolution that established the first representative government in the Middle East, all Iranian regimes have aimed to build a modern nation-state. But the main body of the literature depicts the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which resulted in the establishment of the Islamic Republic, as a failure of Iran's struggle to modernize. This dissertation moves away from the false dichotomy of modernism versus traditionalism and instead conducts an in-depth survey of Iranian political discourses dating back to the 19th century when Iran first encountered the West. Tracing competing interpretation of Iran?s political development describes and analyzes how the Iranian state elites have had competing ideas of Iran as a nation-state. Inspired upon post-structuralist and post-colonialist literature written by Charles Taylor, Michel Foucault, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, and Edward Said, the research examines the social content of competing political discourses in Iran. A comparative analysis of pre-modern and modern texts illustrates that six signifiers show up in the representation practices and policies of all political discourses since the late 1800s. These basic signifiers are security, development, law, democracy, class equality, and Islam. By showing how these basic signifiers coalesce to form a particular official state discourse, my dissertation examines how contending discourses shaped the basis of Iran's state building, nationalism, and foreign policies since the early 1900s.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Majid Sharifi.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Brown, M. Leann.
Local: Co-adviser: Oren, Ido.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022487:00001


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3ee0f5543a98c588e2e0199785f522fcf48dc44e







IMAGINING IRAN: CONTENDING POLITICAL DISCOURSES IN MODERN IRAN


By

MAJID SHARIFI



















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2008


































Majid Sharifi

































"To Sheki, Annahitta, and Ava with Love"









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am very grateful and deeply indebted to many people whose assistance made this project

possible. First and foremost, I thank my wife, Sheki, whose patience and support were

indispensable. I also thank my two daughters, Annahitta and Ava, for the sacrifices each made on

my behalf.

Two years of research have gone into this dissertation, which would not have been possible

without the indispensable influence, guidance, direction, and inspiration of the people in the

Department of Political Science at the University of Florida. I must thank Professor Goran

Hyden, who influenced my decision in starting the Ph.D. program in 2003. Without Professor

Hyden, I probably would have stayed in Miami.

I am most indebted to Professor Ido Oren, who stimulated my initial interest in the politics

of identity, interpretative epistemology, and the significance of history. During the past two

years, Dr. Oren has spent numerous hours listening, reading, and constructively criticizing my

work. Without Professor Oren, my approach would have been less bold and more conventional.

Professor Oren taught me innovative ways of looking at history, politics, and identities.

Most significantly, I am grateful to Professor Leann Brown who has been the guidepost for

directing this research. Whenever I was in need of guidance or inspiration, her office was my

first and only destination. Professor Brown has a keen way of explaining the most complex

issues in the shortest and fastest way imaginable. Without her help and suggestions, I could not

have finished this work.

I also thank Professor Badredine Arfi, who opened up a new window of understanding into

a world that would not have otherwise existed. He introduced me to a body of literature that

changed the direction of my research in fundamental ways.









Finally, since I entered the Ph.D. program in 2003, Suzanne Lawless-Yanchisin has helped

me ways that are too numerous to mention. I must simply say thank you.









TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page

A CK N O W LED G M EN T S ................................................................. ........... ............. .....

ABSTRAC T .......................................................................... 9

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION ............... ............................ ......................... ..... 11

L iteratu re ................. ........... ................................................................................................... 15
Interpretative A pproach............................................................................. 24
Challenges and Issues ......................................................... ........... ............... 39
The Plan of the Dissertation and Preview of My Findings................. ............................47

2 THE EMERGENCE OF THE IRANIAN NATION-STATE .........................................57

In tro d u ctio n ....................................................................................................................... 5 7
The Political Discourse of Monarchic Absolutism (Saltanat-e-Motlaq-eh) .................58
The Tobacco U uprising .............. ... ............ .................... .......... ...... .. .............. 64
Collapse of the Discourse of Monarchic Absolutism.....................................................68
The Shifts in the D iscourse of Shi'ism ................................................................ 72
The 1906 C constitutional M ovem ent.................................................................... ...... 74
C o n clu sio n ................... ...................8...................0..........

3 THE DISCOURSE OF MODERN ABSOLUTISM (1922-1941) .............. ...................81

Introdu action ....................................................................................................................... 8 1
Establishm ent of a M odern Absolutist State ........................................ ....... ............... 83
Militarizing and Bureaucratizing the State .......................................... ...............85
D om inating the P olity ........... ............................................................................ .. ..... .. 89
C om m ending the E conom y ..................................................................... ..................90
D evelopm ent and M odern Absolutism ......................................................... ............... 91
Understanding Econom ic D evelopm ent.................................. .................................... 92
U understanding Political D evelopm ent....................................... .......................... 95
U understanding Social D evelopm ent ..................................................... .................. 97
Im agining the N action .............. ......................................... ............ ............ 102
R om anticizing H history ........... ............................................ .............. ........ ............. 103
Official Language ................ ................ ........................................... 104
An Official N national Race ............................... ................ ...... ............... 110
Relations with Other States: Identities, Alliances, and Enemies.....................................112
Relations with Germany: Acquiescent Alliance ................................................113
Relations with Britain: Preservative Alliance .......... ........................................115
Relations with the Soviet Union: Defensive Confrontation.....................................120
Relations with the United States: Acquiescent Alliance ............................................121
C o n clu sio n .................1.................4..........................



6









4 THE FALL OF REZA SHAH AND THE SHARING OF THE STATE (1941-1951)........126

In tro du ctio n ................... ...................1.............................6
Events (1941-1951) ..........................................................126
The Fall of Reza Shah and the Sharing of the State.................... .................. ................126
The Building of a N ew State ........................................................................... 129
Econom ic D evelopm ent ............................................................. .............. 129
Political Development .................. ......................... .. ...... .................134
Im agination of the N ation ........................................................ ............. 138
F o re ig n R e latio n s ............................................................................................................ 14 4
The Foreign in Foreign Policy............................................... ............. ............... 144
F oreig n P policy ...............................................................14 7
C o n clu sio n ................... ...................1...................5.........2

5 DEMOCRATIC NATIONALISM (1951-53) ............ .............. ................................ 155

Introduction ............ ......... .................. ..................... ................... 155
E v e n ts ........................................ .... .. .....................................................1 5 5
Political Identity of Democratic Nationalism (1951-1953)............................. ............. 161
Im agining the N action .............. ................ .......... .. .. .......163
M otivating, Unifying, and M obilizing the People.................................... ............... 163
Imagining People as the Source of Law................................................166
D iscourse of D developing the State .............................................. ............................. 168
F freedom Independence........................................................................ ...................168
Political D evelopm ent ........... ...... ....... ........................................ 168
E conom ic D evelopm ent ....................................................................... ...................17 1
F foreign R relations ......... ....... .............................. ............................174
C o n clu sio n ......... .... ................................................. ...........................18 0

6 THE CONSTRUCTION AND COLLAPSE OF MODERN MONARCHISM (1953-
1 9 7 9 ) ............. ..... ............ .......................................... ................................ . ........... 1 8 2

Introduction ......... ................................ .. ................182
Part I: Restoration of the Discourse of Modern Monarchism (1953-1979)........................186
Building and Securitizing the State ...................................... ............... 186
Im agining the N action ............... ...................... ................................ ........... .... .... 189
The Shah as the Embodiment of the Nation-state................................189
The People: The Official Representation of Civil Society................ ........... 191
Security as a Disciplinary Practice: The Language of Repression.........................198
E conom ic D ev elopm ent............................................................................... ...................20 1
Representation of N ationalization ..................................... .......................... .......... 203
Official Representation of Economic "Liberalism" ........... .......................................205
Representing Shah-centered Development....................... ........................ 209
M easuring Econom ic D evelopm ent ........................................ ......................... 212
F o reig n R elatio n s ............................................................................................................ 2 16
Part II: Crisis and Reform (1960-1964) ............... .................................. ...............220
Representing Economic Underdevelopment as Security ...........................................220


7









Representing a Shah-centered Reform and Revolution.....................................227
Consequences of the W hite Revolution .................................. ............ .................. 234
C lassify in g th e O th er ............................ ........................ ................ .................... 2 3 7
The Discourse of Modem Islam: Political Islam and Return to Self.................................240
Mehdi Bazargan.............. ........ .................. ......... 242
Jalal A l-e A hm ad ................................................... ............ ......... 250
R return to Self ...................................................................................... .. ................ 252
A y atollah K h om eini ............................ .. ........................ .. ... ......... ......................2 56
Part III: Consolidation of Power (1964-1978)........................................................ ........ 260
S e c u rity .................................................................................................................... 2 6 0
D evelopm ent......................... ...............................................................260
Part IV: The Collapse of the State and the Rise of Modern Islam ............ .... ..............272
C o n clu sio n ................... ...................2...................8.........0

7 CONCLUSION................ ..... .. .......... ........... ............... .. 283

L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ..................................................................................... ..................293

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ............................................................................. ....................304


































8









Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science

IMAGINING IRAN: CONTENDING POLITICAL DISCOURSES IN MODERN IRAN

By

Majid Sharifi

August 2008

Chair: Leann Brown
Cochair: Ido Oren
Major: Political Science

Since the 1906 Constitutional Revolution that established the first representative

government in the Middle East, all Iranian regimes have aimed to build a modem nation-state.

But the main body of the literature depicts the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which resulted in the

establishment of the Islamic Republic, as a failure of Iran's struggle to modernize. This

dissertation moves away from the false dichotomy of modernism versus traditionalism and

instead conducts an in-depth survey of Iranian political discourses dating back to the 19th century

when Iran first encountered the West. Tracing competing interpretation of Iran's political

development describes and analyzes how the Iranian state elites have had competing ideas of

Iran as a nation-state.

Inspired upon post-structuralist and post-colonialist literature written by Charles Taylor,

Michel Foucault, Emesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, and Edward Said, the research examines the

social content of competing political discourses in Iran. A comparative analysis of pre-modern

and modem texts illustrates that six signifiers show up in the representation practices and

policies of all political discourses since the late 1800s. These basic signifiers are security,

development, law, democracy, class equality, and Islam. By showing how these basic signifiers









coalesce to form a particular official state discourse, my dissertation examines how contending

discourses shaped the basis of Iran's state building, nationalism, and foreign policies since the

early 1900s.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

How did the Iranian state elites imagine, interpret, and practice the politics of nation-state

building in modern Iran? In the 1800s, the state elites imagined the West as an ideal model for

building a secured, developed, lawful, democratic, just, and moral state. By the late 1970s, a

majority of the people interpreted the West as the source of Iran's insecurity, underdevelopment,

illegal, undemocratic, unjust, and immoral state. This interruption in the meaning of what was

considered "Western" or "Iranian" had occurred several times since Iran's first encountered the

West, and each new interruption in the meaning of the West or Iran was a particular

interpretation of competing extant social reality.

From 1978 to 1979, united in body and spirit, the voices of several million urban Iranians

turned into a unified call demanding "death to the shah and death to America." Constitutive of

the metaphorical demand for the "death" of the regime of the shah was the birth of a new

imagining of Iran that had not previously been imaginable for many in the West and some in

Iran.1 In the course of a few months, the regime of Mohamad Reza Shah Pahlavi (who reigned

1941 to 1979) collapsed like a house of cards, and the shah's "Great Civilization" lay in ruins.2

The undisputable leader of this massive revolt was Ayatollah Khomeini, a religious leader who

called for the establishment of an Islamic state.

By 1978, the possibility of establishing an Islamic state, whose ideals had been put forth

quite clearly for at least two decades, was self-evident to millions of Iranians. But for most in the

West and some in Iran, those ideals were merely emotional, irrational, and fanatical calls for a


1 In Farsi, the word "shah" is used as a common noun, which simply means "king," but it is also used as a compound
proper noun, for example, Reza Shah, Mohamad Reza Shah. From this point, as a proper noun, I capitalize the word
"Shah," but as a common noun, I will not capitalize it.
2 In 1971, Mohamad Reza Shah claimed that Iran had reached the gate of a "Great Civilization."









return to an Islamic past. For political participants, as well as leaders of the Islamic Revolution,

the ideals of an Islamic state were not a return to any recent past. The ideals centered on

establishing an Islamic state based on modern concepts-providing security, development, law,

democracy, equality, and social morality for an Iranian-Islamic nation. These concepts, which

were previously incorporated into the discourses associated with Western modernity, were

articulated in terms of the Second Islamic Republic, the first republic being the 13-year reign of

the Prophet Mohamad in Medina. Thus, at least for Islamists, this revolution was not a call for

establishing an Islamic caliphate so much as for establishing an indigenous-Islamic Republic,

which was represented in opposition to Western modernity. For most Iranians in 1979, Western

modernity had become associated with domination, colonialism, imperialism, corruptive

capitalism, immoral communism, and wicked liberal individualism.3 Indeed, the basic tenets of

the Islamic Republic of Iran were modern concepts rather than being particularly Islamic, as

Islam had been previously interpreted. It was neither a republic as republicanism had been

formerly understood, nor was it Iranian as Iranian-ness had been imagined in the past. This new

imagining of Iran was both modern and traditional, and this model of modernity was not yet

familiar and imaginable for most in the West and some in Iran.

Many in the West, including the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had not entertained

the possibility of an Islamic revolution in Iran. It was not imaginable, conceivable, or predictable

to have a revolution with the black flag of Islam instead of the red flag of communism. All the

precautionary policies and practices, therefore, had been designed to primarily confront the threat

of communism. At the time, Islam-Shi 'ism, Wahabism, or Sunnism-was deemed preferable to

the evilness of communism.


3 See Chapter 6, Return to Self.









The collapse of the Pahlavi dynasty was all the more shocking because at the time Iran had

one of the fastest growing economies in the world. In 1976, Jahangir Amouzegar, Iran's Finance

Minister, boasted, "Between 1963 and 1976, the average annual industrial growth exceeded 20

per cent, while the number of industrial plants, and the size of the industrial work force nearly

doubled."4 Additionally, the shah had the loyal backing of one of the strongest military, police,

and secret services in the world. Moreover, Iran had the full backing of the United States. In

1977, just a year before the massive intermittent protests began, President Jimmy Carter had

confidently characterized Iran as "an island of stability" in a troubled region." The "stability" that

Carter referred to was, of course, the stability from the threat of communism-not an Islamic

threat.5 In 1978, as the regime of Mohamad Reza Shah was collapsing, President Carter "took

time off from historic Camp David meetings to telephone his support to the embattled Shah."6 In

other words, neither the US officials nor Iran's state-elites expected, imagined, or predicted an

Islamic revolution to replace the modem and modernizing regime of the shah of Iran.

Secular intellectuals and political activists did not expect or predict an Islamic revolution

in Iran. For the so-called progressive leftist intellectuals around the world, as well as socialists

and the secular nationalists in Iran, imagining an Islamic state was not possible either. While

they enthusiastically supported the overthrowing of the regime, they dismissed the possibility of

an Islamic state. When the Islamic Republic was in fact established, they confidently expected

that history would self-correct its own irrationality and the newly Islamic state would be sent

back to the dustbin of history. Michel Foucault, who was familiar with Iranian politics of the late

1970s, wrote that "Many here [in the West] and some in Iran are waiting for and hoping for the

4 Jahangir Amuzegar, Iran: An Economic Profile (Washington: Middle East Institute, 1977), p. x.
5 James Bill, "Iran and the Crisis of 78," Foreign Affairs 57, no. 2 (1978/79).
6 Ibid.: p. 334.









moment when secularization will at last come back to the fore and reveal the good, old type of

revolution we have always known."7

The question then arises, why did so many people-within and outside of Iran, in and out

of government-dismiss the possibility of an Islamic revolution or the establishment of an

Islamic state? Could it be that competing ways of imagining Iran had produced competing social

realities with different sets of presuppositions, preferences, interests, and mode of rationalities?

If so, what was the social content of these competing realities? Most significantly, if competing

ways of imagining Self produce competing social realities, how do they shape politics?8

These questions are at the heart of my dissertation, and answering them requires a serious

surveying of the idea of constructing Iran as a modern nation-state. In this spirit, my dissertation

reaches back to texts written in the 19th century, when concepts-development, law, democracy,

and equality-then non-existent in the Iranian context began to permeate the language of state-

elites and then pervaded the language of the people. I will call these four key political concepts,

as well as two existing concepts-security and Islam-the six basic signifiers of modern Iranian

political discourses. Consequently, these signifiers, more or less combined, undermined the

cohesive imagining of Self; thereby, leading to the emergence of competing "imagined

communities."9 Each of these imagined communities formed a narrative of Iraninan nationalism

by incorporating a particular interpretation of the Iranian basic signifiers. I will call these

competing narratives "contending political discourses," and when one is adopted by the state, I

SLawrence D. Kritzman, ed., Michel Foucault: Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other ;';, ,,i''. 1977-
1984 (New York: Routledge, 1988), p. 224. Foucault was very familiar with the nuances of Iranian politics. He
travelled to Iran in 1978 and 1979.

8 I define "Self' and "Other" as generic collective identities counterpoised to one each other.

9 For the concept of imagined community, see Benedict R. Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the
Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983). See Janet Afary, Kevin Anderson, and Michel Foucault,
Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions oflslamism (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2005).









will call that particular discourse the "official state discourse" or "state discourse" for short. My

research traces the historical narrative of how competing official state discourses emerged in

modern Iran. Second, by conducting some textual analysis mixed with historical narrative of

political development, the dissertation describes how contending political discourses shaped the

idea of building a modem state, the imagination of Iranian nationalism, and the conducting of

policies that demarcated the Iranians from "foreigners," although the meaning of who constituted

"Iranians" or "foreigner" changed in time. 10

Literature

In general, political scientists, sociologists, political economists, and historians, who have

studied modern Iran, agree that as a result of Iran's encounter with the West, fundamental

changes occurred in the 19th century: the centuries-old mode of governance collapsed and a

struggle between modernity and tradition began. Generally, the literature assumes that political

development and modernization in Iran have failed. Thematically, the main body of the literature

treats modernity a Western ideal-typical model whose characteristics should be the political

metrics by which the successes or failures of modernity in a non-Western context are measured.

In other words, two constant themes pervade the literature. One theme describes Iran's failure by

pointing out its differences with European successes. The other theme attempts to demonstrate

the causes of Iran's failure, and the causes of its failure are always its differences with the West.

Therefore, the very act of describing modernity in terms of its differences with Western

modernity pre-determines its failure in Iran. In the following section, I will attempt to show how

the main body of the literature on political development in Iran describes and causally explains





10 Because there were competing ideas as what constituted an "Iranian" or "foreigners," I put them in quotations.









the failure of modernity and its related concepts from the state, society, and institutional

perspectives.

From a state-centric point of view, for example, Nikki Keddie, professor of history at

UCLA and an authority on Iranian history, blamed the state for Iran's failure to become modern,

democratic, and liberal. She described two contrasting images of Iran: One is "Usually prefaced

by the adjective Persian. [and is] culturally positive [the other is] politically negative.""

She argued that these contrasting images "however simplified, in some ways reflect real features

of Iran's history." She contended that throughout Iran's tumultuous history, Iran displayed two

constant characteristics: "the phenomenon of cultural strength combined with problematic

politics, particularly on the part of ruling groups."12 Keddie's reference to the "problematic

politics of ruling groups" in Iran would not have been possible had it not been for her ideal

typical model of the opposite-the unproblematic politics of Western states. In other words,

Keddie stated that despite Iran's cultural heritage and strength, the state has failed to become

modern and politically positive as Western states are politically positive. Notwithstanding the

problems of assuming a state disembedded from its society and culture, Keddie's reference point

for comparing Iran is the West, not the West as a geographical place universally understood, but

the West as a fixed, ahistorical, and conceptual ideal that Keddie simply assumes without

describing it. In other words, Keddie's reference point for the state failure is a comparative

analysis between her fine descriptions of Iran as a failed case of becoming a modern, democratic,

and liberal state to a Western ideal type. Keddie was not, however, the only one who compares

Iran's failure to modernity with an ideal typical non-existent model for modernity.


" Nikki R. Keddie and Rudolph P. Matthee, Iran and the Surrounding World: Interactions in Culture and Cultural
Politics (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002), p. 3.
12 Ibid., p. 4.









Richard Cottam surveyed Iranian nationalism from a sociological perspective in the early

1960s. He examined tribes, peasants, minorities, aristocratic elites, and intellectuals as

sociological elements of Iranian modern nationalism. Influenced by his Iranian sources and the

societal sentiment of the time, he contended that Iranian modern nationalism was deeply scarred

by Iran's encounter with Western interventionist, colonialist, and imperialist policies. Then he

suggested that the next wave of Iranian nationalism will be more Iranian and less Western. 13 In

the same vein, Joseph Upton, who intermittently resided in Iran for 14 years during the late

1940s and 1950s, explained the adverse effects of foreign intervention on the formation of the

"Iranian national character," as well as "individual characters."14 Both Cottam and Upton

described Iranian nationalism much in the same way as Kenneth Pollack would describe it some

40 years later. In his 2004 book, The Persian Puzzle, Pollack attempted to reveal the complexity

of U.S.-Iran relations by examining the historical circumstances that have helped construct what

he labeled an Iranian "pathological nationalism." Then he argued that since Iranians have already

"mis-learned" their history, it is highly unlikely that the "truth" of history would be revealed to

them.15

In the literature, Iranian nationalism is characterized as "pathological," "xenophobic,"

"hyper," and the characterization renders its failure inevitable compared to an ideal typical

"healthy" nationalism in Europe. Similarly, James Bill's 1972 book, The Politics oflran:





13 Martha L. Cottam and Richard W. Cottam, Nationalism & Politics: The Political Behavior of Nation States
(Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1964).
14 Joseph M. Upton, The History of Modern Iran; an Interpretation (Cambridge: Distributed for the Center for
Middle Eastern Studies of Harvard University by Harvard University Press, 1960).
15 Kenneth M. Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran andAmerica, 1st ed. (New York: Random
House, 2004), p. 424.









Groups, Classes, and Modernism, pointed out the systematic failing of modernity in Iran.16

Unquestionably, an authority on the politics of Iran, Bill focused on the balanced tension and

rivalry among the elites as they struggle to maintain the stability of the traditional political

system by easing it into a modern system. As in Marvin Zonis's 1971 book, The Political Elite of

Iran, a large part of Bill's book articulated the pervasive insecurity of the state-elites in all levels

of government.17 Bill and Zonis argued that insecurity is a fixed feature of the Iranian politics.

Although ministers were no longer killed as they were during Reza Shah's rule and during the

Qajar dynasty, depending on Mohamad Reza Shah's mood of the day, they were dismissed,

exiled, demoted, and disgraced.18 In Bill's estimate, the most serious challenge to the system was

what he called "the Uprooters," who consisted mainly of university students, teachers, and

professors with leftist and nationalist tendencies.

Meanwhile, the shared theme in Cottam, Zonis, and Bill described the anomalies in the

peculiarities of Iranians nationalism, pervasive insecurities among state elites, bureaucratic

nepotism, and underdevelopment. As each author described the differences between Iran and the

West, the logic of Iran's failure in modernity became self-evident-Iranians looked, acted, and

rationalized differently than their Western counterparts, and thus they were not yet modern as the

West. Comparing Iran with an ideal typical model of Western modernity, Bill, Zonis, and Cottam

failed to understand Iranians in the context of contending discourses in Iran. While they all

strongly emphasized Iran's failure in modernity, none noted the increasing power of Islamists or

the gap between two social realities-the state and the society.

16 James Bill, The Politics ofIran: Groups, Classes andModernization, Merrill Political Science Series (Columbus,
Ohio,: Merrill, 1972).
17 Marvin Zonis, The Political Elite of ran, Princeton Studies on the near East (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1971), pp. 233-341.

18 Bill, The Politics of Iran: Groups, Classes andModernization, p. 44.









While some have analyzed Iran's failure in modernity by focusing on the state or society,

others have examined this presumptive failure by focusing on the various dimensions of

characteristics of Iran. Through the prism of formal and informal institutions, the literature

examines various aspects of the interdependency between the state and society.19 One of the

most notable scholars in this school, Homa Katouzian, was keenly aware of the Euro-centric

perspective of the main body of the literature on Iran. He complained that theories of state and

society, produced in the context of the historical experience of European development, were

usually applied to "non-European societies" such as Iran:

European analysts took the facts as corresponding to seemingly similar facts from
European history; Iranian analysts did not have theories of their own, and what they
understood from European theories they applied-more or less uncritically. They saw
Iranian land assignees, tribal chieftains and state officials as an aristocracy, merchants as
bourgeois, peasants as serfs, and so on. It follows that they also saw the state as the
representative of the ruling classes.20

To set the Euro-centric view of the Iranian scholarship straight, Katouzian made four

points, which are relevant to my argument. First, Katouzian argued that theories must be

pertinent and specific to "spatial and temporal varieties."21 Insisting on contextual instead of

universal theories, he proposed the theory of "arbitrary rule," which states that because of the

fundamental differences in the interactive relations among the propertied class, the state, and

law-the course of political development in Iran has been based on "arbitrary rule" imposed by

rulers at state, local, and tribal levels. Katouzian, however, neglected to acknowledge that the


19 For a comprehensive literature review of the relationship between state, society, and institutions, see John M.
Hobson, The State andInternational Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). Also, see Michael
Mann, The Sources of Social Power, vol. 2 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993).
20 Homa Katouzian, State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis, Library
of Modem Middle East Studies 28 (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2000), p. xii.
21 In many ways, Katouzian's mythological approach is similar to the argument of Charles Tilly's notion of reading
history in its own contextuality. See Charles Tilly, As Sociology Meets History, Studies in Social Discontinuity
(New York: Academic Press, 1981).









concepts of propertied classes, social bases of state power, and law-based government were

deeply embedded in European discourses of modernity.

Moreover, the term, "arbitrary rule" is itself a Euro-centric representation explicitly

articulated in Chalres de Secondat Montesquieu's The Persian Letters, Hegel's Philosophy of

History, Karl Marx's writing on India, and Bernard Lewis's, The Root of Muslim Rage. To use a

term, such as "arbitrary rule," which is imbued with the explicit gaze of Orientalists over the

Orientals, is incompatible with an Iranian-centered theory.22 Even as Katouzian wanted to move

away from Euro-centric theories, he remained embedded in them ontologically.

Second, Katouzian stated, "Unlike Europe, the state legitimacy was not founded in law

and the consent of influential social classes, the mere success of a rebellion was sufficient for its

legitimacy."23 In other words, his contention is that the legitimacy of rule centered on rulers

rather than the rule itself. Then he claimed that the 1906 and 1979 revolutions were departures

from the past. The people revolted to change the rule of law. I concur with Katouzian that the

1906 and 1979 revolutions were fundamentally different from all the other historical Iranian

rebellions. I also add that for centuries there were no revolutions to change the system of

governance. The question then arises, could it be that the reason why rules-arbitrary or not-

were not challenged for centuries was that the people indeed understood rules of governance as

legitimate? In fact, in most cases, they understood them as divine. Could it be that the reason the

so-called arbitrary rule was challenged after Iran's encounter with the West because the narrative

associated with personal rule changed from good to evil? For example, what was previously

valued as the "divine rule of the shah of Iran" became associated with previously non-existent

22 For a comprehensive review of this claim, see Ali Mirsepassi, Intellectual Discourse and the Politics of
Modernization: .. rii,,lr,,,a Modernity in Iran, Cambridge Cultural Social Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2000), pp. 15-53.
23 Katouzian, State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis, p. 1.









terms such as "despotic orientalism," "arbitrary rule," "illegitimate rule," and "unrepresentative

rule." These are categorical identifications explicitly constructed in reference to an ideal typical

Western model. These categories are descriptive representations of the East. Is legitimacy only

"founded in law and the consent of influential social classes," as it had been in Europe?

Third, Katouzian described the modern and pre-modem history of Iran in terms of the

theory of "arbitrary rule." The theory has a cyclical trajectory, which is very deterministic. He

explained each cycle in four terms: (a) the implosion of the system because of arbitrary rule; (b)

the establishment of relative freedom; (c) freedom leading to social chaos and physical

insecurity; and (d) a strongman coming to power to provide security and peace. This cyclical

theory, he argued, leads to the reestablishment of another round of arbitrary rule. Referring to the

establishment of Reza Shah and the Islamic Republic, he stated that "after some temporary

successes [for having freedom and law] ... the Iranian society proved to be more powerful than

newly acquired political ideas."24 In other words, for Katouzian, not only is modernity a fixed

ideal typical concept, but tradition is also a fixed and deterministic concept. Moreover, both the

state and the society deterministically provide the condition for justification of a cyclical theory

of the "arbitrary rule."

Finally, Katouzian presented his methodological approach by declaring:

[T]his research [is] ... a comparative theory of Iranian state, society and politics
developed by applying social science models and techniques to Iranian society. It
compares and contrasts the Iranian experience with that of Europe, laying bare the
important-but often concealed differences between them.25

In other words, he explicitly accepted Europe as an ideal typical model of modernity. That

is why he described Reza Shah's attempt to modernize as "pseudo modernism." Presumably,


24 Ibid.
25 Ibid.









"pseudo modernism" is counterposed to "real modernism," which is assumed to be a universal

model that has never existed except in the interpretation of philosophers in the past, and now in

the understanding of political scientists.26 The central problem with the main body of the

literature on Iran is not, therefore, the misapplication of Euro-centric theories, but rather the

ontological assumption that modernity has to mimic an ideal typical Western model to be "real."

Essentially, Katouzian's description of Iran is a self-fulfilling failure so far as Iran is compared

with a Western ideal typical model.

Other contemporary scholars of Iranian political development share Katouzian's

ontological assumptions. The titles of widely published books, whose authors are greatly

respected in Iranian academia, reveal the prevailing ontological assumption that views Iran as a

case of failed modernity. For example, Hussein Bashiriyeh's book, Obstacles to Political

Development in Iran (Mavanea Tosa'yea Syasi dar Iran) is a survey of the causes of Iran's

underdevelopment. Again, an ideal typical model of the present serves to measure the failure of

modernity in Iran, which is presumably caused by its historical conditions.

Another eminent Iranian scholar is Kazem Alamdari, whose book Why Iran Lig'ged

Behind and the West Moved Forward has been republished at least 10 times since 2000.27

Alamdari contended that the causes for Iran's lagging behind the West were the absence of

capitalism and secularism. He stated that development in Western countries was caused by

"capitalism and secularism, neither one of which exists in today's Iran."28 Similarly, Ahmad



26 For example, see Barrington Moore, Social Origins ofDictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the
Making of the Modern World (London,: Penguin, 1967).
27 The 10h edition of this was reprinted in 2004. In Iran, academic books are normally printed only in batches of
3,000, and it is unusual for a book to be reprinted that many times. See Kazam Alamdari, Why Iran Lagged Behind
and the West Moved Forward 10th ed., vol. 1 (Tejram: Shabak, 1990).
28 Ibid., p. 53.









Movassaghi, who currently teaches in the Department of Law and Political Science at the

University of Tehran, published Modernization and Reform in Iran: From Theory and

Practice.9 Movassaghi continued the theme of the main body of literature. In his description of

the West, Western modernity is a measuring rod for comparing Iran's development. The

questions for his research include:

What are the theories, rules, and anomalies of Western modernity with all of its associative
social concepts, which have all originated in the West based on Western historical
experiences? How were they introduced to the Third World? The hypothetical answer to
these questions rests on the fact that modernism and reform in the West developed within
the framework of modernity, which included gradual cultural, social, economic, and
political transformation. But in the Third World and Iran, these transformations have been
ideological, superficial, incomplete, in name, and unrealistic .... We will attempt to
distinguish the differences between real modernism and the pseudo modernism that have
been introduced and enforced in Iran.30

Notwithstanding the differences in the perspectives of the contributors to this body of literature,

it appears as if the 1960s to 1970s generation, as well as the 1990s to 2000 generation of

scholars-whether writing in or outside of Iran-have all been trained in the same political

science department.

In sum, the main body of the literature on Iran produced by the previous and current

generation of scholars of Iran treats both modernity and tradition as fixed ideal types placed on a

linear continuum. On this continuum, modernity is either valued as an inevitable evolutionary

historical path led by the West or is devalued as a revolutionary historical course imposed by the

West. In either case, history is treated as a determining institution that produces its own

deterministic concepts and questions. However, the quesiton of how individuals come to define,


29 Ahmad Movassaghi, Modernization and Reform in Iran: From Theory to Practice (Tehran: Ghoomes Publishing
Company 1385/1996). In Western-based texts, a clear distinction exists between modernization and modernity. In
Iranian texts, this distinction is sometimes blurred. Movassaghi's book title is an example. By modernization, he
means modernity (nu sazi).

30 Ibid., p. 4.









describe, and interpret concepts is not asked. The main body of the literature on Iran, therefore,

remains silent as to changes and transformations that have occurred in meanings of concepts

associated with modernity and traditional. The dissertation refrains from categorizing political

development into modernity and tradition. It attempts to describe the emergence, as well as the

changes and transformation in the meaning of how the state elites interpreted concepts, themes,

practices, rationalities associated with political development in Iran's modem history. The

dissertation adheres to an interpretative approach that takes changes and transformations in the

meanings of concepts, themes, and rationalities seriously.

Interpretative Approach

In contrast to the extant literature, this dissertation is inspired by the "reflexive" or

"interpretative" approach, which takes intersubjective meanings seriously. According to Ido

Oren, "The term 'reflexivity' derives from the Latin word reflexus- 'bent backward'-and in

social theory it generally refers to the turning of science back upon itself."31 Similarly, Charles

Taylor argues that the study of man is essentially the science of interpretation. He asks, "Is there

a sense in which interpretation is essential to explanation in the sciences of man? The view that it

is, that there is an unavoidably 'hermeneutical' component in the sciences of man, goes back to

Dilthy."32 Taylor contends:

Interpretation, in the sense relevant to hermeneutics, is an attempt to make clear, to make
sense of an object of study. This object must, therefore, be a text, or text-analogue, which
in some way is confused, incomplete, cloudy, seemingly contradictory-in one way or





31 Ido Oren, "Political Science as History: A Reflexive Approach," in Interpretation and Method: Empirical
Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn ed. Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea (Armonk, New York
ME Sharpe 2006), p. 221.
32 Charles Taylor, "Neutrality in Political Science," in Philosophy and Social Science (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1985), p. 25.










another, unclear. The interpretation aims to bring to light an underlying coherence or
33
sense.

To clarify what is otherwise unclear, Taylor points out to the centrality of meanings in the

interpretation of Self, things, and Others. He states:

(1) Meaning is for a subject. a specific subject. a group of subjects ... (2) Meaning is of
something: that is. We can distinguish between a given element-situation. action. Or
whatever-and its meaning. And (3) things only have meaning in a field, that is, in
relation to the meanings of other things. This means that there is no such thing as a single,
unrelated meaningful element; and it means that changes in the other meanings in the field
can involve changes in the given element.34

Taylor claims that his definition of "meanings" of social reality, which he calls

"experiential meaning ... is for a subject. of something. in a field [fragmented sentence in

original]."35 He makes a distinction between "Linguistic meaning which has a four- and not a

three-dimensional structure. Linguistic meaning is for subjects and in a field, but it is the

meaning of signifiers and it is about a world of referents [signified]."36 In this dissertation, I

follow Taylor's methodology, which focuses on the linguistic meanings of signifiers.

For the purpose of this dissertation, I am concerned with four interrelated characteristics of

Taylor's interpretative approach. First, Taylor criticizes the mainstream literature for not

understanding "the science of man." For example, Taylor argues, "Ignoring the differences in the

intersubjective meanings can be disastrous to the science of comparative politics, namely, that

we interpret all other societies in the categories of our own."37 I argue that the main body of

literature on Iran has failed to explain the changing meaning of key words, such as development,



33 Ibid.

34 Ibid., pp. 32-33.

35 Ibid., p. 34.
36 Ibid.

37 Ibid., p. 55.









security, and law because it has applied conceptual categories constructed in the West to describe

Iran's competing social realities. Second, Taylor focuses on "meanings" as social phenomena

that are intersubjectively interpreted as "reality" for subjects, of things in particular fields, and in

relations to other words, things, concepts, images, and narratives. Taylor emphasizes that social

reality is an interpretation of Self as a group, of the material and social world, and of the

intersubjective vision in relational terms, for example, Self in relation to others. The third

characteristic of Taylor is his attention to transformative changes:

My principal claim is that we can only come to grip with this phenomenon of breakdown
[transformative changes] by trying to understand more clearly and profoundly the common
and intersubjective meanings of the society in which we have been living. For it is there
which no longer hold us, and to understand this change we have to have an adequate grasp
of these meanings. But this we cannot do as long as we remain with the ambit of
mainstream social science, for it will not recognize intersubjective meanings, and is forced
to look at the central ones of our society as though they were the inescapable background
for all political actions.38

For Taylor, historical changes in "common meanings or intersubjectivity" transform social

reality. Accordingly, social reality is embedded in the knowledge of the present but built upon

the past, as they were understood. Citing the case of immigrant groups-embedded in two

contrasting social realities of their past and present, he states that new identities are "sealed in the

blood of the old."39

Finally, the fourth characteristic of Taylor's interpretative approach is to show that

competing social realities can and do coexist. Taylor strongly rejects the notion that politics is

about the "perennial" struggle of making distinction between, for example, the "correct political

perception" and its opposite-"ideological," "misperception," "irrationality," "false




38 Ibid., p. 64.
39 Ibid.









consciousness," "traditional," and so forth.40 For Taylor, there are competing interpretations of

social reality-intertwined yet distinct from one another. For example, he writes that "the

common meaning of "the American Way, or freedom as understood in the U.S.A. ... is

differently articulated by different groups. This is the basis of the bitterest fights in a society."41

On the one hand, what is expressed, for example, as 'the American Way' is closely interwoven

in the common meanings of different groups living in the United States. On the other hand, each

group might intersubjectively interpret "the American Way" differently. In short, Taylor argues

that humans interpret Self, things, and Others as they construct competing social realities

embedded in the particularity of their intersubjectivity.

Inspired by Taylor's interpretative approach, I also argue that conceptual changes are

inevitable, as changes in "meanings" constitute transformations in concepts, theories, ideologies,

and rationalities. My dissertation, therefore, takes the changing nature of social meanings

seriously. The dissertation attempts to trace changes at the surface, as well as transformative or

interruptive changes in the meanings of key political concepts in the history of modem Iran. On

the one hand, the success of the endeavor to clarify what has been ambiguously described

depends on demonstrating how meanings of key political concepts in Iran's modern history have

indeed changed in time.42 On the other hand, the success depends upon showing how competing

interpretations of Self, things, and Others in relational terms constituted competing social

realities. I aim to trace the contending meanings embedded in competing political images of

Iran's modern history.


40 Ibid., pp. 55-60.

41 Ibid., p. 54.

42 Later in this section, I will explain that by key political concept, I mean what Foucault names "governing
statements."










In the same vein, the empirical survey of Ido Oren's book, Our Enemies and US:

America's Rivalries and the Making of Political Science (2003), succeeds in tracing competing

meanings of social reality by tracing changes in how American political scientists interpreted

Self, things, and Others. Summarizing how American political scientists interpreted Imperial

Germany, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Stalin's Soviet Union-before and after wars with

the United States-Oren states that:

[T]he current images of Imperial Germany, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Stalin's
Soviet Union in American political science differ markedly from those presented before
the regimes became America's enemies. Imperial Germany was transformed from a
progressive constitutional state into a reactionary "autocracy"; Fascist Italy, Nazi
Germany, and Stalin's Soviet Union metamorphosed from legitimate laboratories of social
or administrative experimentation into embodiments of "totalitarian" evil.43

Oren demonstrates a particular pattern in the field of American political science. Despite

the claim to scientific neutrality, American political scientists closely mirrored official state

policies, practices, and ideologies because they were unconsciously embedded in the social

reality of their time.44 Oren explains his methodological affinity.45 Quoting Bourdieu and

Wacquant (1992, p. 36), he contends, "The primary target [of reflexive analysis] is not the



43 Ido Oren, Our Enemies and Us: America's Rivalries and the Making of Political Science (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell
University Press, 2003), p. 9.

44 The mainstream approach in political science often emphasizes the importance of the individual to establish,
produce, and reproduce the belief system of the actor. For example, see Martin Hollis and Steve Smith, Explaining
and Understanding International Relations (Oxford, England; New York: Clarendon Press; Oxford University
Press, 1990), p. 74. The literature is, however, ambiguous as to the genesis of concepts, themes, logics, choices,
conceptual structures and does not explain changes, transformations, and interruptions in the meanings, such as
democracy, security, class analysis, development, liberalism, governance, and so forth. One of the reasons the
positivist literature focuses on individuals, individualizes groups, or constructs structural analyses structure is
methodological expediency. See Richard Little and Steve Smith, BeliefSystems andInternational Relations
(Oxford, UK; New York, NY: B. Blackwell in association with the British International Studies Association, 1988),
p. 17. In the words of Steve Smith, "The central claim [is] that positivism's importance has not been .., that it has
given international theory a method, but that its empiricist epistemology has determined what could be studied
because it has determined what kinds of things existed in international relations." See Steve Smith, Ken Booth, and
Marysia Zalewski, eds., International Theory: Positivism and Beyond (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1996), p. 11.

45 Oren, "Political Science as History: A Reflexive Approach."









individual analyst but the social and intellectual unconscious embedded in analytic tools and

categories."46 Focusing on how presupposition unconsciously built into concepts, themes,

strategic choices, logic of arguments, and instruments of analysis, Oren aims to clarify the

changing meaning of "democracy" in "the democratic peace literature."47

In his hermeneutic approach, Oren applies the four thematic characteristics of Taylori's

interpretative approach: (a) He criticizes mainstream political science for ignoring the changing

meaning of political concepts; (b) he considers "meanings" constitutive of social reality; (c) he

shows that changes in social context transform the social content of political concepts, such as

"democracy;" and (d) he illustrates that there are competing social realities in time and space,

each with a particular interpretation of what Taylor calls the "correct political perception," which

is unconsciously counterpoised to "misperceptions," "irrational," "ideological," "traditional,"

and so forth.

In short, Taylor's interpretative approach presumes that humans are self-interpreting

subjects embedded in their own intersubjective socio-ethico-historical world of reality. Taylor

calls this intersubjective reality "experiential reality," which, he claims, is always understood in

relational terms. As Taylor puts it, "The meaning of a word depends, for instance, on those

words with which it contrasts, on those which defines its place in the language (e.g., those

defining 'determinable' dimensions, like color, shape)."48 For example, a particular shade of

"gray" color is understood only in terms of its degree of "equivalence and difference" or






46 Ibid; brackets in original.

47 Oren, "Political Science as History: A Reflexive Approach."
48 Taylor, "Neutrality in Political Science," p. 33.









"linkages and differences" to "black" and "white" colors.49 It is, therefore, reasonable to assume

that an interpretative inquiry attempts to discover how words, images, myths, and narratives of

experiences are identified in terms of their relational linkages and differences expressed in the

language. The language, therefore, becomes the medium that mirrors, reflect, or constitute the

changing nature of social reality. Also, it is reasonable to assume that language is the medium

that represents the existential realities throughout time, so it is constitutive of not only social

reality but also changing social reality.

The interpretative focus of this dissertation is the language of the state-elites in Iran, so I

adhere to the view of Michel Foucault whose commitment to interpretative epistemology based

on language stands out among contemporary social theorists. The primary focus of Foucault's

interpretation is not only the general language language ) as the medium of social communication

but also the particularity of languages as the medium for competing discourses mirroring

competing experiences of social reality.50

For Foucault, on the one hand, language (langue) is a semantic field of shared meanings

that make communication possible via highly structured sign systems-French, English,

German, and so forth. On the other hand, languages languages ) are particular fields of shared

knowledge that constitute a particular understanding of social reality-economics, medicine,

psychotherapy-which he calls a discourse.

49 For an informative explanation of the logic of "equivalence and difference," see Ernesto Laclau and Chantal
Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso, 1985). For the
application of the logic of "linkages and differences", see Lene Hansen, Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis
and the Bosnian War (London; New York: Routledge, 2006).
50 Foucault's works can be divided into at least two phases-early and late works. The first phase of Foucault,
reflected in the 1972 Archaeology of Knowledge, focuses on the role of discourses. In his Archaeology of
Knowledge, Foucault proposes his theoretical framework for the exploration of the concept of discourses. This
dissertation draws upon some elements of Foucault's archaeological works. For more information, see Hubert L.
Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault, Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1982).The second phase, reflected in his genealogical works places emphasis on institutional
practices rather than the autonomy of discourses.









Foucault defines a discourse "as the group of statements that belong to a single system of

formation" in the common language interwoven with other related systems of discursive

formations.5 In some ways, Foucault's interpretation of the distinction between common

language (langue) and particular languages languages ) or discourses is similar to how Taylor

defines the intertwining relationship between "common meanings" in the language and

"intersubjective meanings" shared by particular groups communicating in a common language.

The distinction is between the common language and the particular understanding of discourses,

for example, in "economics," "natural history," "psychology," and "sociology." As the discourse

of "economics," for instance, is a "regime of truth and knowledge" for a particular group of

experts, and it is articulated in terms of shared understanding of presuppositions that frame its

concepts, themes, and rationalities, and so is the official political discourse of a state in a given

period. In this dissertation, I refer to that particular language or discourse of the state-elites as the

state political discourses.

For Foucault, unlike the property of the natural language (langue), which is ahistorical,

discourses are essentially historical and can be analyzed within the time in which they

occurred.52 A discourse is a particular language language ] of power, authority, position,

knowledge, and relations. Foucault contends that "the language of our knowledge," at any given

time and space, is the structure "that enables us to analyze so many other languages [discourses],

that language which, in its historical density, we regard as irreducible."53 According to Foucault,

"It is on the basis of that language, with its slow genesis, and the obscure development that has

brought us to the present state, that we can speak of other discourses in terms of structures." In

51 Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (New York: Pantheon Books, 1989[1972]), p. 107.
52 Ibid.

53 Ibid., p. 201.










Foucault's words, "[I]t is that language which has given us the possibility and the right to do so. .

S[those particular languages] forms the blind spot on the basis of which things around us are

arranged as we see them today."54

In sum, Foucault defines discourses as "a group of statements ... made up of a limited

number of statements for which a group of conditions of existence can be defined."5 The

assumption is that language is an active medium and itself a part of how social reality is

collectively constructed and intersubjectively understood.56 Foucault argues that discourses

create conditions of possibility for the production of presuppositions, truths, preferences,

interests, rationalities, and contextual knowledge that creates a space in the language for what

would be possible, communicable, and socially valued or devalued.57

For the purpose of this dissertation, which is concerned with the Iranian state- elites'

imagination of an ideal nation-state, I will attempt to interpret the language of the official state

discourses in modern Iran. I will analyze the "slow genesis" and "obscure development" of

contending discourses of the state-elites as the way they projected their "discursive practices

"onto the society," which produced, reproduced, and reified conditions of possibility for the

construction of the political discourse of Islamic Republicanism.58


54 Ibid.

5 Ibid., p. 117.
56 To my knowledge, Foucault does not use the term "intersubjectivity" inArchaeology ofKnowledge. I use it
because the term has become a generic word that refers to collective, unconscious, and subjective meanings shared
by groups of people.

57 For the purpose of this dissertation, I mention Foucault for his insight into the role of discourses and the hierarchic
formation of historical discourses into condition of existence. I am aware that there are methodological and
epistemological differences between Taylor and Foucault. While Taylor's emphasis is hermeneutics and
interpretative meanings, Foucault's focus is the opposite. He attempts to avoid all interpretation and departs from the
goals of hermeneutics and "truth" in meanings. But this does not mean that Foucault denounces interpretative
meaning. For him, meanings depend on the historical discursive formations. For the purpose of this dissertation, I
mention Foucault for his insight into the role of discourses and the hierarchic formation of discourses.
58 Ibid., p. 117. By discursive practice, Foucault means the way in which discourses are projected onto society.









Foucault argues that within a discourse, there are "interior hierarchies" which are

organized based on "governing statements."59 Depending upon the existential conditions of

possibilities within a given discourse, "governing statements" maintain regularities in concepts,

themes, and rationalities. They also allow for the alteration of "the most discrete or the most

banal" rules within discourses.60 As with the hierarchic relation between "a tree and its roots,

trunk, and branches," concepts, themes, and rationalities embedded in a given discourse are

linked together in a series of hierarchical relations. At the root of this hierarchy are governing

statements that govern and "reveal the most general and most widely applicable form."61

Accordingly, these governing statements become the starting point for how other objects,

concepts, rationalities, and "strategic choices" or mode of rationality may be formed.62 At the

ends of the branches or trunk of this metaphorical tree, a group of statements "are less general

and whose domain of applications are more concrete."63 To illustrate the "interior hierarchy" of

discourses, Foucault mentions the discourse of "Natural History" as an example. He contends

that the governing statement of the discourse of natural history defines the general condition of

possibility, but other group of statements describes discoveries, techniques, organizational

principles, and categorical classification in ways that are more concrete.64 In Foucault's

metaphorical "tree" of interwoven discourses, the whole shapes the meanings of its parts, and

"governing statements" shape, subordinate, and permeate the meanings of other concepts,



59 Foucault, The Archaeology ofKnowledge, p. 146.
60 Ibid., p. 147.

61 Ibid.

62 Ibid.

63 Ibid.

64 Ibid.









themes, and rationalities embedded in subordinated discourses. Accordingly, in a series of

relational linkages and differences, a basic signifier forms hierarchic relational linkages with

other subordinated signifiers. A particular formation of this tree-like, hierarchic combination of a

basic signifier with other signifiers constitute the formation of a discourse.

The importance of Foucault's theoretical contribution is that discourses are hierarchic

structures. At the highest level of abstraction, discourses provide the framework for the

formation of intersubjectivity, concepts, themes, and mode of rationality by providing a

particular condition of conceivability that shape what is imaginable, desirable, possible or

impossible. At lower levels of abstraction, discourses and their related subordinated discourses

provide the condition for adaptation and change. Discourses incorporate and adapt to concrete

changes at social levels.65 However, changes at lower levels of abstraction do not necessarily

change the meaning of "governing statements." For example, changes from liberal to socialist

economic policies do not necessarily change the discourse of development, whose governing

statement is related to a series of words, images, myths, and narratives that value "progress,"

"economic development," "modernization," and so forth. In short, Foucault's metaphor of "tree"

as a hierarchic conceptual structure is a way of demonstrating both "regularities" at structural

levels but also openness or flexibilitiess" at the level of subordinated or sub-discourses

discourses.

The hierarchic characteristic of discourses is relevant in analyzing Iran's contending

political discourses for two interrelated reasons. First, discovering the hierarchic formation of

political discourses requires the identification of "governing statements" of a given discourse.

Given that "governing statements" consist of a combination of words, the task is to identify the


65 Ibid., pp. 145-148.










signifying word of a given "governing statement." I call the signifying word of a "governing

statement" its "basic signifier." For the purpose of this dissertation, I consider a "basic signifier"

as the most central element of a "governing statement" in a discourse.66 My historical

examination will reveal that as the result of Iran's encounter with the West, four new basic

signifiers entered into the political language. These basic signifiers were development, law,

people, and class. These four basic signifiers plus two traditional signifiers-security and

Islam-have given meanings to the contending political discourses throughout Iran's modern

history.

Related to the hierarchical formation of a basic signifier is the concept of "hegemony."

Antonio Gramsci describes "hegemony" as a hegemonic formation--"bloc"-in which a

particular understanding of economic, social, cultural, and historical forces have converged to

form a particular understanding of social, historical, and material reality. Accordingly, the

convergence of these forces creates a fluid understanding among the masses, which Gramsci

calls a hegemonicc block" within which "national politics" takes place.67 Ernesto Laclau and

Chantal Mouffe invert Gramsci's interpretation of "hegemony" on its head. They argue:



66 1 am aware that mentioning basic signifiers might make Foucault only of secondary importance. As a point of
clarification, I am following some elements of Foucault's concepts such as hierarchies, and discourses.

My definition of "basic signifiers" is influenced by Ernesto Laclau's concept of "empty signifiers," which he
describes as "the conceptual construction of universalizing what is essentially a particular identity, which is void of
its own social content, and is recognized only in terms of other words, images, demands, and practices." See Ernesto
Laclau, On Populist Reason (London; New York: Verso, 2005), pp. 71-76. According to Laclau, an empty signifier
is the sign or the label without which we cannot recognize conceptual construct, such as populist, democracy, Islam,
Christianity, socialism, liberalism, and so forth. They are the linguistic necessities "for unifying a multiplicity of
heterogeneous demands in equivalencies chains." See Laclau, On Populist Reason, p. 154. In other words, to create
a singular image out of the inherently competing meanings, for example, of a nation, or of a particular religion, we
need "empty signifiers." Just as a container might be solely identified by its label on the outside, so does an empty
signifier that identifies Self as, for example, Iranians, Muslims, intellectuals and other inherently heterogeneous
groups as one. A Self, which is primarily identified by a sign, but is inherently divided inside.

67 For the concept of hegemonic bloc, see Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1992), p. 151.









For Gramsci, even though the diverse social elements have a merely relational identity-
achieved thorough articulatory practices-there must always be a single unifying principle
in every hegemonic formation, and this can only be a fundamental class. [and] this is
the inner essentialist core which continues to be present in Gramsici's thought." 68

," In this dissertation, I refer to hegemonicc bloc" or "historical bloc" as the convergence

of consensus

Second, analyzing changes in political discourses means the examination, exposition, and

exfoliation of the hierarchic formation of signifiers embedded in them. On the one hand and at

the highest level of abstraction, if basic signifiers are identified, then the general rules and

principles for the conditions of possibilities for providing presuppositions, truth, and preferences

are also identified. Relatedly, the framework for the formation of "regularities" embedded in

concepts, themes, and mode of rationalities can be recognized. On the other hand, if the

hierarchic relations between basic signifiers and other signifiers are identified, the flexibilitiess"

at concrete levels of a given discourse can also be analyzed.

From this analytical perspective, the examination of texts can reveal the distinction

between general principles that basic signifiers govern, but also concrete practices that other

(subordinated) signifiers govern. While the basic signifiers create regularity for a given period,

subordinating signifiers are open to changes. The identification of the hierarchy in a given

discourse also reveals the pattern in which words, concepts, and narratives are valued or

devalued, privileged or muted, pleasant or offensive, and imaginable or not. For example, if

"security" is the basic signifier in a given discourse, then "security" frames the meanings of all

other signifiers intertwined in a given discourse. If a discourse privileges "security' over

"development," a general discursive practice in the case of Iraq would articulate as follows: "We

must establish security in Iraq first before we attempt to begin the process of 'development'." On

68 Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics.









the other hand, if a given discourse privileges "development" over "security," a corresponding

representation would contend: "We must 'developed' Iraq in order to 'secure' it."

In short, drawing upon elements of Foucault's articulation of discourses, this dissertation

will trace the historical rise and collapse of the official state discourses and their hierarchic

formations in Iran's modem history. It will argue that depending on the hierarchic formation of

the basic signifiers, which are embedded in key concepts or governing statements, the Iranian

state-elites had competing images of an ideal nation-state. It will further discuss how competing

official state discourses constituted the power and knowledge for producing a particular ideal

type nation-state that devalued and muted other contending imaginations of Iran.

To sum up, in this section, I have criticized the main body of the literature on Iran for

treating concepts, themes, and rationalities related to modernity and traditional as fixed and

immutable ideal typical models in opposition to each other. I havere captulated the criticism of

mainstream political science for ignoring the changing meaning of political concepts articulated

by Charles Taylor, who argued that "meanings" are constitutive of social reality. Following

Taylor's contention, I mentioned that changes in social context transform the social content of

political concepts, such as "democracy" as was illustrated by Oren's empirical survey of history

of political science in the United States. Moreover, I cited theoretical arguments for the

coexistence of competing social realities in time and space, each with a particular interpretation

of social reality. Taylor argued that these competing social realities are usually represented in

binary opposition between "correct political perceptions" and "misperceptions," "irrational,"

"ideological," "traditional," and so forth. To make sense of this inherent and dominant feature in

expressions of meanings, Taylor argued, "The meaning of a word depends, for instance, on those

words with which it contrasts, on those which defines its place in the language (e.g., those









defining 'determinable' dimensions, like color, shape)."69 In other words, social reality

understood in terms of signs or words in the natural language (English, French, German, etc.)

imposes structural constraint on the social understanding of reality. That is, signs in a language,

which represent social reality, are differentiated from each other in terms of their relational

linkages and differences. Changes in the meaning of language, therefore, become the medium

that mirrors or represents competing social realities with a shifting and contradictory

understanding of intersubjectivities, concepts, themes, and mode of rationalities.

This characteristic of language brought me to Foucault's archaeological works, which

made a distinction between language (langue) as a semantic field and discourses as the

competing languages language ) of power and knowledge. Foucault described discourses as "a

group of statements" that provide conditions of possibility for the production of presuppositions,

truths, preferences, interests, rationalities, and contextual knowledge expressed in the language.70

He further argued that discourses have "interior hierarchies," which are organized based on their

respective "governing statements" in their relational linkages with other sub-discourses. I have

argued that basic signifiers, in turn, govern the conceptualization of governing statements.

Finally, I argue that Foucault's concepts of the hierarchic formation of discourses and the

"governing statements" of particular discourses provides the analytical tool for identifying basic

signifiers in their relational linkages and differences with other signifiers. More importantly, the

hierarchic formation among basic signifiers and other signifiers allow accounting for

"regularities" and "flexibility" within a given discourse, as well as transformations and changes.

Tracing the historical changes and transformations in contending political discourses in Iran,



69 Taylor, "Neutrality in Political Science," p. 33.

70 Foucault, The Archaeology ofKnowledge, p. 117.









therefore, can shed some light on how the Iranian state elites had different intersubjective

imaginations of an ideal nation-state in Iran.

Challenges and Issues

The conduct of this research raised three interrelated challenges. First, how do I identify

the official state discourses, their corresponding basic signifiers, and their respective hierarchic

formations in their relational linkages, differences, and opposition? Second, how do I identify

the source materials? Third, how do I provide the necessary historical context for my analysis of

the contending discourses in Iran's modern history?

First, to identify the official state discourses, I needed to identify their governing

statements based on the identification of their basic signifiers. I, therefore, conducted an

extensive research in pre-modern texts as well as modern ones. With an interpretative theoretical

mindset and a Foucaultian understanding of discourses, I read these texts for identifying

recurring voices of subjects, themes, concepts, and modes of rationality that constituted

meanings, policies, and practices in politics. In my analysis of pre-modern texts, I identified two

basic signifiers, Islam and security, which constituted the official state discourse. The two

signifiers provided the conditions of possibility for governing Iran rather cohesively for centuries

without fundamental changes in the pattern of governance.

The careful examination of texts produced after the 1870s, however, revealed that four

more signifiers had entered into the language: law, development, people, and class. By the early

1900s, the four modern signifiers, along with the two traditional signifiers, showed up in all

political texts, each attached to a different set of meanings in terms of a "tree" like formation of

security, development, law, democracy or people, class, and Islam. I have called these sets of

meanings the contending political discourses, each with a different imagination of an ideal

nation-state.









To analyze how each political discourse interpreted its relation to Self, things in a field,

and Others, I first had to identify the basic signifiers that governed the "regularity" in the

discourse, as well as identifying the hierarchic relation between a basic signifier and other

signifiers. In finding the basic signifier of a particular discourse and its hierarchic relational

linkages and differences to other signifiers, I could examine what were valued or devalued,

privileged or muted, idealized or demonized, considered Self or Others, and constituted Iranian

or Foreign. Moreover, I could examine the conceptualization of what were considered security,

development, lawfulness, democracy or people, Islamic, and class just counterpoised to their

opposites. In doing so, I could draw a narrative of how different official state discourses

idealized contending images of state-building, nation imagining, and conducting of foreign

policy.

The second challenge was selection and reading of texts and text-analogues. The selection

of source material was relatively easy and conventional. Identifying contending political

discourses included texts that speak from the position of "truth" and "authority," for example,

policy statements, partisan newspapers and journals, speeches, debates, official records, party

platforms, and written and oral memories. In the case of oral memories, the audio collection

titled Oral History at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University was a very

useful source. I also selected texts produced by non-state actors, for example, newspapers,

historical books, fictions, films, poetry, comics, songs, anthems. I have cited some of these

source materials throughout this dissertation, but not all.

The criterion for reading texts was a difficult task because the criterion could not be

predetermined. For identifying the "basic signifiers," analyzing the relational linkages and

differences among them, and finding their hierarchic formations, I needed historical texts and









texts-analogues to compare "regularities" and flexibilitiess" within contending discourses, as

well as finding interruptions and transformations among discourses. But I did not know which

signifiers or what hierarchic formations I should be looking for in reading of the texts. The only

knowable criterion for the reading of texts, at first, was an attempt based on the principle of

reading contending viewpoints expressed in texts and text-analogues. Questions about which

signifiers existed or what hierarchic formations they had only came along gradually. In other

words, rather than having a set of questions first and then looking for the appropriate answers,

the questions and answers of which signifiers and what formations came together. The answers

and questions came together through a long and careful reading of texts.

As Ido Oren argues, "The endeavor to answer research questions based on a close reading

of texts is essentially an exercise in hermeneutic interpretation," which is an attempt "to make

sense of" what is otherwise unclear.71 In this spirit, my first reading of texts looked for

contending viewpoints expressed in texts and text-analogues. I identified basic signifiers and

their hierarchic formation, and then the phase of narration and analysis began. In short, the

criterion for reading texts was a process-oriented, subjective, and interpretative attempt to look

for contrasting and contending visions expressed in text and text-analogues. Once the basic

signifiers and their hierarchic formations were identified and conceptualized, then the focus of

the research shifted on to the critical events, interruptions, and transformations in the political

history of Iran.72




71 Oren, "Political Science as History: A Reflexive Approach," p. 224.
72 1 have focused on texts written during and about the Tobacco Uprising, the 1906 Constitutional Revolution, World
War I, the British 1919 Agreement, the 1921 British-backed military coup, the 1926 establishment of Pahlavi
Dynasty, the 1927-1933 politicization of dress codes, the 1941 Allied invasion, the rise and fall of Mussadiq, the
1953 coup, the 1961 rebellion, the 1963-1964 land reform, and finally the consolidation and collapse of Mohamad
Reza Shah in 1979. Throughout this disseration, I cite some of these events.










The third challenge for this interpretative inquiry was how to balance between a

description of historical events and the analysis of concurrent political discourses. On the one

hand, the attempt to analyze contending discourses without describing the context in which they

occurred would have been an analysis void of context. On the other hand, the approach to

describe without analyzing would have been a historical description void of analysis. My

solution to the balancing of these two criteria was to do both. However, because it was important

for me to describe the emergence of contending political discourses, I paid more attention to the

making a narrative of the emergence of political discourses than deep textual analysis, especially

in Chapters 2, 3, and 4. In my description of the emergence of contendining discourse, I used the

concept of "hegemony" to describe political spaces in which the differences in contending

discourses were pushed to the background, and they united around a particular basic signifer.73

The balancing between describing and analyzing allowed me to explain how the state-elites

understood themselves. Beginning with the state-elites encountering and embracing the West in

the 1800s, and ending with a majority of the elites and the people confronting and rejecting the

West in 1979, I make a historical narrative that show the emergence of contending discourses in

Iran. In this narrative, as I trace, describe, and analyze the contrasting viewpoints of the state-



73 Gramsci describes "hegemony" as a "historic or ideological bloc" For Gramsci, a hegemonic formation is the
convergence of consensus about understanding of social, cultural, economic, and historical reality. Accordingly, the
convergence of these forces creates a fluid understanding among the masses, which Gramsci calls a hegemonicc,
historic, or ideological bloc" within which "national politics" takes place. See, Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks,
p. 151. Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe invert Gramsci's interpretation of "hegemony" on its head. They argue,
"For Gramsci, even though the diverse social elements have a merely relational identity-achieved thorough
articulatory practices-there must always be a single unifying principle in every hegemonic formation, and this can
only be a fundamental class .... [and] this is the inner essentialist core which continues to be present in Gramsci's
thought" (Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, p. 69.) In
addition to departing from Gramsci's class-based analysis, Laclau and Mouffe argue that a hegemonic formation is a
temporary conjectural political space without a center (p. 36-37). They argue that a hegemonic formation is a
political space in which "the conditions and the possibility of pure fixing of differences recede; every social identity
becomes the meeting point for a multiplicity of articulatory practices, many of them antagonistic" (p. 137-138).









elites in Iran's modern history from 1926 to 1979. This narration and analsyis will show that the

categorization of modernity versus tradition has little analytical value because it arbitrarily places

concepts, themes, and rationalities associated with competing social realities ideal type

conceptualization of modernity and tradition. I contend that after Iran's encountered the West,

the state elites's interpretation of social reality changed, so did their policies and practices. I

argue that those policies and practices could not be attributed to historical mistakes,

misunderstandings, flawed ideology, or false consciousness. Neither could they be attributed to

misudernstanding of modernity or tradition. They were, instead, competing interpretations social

reality reflected in contending political discourses in Iran. I contend that without understanding

the contending political discourses, describing and analyzing Iran's modern political

development that resulted in the establishment of the Islamic Islamic Republic would be

difficult, if not, an impossible task.

I summarized this section by way of an example. In the 1920s, Hassan Taqi-zadeh,

reflecting the dominant thinking of the time, admired the West and Western modernity as the

model to be emulated. He wrote:

First, the adoption and promotion, without condition or reservation, of European
civilization, absolute submission to Europe, and the assimilation of the culture, customs,
practices, organizations, sciences, arts, life, and the whole attitude of Europe, without any
exception save language; and the putting aside of every kind of self-satisfaction, and such
senseless objections as arise from a mistaken, or, as we prefer to call it, a false patriotism.74

In the 1960s, Jalal Al-e Ahmad, reflecting the dominant social thinking of his time, labeled the

West and Western modernity as a disease and wrote:



74 Hassan Taqizadeh was an influential intellectual during the 1906 Constitutional Revolution. During World War I,
he was a pro-Germanjournalist. During the reigns of Reza and Mohammad Reza Shah, he served as a diplomat,
minister, and senator. Edward Granville Browne, A Literary History ofPersia, Classics of Persian Literature; 4
(Bethesda, Md.: Iranbooks, 1997), pp. 485-486. Also, see Jalal Al-e Ahmad, Cl,, '.-oI,./,.a = (Weststruckness)
(Lexington, KY: Mazda Publishers, 1982), p. 11.









I say that Gharbzadegi [afflicted with Western modernity] is like cholera. If this seems
distasteful, I could say it's like heatstroke or frostbite. But no. It's at least as bad as
sawflies in the wheat fields. Have you ever seen how they infest wheat? From within.
There's a healthy skin in place, but it's only a skin. Just like the shell of a cicada on a tree.
In any case, we're talking about a disease. A disease that comes from without fostered in
an environment made for breeding diseases. This Gharbzadegi has two heads. One is
the West the other is [Self] who [is] Weststruck. 7

These contrasting views of two influential political actors treated "modernity" and

"traditionalism" as fixed concepts, as the main body of literature on Iran has done. While

Taqizadeh valued modernity as an inevitable evolutionary path culminating in Westernization,

Al-e Ahmad devalued it as a revolutionary course imposed upon Iranians by the West. A close

and careful reading of Iran's modern history, however, illustrates that both Jalal Al-e Ahmad and

Taqizadeh valued key political concepts that were essentially modern because those concepts did

not exist in pre-modern history of Iran, and if they existed, their meanings were fundamentally

different. For example, key political signifiers, such as national security or sovereignty,

development or modernization, law-based governance or constitutionalism, people's rights to

political participation or democracy, class equality or socialism, and shared visions of national

sentiments, did not exist in pre-modern texts. But they were prominent in both Taqizadeh and

Al-e Ahmad's texts. Al-e Ahmad could, therefore, be labeled as a "radical modernist" who also

valued Shi'ism as the soul of an Iranian-Islamic Self. He was indeed both modern and

traditional. In the same way, as Taqizadeh praised the West as an ideal type model for Iran to

become sovereign, modern, lawful, democratic, and equal with "secular" and "scientific"

nationalism, he favored, legitimized, and reinforced the centralization of power in the hands of

Reza Shah and then Mohamad Reza Shah. In other words, Al-e Ahmad idealized moving away


75 For a review of Jalal Al-e Ahmad's conceptualization of these concepts, see Reza Bigdelu, Bastan Gra-I Dar
Tarikh-E Moaser-E Iran [Ancient Orientation in Iran's Modern History] (Tehran: Nashr-e Markaz, 1380/2001). For
more information on Hassan Taqizaed, see Abrahim Safai, Rahbaran-E Mashrut-Eh [Constitutional Leaders]
(Tehran: Javidan 1363/1984).









from the West by returning to an Islamic-Iranian Self, but Taqizadeh did the opposite. Taqizadeh

equated security, law, development, equality, and social ethics with Westernization. In contrast,

Al-e Ahmad equated Westernization with a disease that retarded Iran's security, development,

law, democracy, and equality while it corrupted the Iranian traditional ethics. Similar to the main

body of literature on Iran, although history is the source of knowledge for both actors, each has a

different conceptualization of social reality of the past and present. Although their respective

social reality can be analyzed comparatively, their claim to the "truth" of that reality cannot be

tested or verified based on some "objective" or "tangible" measure outside the particularity of

their respective languages. As explained, inspired by elements of Foucault's archaeological

works, I call these competing uses of languages "contending political discourses," which produce

and reproduce their own socio, ethico, and political realities.76

To say that contending discourses produce competing realities is not to deny the existence

of material reality. It to emphasize that material reality cannot speak for itself, and the "realness"

of any reality is the way it is understood socially because we are incapable of accessing any

"reality" independent of discourses. From this perspective, Taqizadeh and Al-e Ahmad's

understanding of two competing realities are consistent with the Taylor's interpretive approach.

Meanings constitute social, meanings of concepts changes in time, and competing social realities

exists. Also, with the elements of Foucaultian understanding of discourses-conditions of

possibility and hierarchic formation of governing statement or key concepts signified by basic

signifiers.

First, Taqizadeh and Al-e Ahmad's understandings of social reality were sociohistorical

phenomena, not personal mistakes, misunderstandings, flawed ideology, or false consciousness

76 See Jalal Al-e Ahmad, On the Intellectuals (Dar Khedmat and Khianat Roshanfekran) (Tehran: Ravaq
1356/1978).









particular to any individual actor. Many shared Taqizadeh or Al-e Ahmad claims to "knowledge"

of the difference between Self and Others. In Taqizadeh's social reality, Self was one endowed

with the "knowledge" to adopt and submit to Westernization "without condition or reservation."

The Other was one who lacked the "true Knowledge." One was depicted as "senseless,"

"mistaken," and "fanatic" with a "false" claim to "patriotism." In contrast, in Al-e Ahmad's

social reality, Self is one endowed with the "true knowledge" to reject the West, and the Other is

one who lacked the "knowledge" to fight against the decaying disease of the West. In other

words, Taqizadeh and Al-e Ahmad's social realities were two imaginations of nationalism. 7

Change is the second characteristic of Taqizadeh and Al-e Ahmad's contrasting social

realities. As time and conditions of existence changed, so did social values and the knowledge of

both the present and the past. In fact, Jalal Al-e Ahmad's argument in the 1960s would not have

made any sense during Taqizadeh's time. Simply, it would not have been possible. The same is

true for Taqizadeh's argument. In the words of Foucault:

[H]istorical descriptions are necessarily ordered by the present state of knowledge, they
increase with every transformation and never cease, in turn, to break with themselves. ..
the most radical discontinuities are the breaks effected by a work of theoretical
transformation "which establishes a science by detaching it from the ideology of its past as
ideological". What one is seeing, then, is the emergence of a whole field of questions,
some of which are already familiar, by which a new form of history is trying to develop its
own theory.7

In other words, as social realities of the present change, so do their respective histories.

The third characteristic of Taqizadeh and Al-e Ahmad's social reality was the particularity

of competing meanings. As conditions of existence and thus social reality changed, so did the

meaning of basic signifiers. For example, for both Taqizadeh and Al-e Ahmad, Iran's

7 Different histories are discovered from the perspective of the present, see Foucault, The Archaeology of
Knowledge, p. 5.

8 Jacob Torfing, New Theories ofDiscourse: Laclau, Mouffe, and Zizek (Oxford, UK; Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell
Publishers, 1999), p. 119.









encountering the West transformed Iran. For Taqizadeh, Iran's encounter with the West

awakened Iran to Western enlightenment, but for Al-e Ahmad, the encounter contaminated Iran

with poison. While both referred to political concepts that did not exist previously, each

interpreted those concepts differently. For example, Al-e Ahmad interpreted development in

relational linkage to class equality, but Taqizadeh understood it in relational linkage to the state

power. Similarly, other basic signifiers-security, law, people, equality, and Islam-were

interpreted differently as their hierarchic formation changed from one discourse to the next. In

sum, reality is socially constructed and it changes in time, and so does the very meaning of

concepts, themes, choices, and mode of rationalities expressed in the language. However, as

changes occur and concepts, themes, and logics break away from their previous meanings, they

maintain traces of the past in them.

In sum, a comparative analysis of Al-e Ahmad and Taqizadeh can reveal how contending

discourses could have constituted the politics of nation-state building in Iran during the Pahlavi

Dynasty. Although the focus of my dissertation is on the rise and fall of the Pahlavi dynasty, I

contend that without understanding these discourses, explaining both the 1979 Iranian

Revolution and the Islamic Republic of Iran is a difficult task, if not an impossible one.

The Plan of the Dissertation and Preview of My Findings

In Chapter 2, I will begin with a brief historical background that illustrates the effects of

Iran's encounter with the West. The chapter will examine the political discourse of absolute

monarchism (Saltanat-e Mutlaq) in which the state (houkumat) is represented as a divine

political order bestowed upon kings. Accordingly, God is regarded as the absolute sovereign, and

a king is considered as God's authoritative delegate and thus the absolute sovereign on earth. In

this political discourse, texts represent monarchic absolutism as "good" and in accord with the

interest of the public (maslahat umomi). The representation of Iranian monarchic absolutism is,









however, different from Hobbesian absolutism, which assumes the inevitability of a social

contract out of fear of anarchy. In contrast, Iranian monarchic absolutism is represented as a

divine political order, according to the teaching of Qur 'an. For many centuries, competing

parallel structures of authority simply accepted and adhered to these practices despite the mosaic

of diverse local, religious, and tribal identities in Iran. Specifically, Shi'i clerical authorities

reinforced the legitimacy of this institutional practice.79

When Iran encountered Western modernity, its once stable political order, which had

endured many centuries, was permeated with subversive meanings. What was previously revered

as a divine political order for the people as well as the state and religious elites changed to mean

the absolute source of all evil and corruption in Iran. In a land where political revolution or even

a political alternative for monarchic absolutism was non-existent, many contending political

discourses appeared, and each one with a particular understanding for building an ideal nation-

state. By tracing the shifting of positions in texts during the late 1800s and early 1900s, six

different basic signifiers appeared in various texts. Most significantly, these signifiers defined

different images of an ideal political order in which the sovereign is charged with maintaining

order and security, enforcing the law or constitution, modernizing or developing, creating class

equality or justice, adhering to Islamic values or laws, and serving the interest of the people. For

the past century, these signifiers have been a part of all contending political discourses in Iran.





79 In the empirical, positivist literature, the concept of legitimacy has been articulated and operationalized in terms of
"trust," "participation," "political efficacy," "institutional power," and so forth. For example, see M. Stephen
Weatherford, "Measuring Political Legitimacy," American Political Science Review 86, no. 1 (1992). In political
theory, the question of what constitutes political legitimacy has been articulated in terms of "right and wrong,"
"moral and immoral," "good and evil," "impartial and impartial," 'just and unjust rule," and so forth. However, the
question is not settled yet. For example, see Thomas Nagel, "Moral Conflict and Political Legitimacy," Philosophy
and Public I 1u.u 16, no. 3 (1987). For the purpose of this dissertation, I simply define legitimacy in terms of how
the ruled identify with a ruler in terms of their shared meanings in socio-ethico, historical and political values.









By the 1900s, the Iranian people wanted to establish a government based on law.

Narratives associated with law or legal-rational norms permeated the meaning of security,

development, democracy, class-justice, and even Islam. The basic signifier for constitutionalist

was "law," which subordinated other signifiers. Constitutionalists imagined "law" as the basis

for a civilized, modern, and just Islamic nation, and imagined international agreements as the

basis for having relations with other states. In other words, the meaning of a law-bound state

permeated and subordinated the meanings of other signifiers. By the 1920s, however, the

discourse of constitutionalism collapsed and constitutionalists became disreputable personalities

associated with foreigners (kharejian). Security combined with development became the two

basic signifiers of a political discourse, which I will call "modern absolutism."

Chapter 3 will review the rise and fall of the discourse of modem absolutism. First, Reza

Shah was represented as the absolute and divine sovereign over the people and the state. In this

discourse, the divine sovereignty was de-linked from Islam and began to be linked with ancient

Persian monarchies. Second, the state began to push for a particular imagination of Iranian

nationalism, which was supposed to be Western-like, ironically, by a return to a collective Self

that was imagined as Persians rather than Muslims. Third, the official state discourse represented

Islam in an oppositional relation with Iran by representing Islam as traditional, local, and against

Persians. Fourth, modern absolutism represented the state as the absolute law unto itself. Thus,

the state attempted to eliminate local, tribal, and religious institutions. The change in governance

made rules under modern absolutism even more arbitrary than under the personalistic rules of

ancient regimes. Finally, modern absolutism represented class-based identities as anti-

development, anti-Persian, anti-Iranian nationalism, and a Russian conspiracy. At the time,









Iranian nationalism idealized the German race as its closest kin, and the state policy reflected this

sympathy.

With World War II raging, Iran declared neutrality. Suspicious of Reza Shah's sympathy

with Germany, the Allied forces invaded Iran in 1941 and forced Reza Shah to abdicate.

Consequently, the official state discourse collapsed. Once again, the Iranian contending

discourses began to compete for hegemony-to become the official state discourse. From 1941

to 1951, constitutionalists and monarchists shared control of the state while Islamists, socialists,

and nationalists struggled to take over the state. Chapter 4 will examine this period.

By 1949, it appeared that Mohamad Reza Shah managed to re-officialize the identity of

modern absolutism, but he began to lose the collective imagination of the people. At the time, the

intense hatred for British ownership of the Iranian oil industry became the symbol under which

the fragmented body of the nation united. Muhammad Mussadiq led this mobilization and

eventually took over the state in 1951. The basic signifier for Mussadiq's discourse was the

"people," which was linked to concepts, such as the people's sovereignty, independence,

citizenship rights, democracy, and representative government. During his tenure, a particular

meaning of the people's sovereignty permeated and subordinated the meanings of law,

modernization, class, Islam, and the people.

First, by the representing the people as a singular sovereign in struggle against foreigners,

a particular Iranian nationalism was constructed that defined its singular Self in terms of a long

historical struggle against foreign domination. At the time, Iranian nationalism became defined

in terms of its struggle against the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. This particular nationalism

drastically differed from that of the official nationalism during the leadership of Reza Shah or

Mohammad Reza Shah. Second, the law was interpreted differently. Unlike constitutionalists









who considered laws as the sovereign between the state and society, or modernists who imagined

laws as the embodiment of the will of the shah-centered state, democratic nationalists imagined

laws as subordinated to the will of the people. Muhammad Mussadiq said, "The law was for the

people and not the people for the law." Third, development was described as economic self-

reliance, which led to pursuing policies of economic autarky rather than economic

interdependence and Westernization as Mohamad Reza Shah wanted to pursue. Fourth, Islam

was valued as the people's shared vision of good against evil in perpetuity and not as a

traditional norm versus modernity as Reza Shah or Mohamad Reza represented. Fifth, class was

described in terms of the boundary between good and bad rules, not workers and capitalists. For

example, for democratic nationalists, class symbolized a relational opposition between the poor

and the rich, the just and unjust, the Iranians and the foreigners. In the United States, as well as

the court in Iran, Iranian anti-British nationalism was represented as pro-communism. Chapter 5

will review this period.

In 1953, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) backed a military coup that toppled the

regime. Once again, a new political discourse became the official state discourse. I call this

discourse "monarchic modernism" because it was personalistic and also modern. Although this

new imagining of Iran had traces of Reza Shah's modern absolutism, it was a new interpretation

of an ideal state. Chapter 6 will examine this period, which covers Iranian political development

from 1953 to 1979.

In Chapter 6, I will discuss how the official state discourse alienated the state from its own

society and provided conditions conducive for constructing a hegemonic bloc against it. Chapter

6 will consist of four successive eras of restoration, reform, consolidation, and collapse of

Mohamad Reza Shah's regime. I interpret how the discursive practices of the state delegitimized









it and thus provided the conditions of conceivability for the construction of the Islamic Republic

of Iran in 1979. Despite the state's having an absolute monopoly over the resources and

institutions of the country, it lost its discursive power in the sense that it could no longer produce

shared meanings, values, and knowledge. It could not, therefore, produce consent or fear. I have

divided Chapter 6 into four eras. The first era begins with the restoration of Mohamad Reza Shah

by the CIA. During this era, the discourse of monarchic modernism lost much of its

representation power and communicated by fear rather than building consensus or legitimacy. In

contrast, contending discourses succeeded in representing the shah as an illegitimate agent of the

United States. Contending discourses also devalued the state's developmental projects as a form

of Western domination.80

The second era began in 1961 and ended in 1964. The impetus for the 1953 CIA coup had

begun with the shift of power from the Truman administration to the Eisenhower administration.

The "reform era" also began with the shift of power from the Eisenhower administration to the

Kennedy administration. During this era, fearing a revolution in Iran, the Kennedy

administration pressured Mohamad Reza Shah to be less obsessed with security and show more

interest in economic and political reform. As a result of this shift, the shah reluctantly appointed

Ali Amini, whom Kennedy preferred, to lead a reformist government in Iran. Eventually,

Amini's government failed, but the shah adopted some of Kennedy's reformist agenda and

presented the agenda as his own.

However, the shah's reform delegitimized the state even further. In addition to the

opposition by the nationalists and socialists, even conservative clerics and landed elites (the



80 For the purpose of this disseration, I define legitimacy as shared meanings in social values, norms, practices, and
expectations between the state and the people. In a Foucaudian sense, legitimacy is when rulers and ruled are
embedded in the same political discourse.









shah's traditional supporters in modern Iran) began to oppose the state. Instead of

deconsolidation of power, the "reform" resulted in increasing the size of the state and

concentrated even more power in the hands of the shah and a small circle of his cronies who

controlled all the state's resources and institutions. By 1964, once again, U.S. policy on Iran

shifted from economic reform back to security concerns. So the reform era ended, and the era of

consolidation of power began in a shah-centered state backed by the United States.

The third era began when state revenues increased to the extent that the state no longer

needed foreign aid or loans. During this era of absolute consolidation of power, the shah-

centered state practices and policies began to be interpreted according to, and associated with,

two different webs of meanings. In the official state discourse, the shah was represented as the

provider of security, law, progress, justice, and ethics, but also as the divine embodiment of the

Persian-Aryan nation. The shah was also the key player for Iran's alliance with the West in

general and the United States in particular. However, for a great majority of the people, the

shah's language, policies, and practices were interpreted as the means of foreign domination and

the source of fear. In this era, the shah ruled by instilling fear, and the people lived with this fear

as a natural part of the existential reality. As a result, there was a sense of societal quiescence,

but not necessarily consensus or agreement with the state. But the state failed to repress the

voices of secular or religious intellectual community whose common language of resistance

represented fearing the state as unpatriotic, un-Islamic, and anti-historical. Political activists

represented the shah-centered state as the "Servant of American imperialism." American

imperialism was represented as a crumbling empire, not to be feared, but at the time, the

meaning of imperialism differed from one contending discourse to another. For Islamists,

imperialism meant an imperial non-Muslim power. For socialists, imperialism meant a capitalist









power and thus an anti-working class state. For nationalists, imperialism meant a non-Iranian

dominator. Nevertheless, the association between the shah and U.S. imperialism was articulated

in the same phrase: "The shah was the agent of imperialism." Mohamad Reza Shah and

American were represented as though they were one.

The fourth era of collapse began at the height of the shah's power. A hegemonic bloc

consisting of contending discourses began to communicate with a common language of

resistance against the U.S.-Iran alliance. In other words, a discursive hegemony was being

constructed. In this hegemony, contending discourses glorified a life-and-death struggle against

the shah and the United States.

In this hegemony, acquiescence to the power of the shah or the United States was devalued

as anti-Iranian nationalism, un-Islamic, and anti-historical. On the other hand, the struggle

against them became a sign of social honor. Writers, poets, moviemakers, actors, and religious

clerics imprisoned by the shah became the role model for resistance against the regime. The

language that political activists had articulated for decades permeated the common language of

the people. Accordingly, values, concepts, themes, and rationalities associated with resisting,

fighting, and dying for a common cause of overthrowing the regime became a part of the

language. In this hegemony, while the differences among socialists, nationalists, and Islamists

were muted, the ideal for struggling against the regime was privileged.

In this hegemony, material and institutional resources available to the state were

interpreted differently. Unlike previous eras during which the state's monopoly of means of

coercion, surveillance, control, discipline, and regulation were interpreted as omnipotent,

fearsome, and indestructible, suddenly the same resources and institutions were interpreted as

impotent, benign, and fragile. In the hegemonic discourse of resistance, the state's tanks, guns,









and soldiers turned into toys for young people in the street, and contending discourses began to

represent the unity of the people as omnipotent, fearsome, and indestructible. From then on, the

state could not produce legitimacy or fear.

The people had once quietly accepted Mohamad Reza Shah's representation and

enforcement of developmental projects, law, class justice, and social norms as natural realities of

the time, but now they suddenly no longer accepted them as such. In fact, what was accepted as

inevitable reality began to anger them as unethical norms that had to be stopped. Moreover, the

shah's signification of providing security for the country was understood in terms of insecurity

for the people and security for foreigners. In sum, the shah-centered state lost its productive

power to discipline or punish and to regulate or control the people. It also lost its ability to create

legitimacy. Once the state lost its power to rule, the violent overthrow of the regime appeared

inevitable.

As Mohamad Reza Shah's regime was collapsing, "Islam" became the primary signifier

under which a great majority of people united with one voice-the shah must go, and Khomeini

ought to rule. But in this unison, a multiplicity of voices, values, and rationalities arose which

had previously been constructed in contending discourses in Iran. Nevertheless, for a particular

moment in time and space, in the collective imagination of an overwhelming number of Iranians,

there appeared a monolithic voice that identified Self in an opposition relation with the shah as

its main Other. The result was the collapse of the regime.

In sum, this dissertation is an attempt to offer an interpretation of the history of political

development during the Pahlavi dynasty by focusing on how contending discourses in Iran

constituted the politics of nation-state building in Iran during the Pahlavi's dynasty. By making a

81 However, this unity formally disappeared only 24 days after the establishment of the Islamic Republic when the
state ordered all female employees to wear Hejab (Islamic dress code).









historical narrative of the emergence of political discourses in modem Iran, and by understanding

the official state discourses, Iran's political development can be described and explained from

angles that have not yet been described. This dissertation describes how the meaning of state

building, nation-imagining, and relations with other states changed from one era to another. I

maintain that without understanding the contending discourses in Iran, neither the past nor the

present of Iran can adequately be explained.

By interpreting the hierarchic formation of Iran's contending discourses, I conclude that

the Islamic Republic of Iran incorporates ideals previously constructed in modern discourses.

Those ideals were incorporated into "Islamic Republic" and were represented as the most

democratic, most class-just, most independent, and most developed Islamic state. In other words,

an ideal-typical utopia was constructed and the people actually treated that utopia as a "real"

alternative. The utopia of the Islamic Republic did not, however, take more than a few months to

shrink to the size of its constituents-a small but cohesive portion of Iranians. For Iranian

scholarship, however, the utopia of an ideal-type Western modernity continues, so does the

binary representation of Iran for many in the West and some Iran.

This dissertation has argued that analyses based on reductionistic, fixed, and immutable

representations reveal a certain degree of Self as they hide much more about others within. This

is what happened to Reza Shah and Mohamad Reza Shah. They both muted the voices of others

in Iran at a cost, and, as it turned out, with no tangible outcomes. Tracing the multiplicity of

voices from the past into the present facilitates understanding of what might fit within the realm

of possibility or not. In the case of Iran, realizing what is possible or not can minimally help

avoid costly confron









CHAPTER 2
THE EMERGENCE OF THE IRANIAN NATION-STATE

Introduction

If the shah believes in his divine duties, he must realize that all people are equal before the
eyes of God. If the shah wants to be the Shepard of his flock, he must serve them
diligently. .... While the shah may want foreigners as his masters, let him be the slave, but
we the people do not, and will not allow foreigners to enslave us. ... If the shah's
ministers want to sell the country in the name of Islam, we will not allow them. The
shah must not think that we are afraid of him, we are Fadaian [those who would sacrifice
their lives for the good of others], who sacrifice Self for the manifestation of justice on
earth.

-Excerpts from Roohul-Qudos, a daily paper published in 1907.1

In the 1920s, Iran began to build a modern nation-state according to a particular

imagination of Self in relation to its internal and external Others. This chapter attempts to

provide a brief historical background for how that imagination was constructed. First, I will

discuss the fall of the state official discourse, which constituted how various tribal dynasties, at

least since the Shah Abbas regime in the 16th century, understood and related to their

surrounding world.2 Then I will explain the embedded values and concepts in the official state

discourse of monarchic absolutism in Iran. Next, I will show how Iran's encountering the West

in the 1800s resulted in the shifting of values, concepts, images, and myths associated with Iran's

political order. Accordingly, in the 1800s, the state-elites, religious authorities, and local

governors glorified the Iranian monarchic absolutism as a divine Islamic order that provided

security and peace for the Muslim Iranian subjects. By signifying security and Islam as the two

basic components of Iran's political order, the shah exercised his power indirectly, the Shi'i



1 Nasrolah Falsafee, Zendagan E Shah Abbas Aval (History of Shah Abbas I), 5 vols. (Tehran: Tehran University
1965/1344), v. 3, p. 121.
2 In this dissertation, I do not capitalize the word "shah," which simply means "king," when I am using the word as a
generic name. However, I capitalize the word when it is a part of a proper name, for example, Shah Abbas, Reza
Shah.









clergy implemented Islamic jurisprudence through their network, and local or tribal authorities

governed on behalf of the shah. However, beginning in the mid-1800s, the state, religious, and

local elites began to represent the shah's absolutism as the cause of the people's insecurity and

acquiescence to the threat of Britain and Russia as the threat to Islamic Self. Constitutive of these

drastic shifts were the articulation of new demands based on previously non-existing concepts,

such as law-based governance or constitutionalism, development or progress, national or

people's rights, and class justice or socialism-concepts that had entered into the language as the

result of Iran's encountering the West. Finally, by briefly examining the Tobacco Uprising of

1890-1891 and the 1906 constitutional revolution, I will explain the construction of a hegemonic

bloc. This bloc was united in its opposition to the presence of British foreigners.

The Political Discourse of Monarchic Absolutism (Saltanat-e-Motlaq-eh)

From the reign of Shah Abbas Safavid (1587-1629) until the 1906 constitutional

revolution, the discourse of monarchic absolutism had been the official state political discourse.

Despite changes in tribal dynasties since Shah Abbas I, all monarchs more or less followed the

basic tenets of the discourse in the way Shah Abbas had exercised power.

Once Shah Abbas consolidated his power by eliminating or reducing his military reliance

on any one tribe, especially his own Qizilbash tribe, he drew military resources from Persian and

Tajik populations, as well as non-Muslim forces, such as Armenians and Georgians, into his

military. He sold trading and territorial rights to the highest bidders rather than to local and tribal

authorities. He broke any tribe or family that became too wealthy or powerful. He outsourced

revenue rights and appointed administrative rights and concession rights to local and tribal

authorities. He banned Sufism and other religious movements that appeared subversive to the

state official religion-Shi'ism. He built a strong administrative and bureaucratic infrastructure

(dar-bAryan). He also co-opted high-ranking clergy who could explain the justification for the









shah's political positions and practices to the people. These policies created a sort of division of

labor between the official and non-official ulama who, at times, mitigated the abuse of power by

the courtiers.3 On foreign policy, Shah Abbas tried to create a balance of power by siding with

Christian and European powers against the Ottoman Empire.

Shah Abbas's official political discourse (monarchic absolutism) continued to be the

official state discourse of various tribal dynasties in Iran until the 1906 constitutional revolution.

In this discourse, power flowed downward from kings into parallel, hierarchic, and

interdependent structures of authority within the court, religious institutions, and tribal, rural, and

urban authorities. Intertextually, the shah was depicted in binary representations, such as

sovereign-subjects, patriarch-children, master-slaves, and shepard-flock. Similarly, until the

early 1800s, the absolutism of monarchs was represented as the manifestation of the king's

power, glory, greatness, and the extent to which they could protect the country from the

possibility of external threats and prevent local, religious, and ethnic conflicts. Religious texts

represented monarchic absolutism and the providence of God's will on earth, which made justice

on earth possible.

In the official state discourse of Saltanat-e-Motlaqeh (monarchic absolutism), kings of Iran

were the absolute protector of religion (din), state (dulat or houkumat), and the people (mellat).4

In other words, the kings of Iran embodied the power vested in the state and exercised their

power through three competing structures of authority-state, religious, and local authorities.

The court appointees represented the shah or the state's interest. Ulama (religious authorities)


3 Ervand Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, Princeton Studies on the near East (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, 1982), pp. 9-49.
4 In older Persian texts, the distinction between the state (houkumat) and government (doulat) does not exist, and the
distinction between the meanings of people mellat and "nation" does not exist. Both of these distinctions are
embedded in Western discourses of national sovereignty.









represented the interest of the Shi'i establishment, and they appointed judges, operated

seminaries and schools, managed endowed lands, supervised religious rituals, interpreted Sharia

law, and acted as trustees, scribes, and advisors for the people often before the court officials. On

local levels, tribal, urban, and rural authorities governed and enforced rules based on local

customs and expectations, provided physical security, and collected taxes. However, in this form

of governance, concepts such as development, legal/rational norms, citizenship rights, or

socioeconomic justice did not exist, and no one expressed outrage for the country's state of

underdevelopment, lack of law, justice, or human rights. In these pyramid-like structures of

authority, power flowed downward, from the shah to his courtiers, from courtiers to local and

tribal authorities down to the people, and from ulama to their followers.5

In the discourse, kings had absolute authority over lives and properties of his mellat

(people), and mellat included tribal, rural, and urban people-Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Although kings in Iran were not considered infallible or divine, their rules, however, were

considered divinely approved. As such, ulama represented the institution of monarchy as a

divine and legitimate Islamic order, which helped maintain the public interest (maslahat

ommomi) and ensured the enforcement of God's laws (s/i tit h).6 In other words, in the pre-

modern political discourse of Iran, Iranian kings were at the apex of power and authority, and

their power flowed downward to the state officials, local, and religious authorities. As such,

while the shah was not considered divine or holy, the order was represented as divine, Islamic,

and holy. Hence, following the absolute authority of the shah was a religious duty, and

questioning his wisdom was not supposed to be knowable to the people. The presumption,


5 Nikki R. Keddie, Iran, Religion, Politics and Society (London: F. Cass, 1980), p. 12.
6 The tenets of the discourse of monarchic absolutism were first proposed and to a certain degree practiced by the
Shi'ite prime minister of the two of Saljuk Tribal dynasty, Nezam Al-Mulk-e Tusi (1018-1092).









production, and reproduction of the divine right of sovereignty served not only the interest of the

state, but also the interest of religious and local authorities.

Accordingly, for ulama, the absolute power of kings was deemed necessary for the

prevention of internal disintegration by local conflict or external occupation by non-Muslim or

non-Shi'i rulers. For kings of Iran, the autonomous power of ulama was deemed necessary.

Ulama legitimized the absolutism of monarchs since Shi'i institutions provided working rules,

norms, and ethics that assured the reproduction and reinforcement of the system. For local

authorities, receiving support from the shah-centered state assured their property rights, as well

as secured their concessionary rights to collect rents and taxes on behalf of the state-a profit in

its own right. Reciprocally, kings relied on local authorities for receiving revenue and troops

from local authorities.

However, for this mutual inter dependency to work, kings had to maintain a delicate

balance between two opposing needs. One need was to have the presence of strong local

authorities on behalf of the shah. The other was to ensure that no local authority would be or

seemed to be stronger than the shah was. Hence, in outsourcing concessions rights to the highest

bidders, kings picked the strongest tribal chiefs or wealthy local families to rule, and purposely

pitted local authorities against each other. As expected, local authorities were always forced to

some degree to attend to the needs of their local constituents in order to maintain their power

against their local competitors. In brief, the existence of parallel structures of competing

authorities served the interest of the state by maintaining control at local levels, but leaving local

authorities to govern according to local needs and necessities. This system of governance proved

very stable for centuries.7


7 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, pp. 9-49.









In tribes, villages, towns, and cities, the people were always at the bottom of these

pyramids of power structures, but that is not to say that local authorities could exercise power as

they wished. Most Iranian communities were geographically dispersed, economically self-

sufficient, ethnically-homogenous, and inward-looking. Therefore, despite the arbitrariness of

rule at the apex of the power structure, local authorities had to rule by consensus among

competing authorities and respective constituencies.8 Otherwise, local resistance or uprisings

would diminish the power of local authority and would force the shah to appoint new valis (local

representatives of the state). While the shah's rule was absolutist in name, in practice and at local

levels, rules were negotiated to fit the needs and necessities of the locality. However, the stability

of the system began to fall apart when these practices, policies, customs, and norms began to

change.

By the mid-1850s, texts had already begun to represent monarchic absolutism as the sign

of the state's weakness, religious corruption, and local conflict. After the two Russo-Persian wars

of 1813 and 1826 forced Prince Abbas Mirza (1789-1833) to accept the two Treaties of Golestan

and Turkaman-chay, a clear shift began in texts, policies, and practices of the state, religious,

local authorities.9 Texts, originating within the court, began to devalue monarchic absolutism as

a corrupt order that needed to be replaced with what was termed as nezam-e-jadid (the new

order). Iran's first serious experience with modernity was its military confrontation with Russia.

Its first attempt to modernize began from and within the state structure. The court began to

modernize its military. Prince Abbas Mirza (1789-1833) sent the first group of Iranian students

to Western countries, hired Western advisers, imported military technology, and helped train the

8 Guive Mirfendereski, A Diplomatic History of the Caspian Sea: Treaties, Diaries, and Other Stories, 1st ed. (New
York: Palgrave, 2001).

9 For more information on treaties of the wars in 1813 and 1828, see Nikki R. Keddie and Yann Richard, Modern
Iran: Roots and Results ofRevolution (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003).










first generation of bureaucrats. The devaluing of the old order had begun by merely changing

existing policies and practices. Texts originating from some of the religious authorities also

began to represent monarchic absolutism as the sign of state corruption-not as the providence

of God's will on Earth. These religious authorities portrayed monarchic absolutism as un-Islamic

behavior. Religious scholars began to represent monarchic absolutism as religious corruption that

had resulted in the defeat of omat-e-islam (nation of Muslims) at the hands of the Russians.

Locally, monarchic absolutism was no longer the source of order but that of disorder.

By the 1870s, Iran's experience with modernity was one of military defeats by the

Russians in the north and economic and political domination by the British forces in the south. In

other words, as the result of Iran's encounter with Western modernity, the dominant political

discourse of Iran began to weaken and eventually collapse. For the first time in Iranian history,

concepts such as development, law, nationalism, class-justice, and security entered into the

language of politics. It was in this context that the Tobacco Uprising occurred. 10



10 For this section, I have been partly informed by the following scholarly works in addition to re-reading some of
their references. For example: Sayed Javad Tabatabai, Ta'amoli Dar Bareyeh Iran: Deebacheh-Ey Bar Nazariahey
Anheta'tE Iran. (a Collection in Decline of Political Theory), vol. 1 (Tehran: Nashre Mo'ser, 2001/1380).

Sayed Javad Tabatabai, Zaval E Andeesheh Syasee Dar Iran (the Decline of Political Theory in Iran) (Tehran: Kavir
1998/1377). Also, Edward Browne, A Year among the Persians (London Black Company, 1950).

Keddie and Richard, Modern Iran: Roots and Results ofRevolution.

Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions.

Ann Katharine Swynford Lambton, The Persian Land Reform, 1962-1966 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969), Ann
Katharine Swynford Lambton, Landlord and Peasant in Persia: A Study of Land Tenure and Land Revenue
Administration, 1st ed. (London,: Oxford, 1969), Ann Katherine Swynford Lambton, State and Government in
Medieval Islam: An Introduction to the Study of Islamic Political Theory, London Oriental Series; V. 36 (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1981).

Homa Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979 (New
York: New York University Press, 1981), Katouzian, State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the
Emergence of the Pahlavis.

John Foran, Fragile Resistance: Social Transformation in Iran from 1500 to the Revolution (Boulder, Colorado
Westview Press, 1993).










The Tobacco Uprising

In 1890, in exchange for 15,000, Naser Al-din Shah (who reigned from 1831-1896)

"handed over the complete control of the production, purchase, sale, and export of Iranian

tobacco to the British Rege company."11 With this concession, a massive campaign against the

shah began. Merchants refused to deal with the British company. Sayed Jamal Afghani (1839-

1897) began a letter campaign to convince the Shi'i clerical establishment to use their pulpits

(manbars) to mobilize the people against the concession. Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Shirazi, a

respected religious scholar (Mujtahed) in Najaf, issued afatwa (religious edict) that banned the

consumption of all tobacco products. People from all occupations, including wives of the shah,

obeyed thefatwa and a national political movement was born. The shah had no choice but to

cancel the concession and pay damages to the British company, which also included future

profits. The Tobacco Uprising was a historical turning point that demarcated traditional political

discourses from modern discourses. During the Tobacco Uprising, for the first time, Iranians

articulated concepts that were unprecedented in the way the relationship between the ruled and

rulers was represented in at least four different ways.






Nezam Al-mulk, Politics (Seeya'sat Nameh), ed. Abdul Rahim Khalkhali (Tehran 1936/1310).

Abdul Hussein Zarin-kub, Dar Jeztejoya TasvofDar Iran (a Survey ofSufism in Iran) vol. 2 (Tehran: Amir Kabir,
1376/1997).

Jacob Edward Polak, Persian, Das Land Und Seine trans. Kikavus Johndari (Bowohener: Ethnographische
Schilderugen, 1865).

Polak, Persian, Das Land Und Seine

Additionally, a great deal of understanding can be deduced from the reading of European travelers to Iran, as well
as Iranian travelers to Europe. For example see Suroosh Irfani, Iran's Islamic Revolution: Popular Liberation or
Religious Dictatorship? (Lahore, Pakistan Vanguard Books Ltd., 1983), p. 22.

1 Irfani, Iran's Islamic Revolution: Popular Liberation or Religious Dictatorship?









First, during the Tobacco Uprising, the very concept of the shah's absolute divinity was re-

represented as the cause of insecurity among the people and lack of Iran's sovereignty rather

than security and absolute sovereignty of the shah. This was a discursive shift.

Second, the Tobacco Uprising was an urban-based mass movement that shared a vision of

a national rather than a tribal or local community. For the first time in centuries, the concept of a

shared vision of an Iranian national community was being formed. Unlike previous eras when

the shared vision of a community centered on parochial and familial interests and visions, the

shared vision of the community in this era centered on an emerging "imagined community" of

Muslim Iranian people.

Third, the primary demand of the people during the uprising was for the establishment of a

House of Justice (Khanah Edalat). It was not, however, clear as to whether the House of Justice

would be based on Islamic or secular laws. As it turned out, this question was not and has not yet

been settled. However, the essence of establishing a House of Justice was proof of the weakening

of the official state discourse and the permeation of new concepts into the language.

Finally, the emergence of Iranian modern nationalism was mainly mobilized, organized,

and led by the Shi'i clergy in the name of the "nation of Muslim Iranian (Melat-e Musalman-e

Iran)."12 As it turned out, the clerical leadership in Iran again became a vanguard for mobilizing

people in different episodes of Iran's modern history. The majority of the Shi'i clergy were using

a familiar language of the nation of Muslims or (umma), which discursively was in relational

opposition to non-Muslim nations. Using the familiar language of the nation of the Iranian

people (Melat) was, in some sense, in relational opposition to the state (Dolat). In this discourse,

the people were interpreted as a unified body of Iranians and Muslims in their relational

12 Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread ofNationalism. For the concept of
imagined community, see Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, pp. 58-61.









opposition or differences to the state and non-Muslims. The interpretation of the people also

meant the emergence of a particular Iranian nationalism that imagined Self in opposition to an

enemy with two faces. One face of this enemy was the court and the other face was foreign

powers increasingly controlling the affairs of the court and the shah-Britain or Russia. Iran's

modern nationalism thus emerged by imagining Self in opposition to internal and external

enemies manifested in the court and intertwined with governmental policy and practices. The

conceptualization of the court as a nest of foreigner powers continued to play a role in shaping

Iran's modern history.

The construction of a nation-state took place within the context of an intense colonial

competition between Russia and Britain over the territorial, economic, and political control of

Iran. Iran's first serious experiencing of Western modernity was its two military defeats of 1813

and 1827 by Russian armies. These defeats weakened the state's economic and political

sovereignty and opened the way for further Russian interventions and the gradual loss of Iranian

sovereignty. The situation deteriorated when Britain also entered into Iranian politics. In a

competitive race to expand its imperial power, Britain began buying concessions and revenue

collection rights from the court in addition to import-rights. Gradually, British goods flooded the

local markets, which resulted in the weakening of traditional manufacturing bases of Iran-

mostly local and small manufacturing bases. Britain also managed to impose a favorable tax

advantage for its goods. By 1920, Britain was in control of many aspects of political, economic,

and foreign policy decision-making. 13 These imperial competitions shaped the formations of

Iranian nationalism through which Iranians began to see themselves as perpetual victims of the



13 Katouzian, State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis, p. 167. Also
see Fereydoon Adamiat, Freedom and Thoughts and the ,. ii,, of Constitutional Movement (Fekr Aza'dy Va
Moqademeh Yeh Neza'tMoshroeya't) (Tehran Entesharat-e-Sokhan 1961/1340), p. 54.









both Russia and Britain. In this dichotomization between Self and Others, most texts valorized

resistance against foreigners, although the meaning of foreignness changed from one era to next

and from one contending discourse to the next. Moreover, texts valorized the struggle against the

corruption in the state, although what was now perceived as "corrupt" were the routine business

practices of patrimonial politics of the past.

The representation of the West was not, however, always negative. In the 1800s, in

addition to experiencing Western colonial practices, Iranian elites simultaneously learned about

the emancipatory and modern aspects of the West. Iranian elites admired the West for its rich

philosophy, science, technologies, and governance, which the state-elites found to be the reason

for the West being superior to Iran. Texts written during the second half of the 1800s illustrate

that elites already had become very familiar with the Western philosophers, such as Voltaire,

Rousseau, Descartes, Montesquieu, Spencer, Darwin, Mill, Bantam, and Tocqueville. State-elites

were also repeating the aspiration of the French Revolution-Libertd, egalitW, fraternitW. By

1905, the state-elites had become familiar with the differences between the Russian, Japanese,

Germany, and British models of state-building, and, depending on their perspectives,

development had become a value intertextually, albeit in different interpretation.14

The state-elites desired to modernize the country based on Western models. In his memoir,

Mehdi-ih Mokhber al-Duleh, a prominent minister and constitutionalist, wrote that everyone who

struggles to establish a constitutional government "has a book about the French Revolution and

yearns to play the role of Dante, and they are hot with fiery words."15 The result of these



14 For a list of some of these elites and their familiarity with the Western political thought, see Mehdi Quli Hedayat,
Khaterat Va Khatarat, i ,. m- i.. ', and Dangers) (Tehran: 1950/1329), p. 9. For a complete review of the
Constitutional Review, see the special edition of Political & Economic Ettela'at, v. 227-230, Nov. 2006.
15 Hamid Dabashi, Iran: A People Interrupted (New York: NEW PRESS, 2007), p. 69.









multiple experiences of Western modernity was the devaluing of traditional discourses and the

emergences of new discourses, and each with a different way of imagining Iran.

Collapse of the Discourse of Monarchic Absolutism

By the late 1800s, Western modernity had deeply penetrated the traditional institutions of

the court and the Shi'i's institutions in unexpected ways. 16 The result was the weakening and

eventual collapse of the traditional discourses of monarch absolutism, which was based on

security and order imposed by the shah.

First, Iran's encounter with the West seriously undermined the court's existential relations

not only with its own elite class, but also with the local as well as religious authorities. As

previously explained, since the Shah Abbas reign (1587-1629) and until the early part of the

1906 constitutional revolution, the official state discourse (Saltanat-e Motlaq-eh) valued the shah

as the absolute personification of power of the state, and the shah ruled indirectly through

parallel structures of local authorities. Accordingly, the shah's absolutism was articulated in

terms of a divine political design that was necessary for maintaining peace, order, and security.

However, after the Tobacco Uprising, some state-elites and religious elites, as well as local

authorities challenged the official state discourse. For example, after Mirza Reza Kermani

assassinated Naser al-Din .\lha during the shah's pilgrimage to the shrine of the .\lh h Abdal-

Azim, a Shi'i respected sanctuary in northern Tehran, the interrogator posed this question to

Mirza:

If you really care about the country and as you say wished to protect the dignity of the
nation, then why did you not worry about creating chaos and anarchy? Kermani responds:
You are right. But if you look at the history of European countries, you'll see that there is
no great purpose that is not achieved through bloodshed. 17


16 Shi 'ite is a noun and Shi'i is an adjective.

17 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, pp. 60-70.









This text is a mere instance of two contending discourses in their struggle for meanings. While

both Kermani and his interrogator understood the relation between the shah's life and the

significance of"order" and "peace," as opposed to "chaos and anarchy," Kermani devalued them

and preferred restructuring of the existing order as the Europeans had done in the past. Kermani

was a new generation of roshanfekran or "enlightened ones." The term had floated into the

Persian language by the state-elites from the French language. However, what was more

important than the word was the narrative that was associated with the word Roshanfekr. The

narrative of enlightenment was associated with concepts, such as development, progressive

history, laws, people's right of citizenship, class justice, and secular ethics. These concepts were,

however, new in the language and practices of the state and the society. Relatedly, the very

naming, knowing, and representing of these concepts were subversive because all of them were

represented in relational differences to values, concepts, and narratives associated with the

official state discourse.

By the late 1800s, various texts represented the shah's autocratic power as the source of

bad government. His absolutism was portrayed as a wicked design perpetuated by foreigners and

enforced by lackey courtiers. These attitudinal shifts in the discourse translated into the

weakening of authority on all levels of governance.

First, the relationship between the court and the people changed. The extensive network of

patrimonial relations that the Qajar dynasty (1781-1925) had built began to breakdown rather

rapidly. On the one hand, the economic, military, and political superiority of the West was

reducing the court's revenue rights, destroying the self-sufficiency of local economies and









creating social unrest.18 On the other hand, the emancipatory aspects of Western modernity were

beginning to delegitimize the court from within and without.

The weakening of the court continued to corrupt the very fabric of the court and its

relationship with itself and the people. Even Naser al-Din Shah, who once saw himself as the

shadow of God on earth, became infatuated with the glory of the West. In Iranian mythology, the

shah of Iran was referred to as the .\lhi Ihui\l which literally means the king of kings. In the

collective imagination of Iranians, the shah of Iran was in fact perceived as the king of kings in

the same way he was depicted in the stone carving in Persepolis. According to these images and

narratives associated with them, the shah of Iran would annually receive kings, dignitaries, and

governors of other states, who would come from near and far to show their respect, submission,

and loyalty for the great .\l/ihihnlth of Iran. Accordingly, they would kneel in front of his

majesty and submissively offer their expensive gifts. This representation of the shah of Iran, as

the center of the world and the king of kings, had been taken as inevitable natural facts of social

reality for centuries, was now collapsing. The shah was no longer viewed as the king of kings,

and Iran as the center of the world.

Relatedly, the Shi'i clergy had helped legitimize this image since the Safavid dynasty. On

rare occasions, the clergy submissively had protested the abuses of kings' appointees through

private channels, but never did they question the absolute authority of kings over life, property,

and liberty of the people. Neither did the clergy question the legitimacy of monarchic order.

By the mid-1800s, this image of the shah of Iran had collapsed along with the mythical

reverence for the institution of the court and the Iranian monarchic order. In the discourse, the

West had become the center of the world and the locus of power and glory, even for the shah of

18 Abrahamian argued that the standard of living began to decline in the 19th century. See Katouzian, State and
Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis, p. 286.









Iran. For example, Naser al-Din Shah himself traveled to Europe three times-of course on

borrowed money from Britain. The act of visiting Europe had become prestigious, and for the

state-elites as well as the shah, traveling to Europe or getting a Western education became a

distinguished honor. The West had become the Promised Land. In the collective imagination of

the people, the center of the world had shifted from Iran and the Iranian court to Europe and the

European courts. Instead of Iranian kings receiving kings from other states, the shah of Iran

wished to be received by European leaders.

By the 1920s, the once powerful and proud Qajar dynasty was subsidized by Britain, and

Ahmad Shah-the last of the Qajar dynasty-had no memory of what it meant to be the shah of

Iran. In a letter, Sir Percy Loraine, the charge d'affaires of the British Foreign Office in Tehran,

reported to his superior, Lord Curzon in London: Ahmad Shah is so fearful [referring to Ahmad

Shah's domestic opposition] that he has requested "to pay another visit to Europe, and thus

escape fresh and possibly final humiliations." Then Loraine expressed his regret for not being

able to convince Ahmad Shah to remain in Tehran and defend his own crown. 19 The narrative

ends when the British granted Ahmad Shah permission to leave Tehran with some pocket

money. At the time, the people referred to Ahmad Shah as "Ahmad alaaf" which means

"Ahmad the loiterer." The representation of the shah of Iran as a street loiterer was an indication

of changing values as how Iranian imagines the shah. In brief, as the result of Iran's encountering

the West, the discourse of monarchic absolutism collapsed and the shah of Iran was no longer

understood as God's shadow on earth.






19 Ahmad Movasghi, Modernization andRefrom in Iran; from Theory to Practice (Tehran: Ghoomes 2006/1385), p.
172.









The Shifts in the Discourse of Shi'ism

The encountering of the West also began to change Shi'ism. For many centuries, the

institution of Shi'ism-headed by ulama-enjoyed the support of faithful followers, had

financial independence from the state, and they enjoyed a large network of mosques, schools,

and seminaries inside and outside of Iran's territory. This relative autonomy gave ulama a certain

degree of political immunity from the state's coercive means. Previously, the Shi'i clergy had

used its power to moderate to some degree the excessive abuses of the court while it

simultaneously legitimized and reproduced the Iranian monarchic absolutism as a divine political

order.20 However, by the mid-1800s, the traditional role of ulama began to change.

As the court began to lose its power, it also lost the overwhelming support of ulama.

Ulama no longer could rely on the court to maintain the internal peace in the country or prevent

the threat of external interventions. What had begun as a gradual shift reached its peak during the

Tobacco Uprising. Ulama resented the court for capitulating to the British interventions. This

resentment was in sharp contrast with ulama's position at the beginning of the 1800s. Ervand

Abrahamian wrote about these shifting positions:

Europeans, such as Quseley, Morier, and Sheil, freely attended mosque services, passion
plays, and even Muharram flagellation ceremonies. Moreover, Christian missionaries
freely opened schools, printing houses, and churches without encountering major hostility
from either the government or the Muslim population. The mood, however, changed
as the result of the foreign war, and particularly after the humiliating Turkaman-chay
treaty.21







20 The autonomy of Shi'ism became especially relevant during Naser Al-din Shah when Ayatollah Morteza Ansari
was able to unite all Shi'ite under his leadership (marjaiat). See Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 71.
21 Nikki R. Keddie, SayyidJamal Ad-Din Al-Afghani: A Political Biography (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1972).









In short, as the result of Iran's encountering the West, its dominant political discourse collapsed.

While the court lost the traditional support of ulama, the established clerical began to lose its

own legitimacy.

For centuries, ulama were the sole epistemic community with an unrivalled role in the

production of knowledge in Iran. However, as the result of Iran's encountering Western

philosophy, science, technology, and modernity, ulama lost its monopoly over the production of

knowledge. By the late 1800s, Western concepts permeated the language of Shi'ism with

subversive effects. While some wanted to stop this permeation and confront the West, others

wanted to adapt to it and reform Shi'ism.22 In other words, even the discourse of Shi'ism, which

had not changed its narrative for centuries, began to change, although inadvertently.

Constitutive of these changes was the revival of a methodological debate among Shi'i

scholars. The debate created two new schools of Shi'i thought-Akhbaris and Ussulis. Akhbaris

literalistss or textualists) relied on the literal meaning of Qur 'an, Hadith, and other holy texts.

Literalists understood Islamic texts as divine, perfect, and immutable. In contrast, Ussulis

(principlists or interpretivists) insisted that the Islamic Holy Texts are living documents and their

meanings should correspond to the necessities of the time (moqtaziat-e zaman). In this debate,

while the former would encourage a fixed reading of Islamic texts, the latter privileged an

interpretive approach to the understanding of Islam. Although by the mid-1800s, Ussulis had

won this debate, the traces of these two methodological schools remained in the political debate

among Shi'i scholars. For Shi'i literalists, all aspects from the West had a corruptive effect on


22 For a reformist view of Islam, see Mehdi Ansari, Sheikh Fazlolah Nouri Va Mashrotiat; Rodaryi-E Du Andisheh
(Sheikh Fazlolah Nouri and the Constitution; Confrontation of .. Thoughts) (Tehran: Entesharat-e Amir Kabir,
1997/1376).

For a confrontationalist view, see Roxanne Leslie Euben, Enemy in the Mirror: Islamic Fundamentalism and the
Limits of Modern Rationalism (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999), p. 97.









the Islamic way of life, so they rejected the West as a whole and suggested a return to an Islamic

Self. However, others argued that for the Islamic Self to survive, it had to rationally adapt itself

according to the necessities of time, that is, to learn Western philosophy, science, technology,

and governance. A prime example of an Islamic reformist was Sayed Jamal Afghani whose main

argument was that "the decay of the Muslim umma (community) and its manifest weakness in

relation to European ascendance are inextricably tied to the neglect of science and philosophy."23

In sum, the Tobacco Uprising represented a turning point when traditional discourse of

monarchic absolutism began to fall apart, and the values embedded in the political discourse of

monarchic absolutism, which had not been contested for centuries, began to be opposed. In other

words, what were previously valued became devalued, and concepts that did not previously exist

in the language entered the language. In the next section, I will examine these new concepts as

they entered into the language during the 1906 constitutional revolution.

The 1906 Constitutional Movement

By the constitutional revolution of 1906, the discourse of monarchic absolutism had totally

collapsed. By then, even the king, ministers, and many others in the court devalued the old order

and valued a new law-based political order similar to those of European governments. Law

became the basic signifier of the discourse constitutionalism and the state adopted it. Majority of

the clergy, the state-elites in and out of the court, merchants, and urban masses constructed an

alliance that became known as "constitutionalists." For constitutionalists, law was supposed to

provide security and order, develop and modernize the country, and determine state relations

with itself and its surrounding world.




23 Ali Reza Kashi, The Order and Trend of the Discourse of Democracy in Iran (Tehran: Gam-e No, 2006/1385), pp.
46-52.









In 1906, constitutionalists succeeded in forcing Muzaffar al-Din Shah to sign a decree

ordering the formation of a constitutional government (houkumat-e Mashroteh). The primary

demand of everyone involved was the establishment of a lawful government. In other words, a

particular formation of discourse succeeded in becoming the official state discourse and thus the

official policies and practices of the state, at least for a few months.

In October 1906, the first national representative assembly (Majlis .li,,i y-e-\ llli) opened

and passed the first Fundamental Law of Iran. The Fundamental Law (Qanun Assaasi) quickly

attempted to pass laws establishing a sovereign nation-state governed by laws. The Majlis

quickly removed the principle of the shah's divine right of sovereignty and placed it with the

representative assembly of the people in the Majlis. These policies and practices were

constitutive of how law had entered into the language as the solution for the people's security

from the abuses of power by the state-elites, as well as the essential component for promoting

Islamic justice and societal development. Texts written during the constitutional revolution have

consensus on the necessity for establishing a sovereign nation-state governed by laws (Qanun),

that is, based on national interest derived from the general will of the nation led by the people's

representatives.24

Accordingly, the constitution granted equal rights and freedom before the laws passed by

the Majlis. It declared the Twelve Imami Shi'ism as the official religion, and appointed a body

consisting of five grand Ayatollahs to assure that no laws passed by the Majlis would violate the






24 For example, rooz nameh qanoon, published by Mirza Malkum Khan in London. For a review of these
publications, see Katouzian, State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis,
pp. 25-84. For more information on the Constitutional movement in Iran, see Javad Sheikh-Islami, "Mohammad Ali
Shah; Characteristics and Ending Political & Economic Ettela'at 20, no. 227-230 (2006).










principles of Islamic laws.25 The Majlis also established the first Iranian National Bank to begin

an independent development of Iran. Relatedly, it tried to reestablish control over its customs and

import-export taxation. It removed the right of the shah to enter into treaties, loan agreements,

and other matters without the consent of the Majlis. It barred the shah from placing his close

relatives in the cabinet and set budgetary limits on the court's expenditure. It created a secular

judiciary branch and vested all legislative, investigative, and budgetary power with the Majlis. It

also tried to pass a bill of rights the content of which became a contentious point between

modernists and Islamists.26 In other words, by signifying law as the basis of the state

sovereignty, development, law, justice, and Islamic norms, constitutionalists attempted to build a

modern nation-state. But as soon as constitutionalists established a law-based government, their

shared vision of community collapsed, and it was not again reconstructed until 1921, which will

the subject of Chapter 3.27


25 During this era, another interpretation signified modernism more than law. Modernists published many anti-
clerical essays and promoted laicism as if they were in the midst of an academic debate in an intellectual gathering
in the West.25

26 Among these papers were Su-i Israfil and Habl al-Matin who were very critical of even Islamic reformists.
27 This section was partly informed by the following texts: Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, 49-101.

Abrahim Taymouri, "Iran before the Constitutional Revolution," Political & Economic Ettela'at 20, no. 227-230
(2006/1385): p. 11. Malek al-Shua'ra Bahar, Tarikh-IAhzab-I Siyasi-Yi Iran (History of Political Parties in Iran)
(Tehran: 1945).

Kashi, The Order and Trend of the Discourse of Democracy in Iran, pp. 46-52.

Rooz nameh qanoon, published by Mirza Malkum Khan in London. For a review of these publications, see
Katouzian, State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis, pp. 25-84.

For Constitutional Movement in Iran, see Ansari, Sheikh Fazlolah Nouri Va Mashrotiat; Rodaryi-E Du Andisheh
(Sheikh Fazlolah Nouri and the Constitution; Confrontation of 11. Thoughts).

Ahmad Kasravi, Tarikhe Mashrotiate Iran (History of Iran's Constitution) (Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1978/1357).

Mashallah Ajoudani, Mashroteh Irani Va Nazaryeh Valayat-E Fagih (Iranian Constitutionalism; Backgrounds for
the Theory of Guardianship of the Jurisprudent) (London: Fasl-e Ketab Publication, 1997/1367).

Mashallah Ajodani, "Ejtema'eyon Amyon (Social Democrats)," Political & Economic Ettela'at 20, no. 227-230
(2006). Also Ahmad Roohul-Qudos, "Freedom Roohul-Qudos Jamad al-Sani 1907.









At the time, Malek al-Shoara-ye Bahar, a radical democrat and famous poet, called for the

revived unity that had brought the monarchic absolutism to its knees. In a nostalgic tone for the

unifying ideals of the constitutional revolution whose origin was not far in the future, Bahar

wrote:

Agreed, we did not, to the breaking of our own promises,
To the losing of our own oneness,
To the shattering of our own nation,
And to the changing of our own minds.
But agreed, we did,
To the saving of our motherland for God's sake,
To the unity of our own people for God's sake,
And to the destroying of our own internal enemy for God's sake.28

Although the poet assumed the oneness of the "motherland," the "nation," and the "internal

enemy" for all Iranians, no such oneness existed. Different imaginations of Iran had opposing

notions of the "motherland," the "nation," and the "internal enemy." These internal divisions

turned to the loss of faith on the part of the people about the constitutional movement, and even

the word "constitutionalism" (mashroteh) came to mean killing and looting rather than how it

had been previously valued as the universal ideal for goodness. According to Katouzian,

"Whenever anyone killed anyone and anywhere was looted, they said it was constitutionalised .

S(beh mashroteh-ash resi).29

When World War I broke out, Iran's internal division was exacerbated exponentially.

Although Iran declared neutrality, it did not have the power to enforce it. Thus, it became the

Hosein Bashiriyeh, Mavanea Tosa'yea Syasi Dar Iran (Obstacles to Political Development in Iran), vol. 5 (Tehran:
Gam-e No 2001).

Adamiat, Freedom and Thoughts and the i. ,,ig of Constitutional Movement (Fekr Aza'dy Va Moqademeh Yeh
Neza't Moshroeya't). Mohammad Malekzadeh, History of the Constitutional Revolution of Iran (Tarikh-E Inqila'b-E
Mashrutiyat-EIran), 5 vols. (Tehran: Suqrat Press, 1949), v. 1, pp. 202-205.
28 For the Farsi text, see Katouzian, State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the
Pahlavis, p. 58.
29 Ibid., p. 71.









battleground between the Allied and Central Powers. Russia occupied the north; Britain occupied

the south and began arming Bakhtiyaries, Khamseh, and Arab tribes. The Ottomans invaded the

north and forced the Russians out of Azerbaijan. They also moved into the northwest and began

arming the Kurds who fought the British and their Arab tribal proxies at the time. The Germans

began to arm and advise the Bluchies, Qashqaies, and Tangestanies tribes, who began fighting

the British forces in the south. The pro-Germans members of the Majlis fled the capital and

established a provisional government in Kermanshah in the northwest.30 In contrast, the pro-

Allied government remained in Tehran.31 In other words, there were two governments and

multiple fronts, and each front reflected an existing internal division exploited by external forces

for their own interests.

In short, the previously high hope of establishing a constitutional government turned into

despair. By 1918, the population was suffering from severe famine. At least one-quarter of the

population in the north, which is the most fertile part of Iran, starved to death; there are no

existing records of the effects of the food shortage on the rest of the country.32 Reflecting the

state of the country, words like chaos, anarchy, war, starvation, corruption, and occupation

described the conditions of the country, and urgent calls for the restoration of order dominated

the texts.

After the war ended, Britain blocked Iranian envoys to the Versailles Peace Conference in

1919. Simultaneously, the British Foreign Office Secretary in London, Lord Curzon, was

pressing for an immediate passage of a mandate that would legally bring Iran under the formal

control of Britain. He had approved the bribing of three key cabinet ministers in exchange for

30 William J. Olson, Anglo-Iranian Relations During World War I (London: F. Cass, 1984), pp. 45-46.
31 Keddie and Richard, Modern Iran: Roots and Results ofRevolution, p. 75.
32 Katouzian, State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis, pp. 91-116.









their help to lobby other legislatures.33 By 1920, Curzon gave up his scheme, partly because

Britain had even more of a problem in Iraq, which was under its mandate.34 Then he wrote,

"Persia is now paying the penalty for her own vacillation and folly, and, if she cannot extricate

herself by the only legitimate means, namely by constitutional action of Majlis summoned for

the purpose, no other expedient can save the situation."35 Suddenly, it appeared that Britain was

the country that wanted to help install a constitutional government in Iran, but Iranians did not

want it or could not handle it. These events had injurious effects on the emergence of Iranian

nationalism, which had been born in the womb of colonialism, nurtured by internal division, and

exploited by imperialist competition of Western powers.

For example, Aref-e Qazvini (1882-1934) created a literary genre at the time, which had a

dark, racist, and xenophobic tone. Aref's poems are imbued in the culture of Shi'is glorification

of martyrdom, and his music and songs are pervaded by religious and mourning tunes. In a song

that Hamid Dadbashi called "something of a national anthem for Iranian revolutionary

nationalists at the purest and most noble moments of their idealism," Aref wrote, "From the

blood of young people of this nation tulips have grown/In mourning for the fallen figures,

cypress is bended."36 While Aref depicted the British as rapists, criminals, thieves, and vampires,

he represented the Germans in a positive light. Through hundreds of his songs and poems cited,

sung, and acted, the image of dying for the ideology of an ambiguous Iranian nation has been

burned into the collective conscious of Iranians. However, the glorification of dying for the


33 Rashid Klul.idi i;'. ', .... '", Empire: Western Footprints andAmerica's Perilous Path in the Middle East, 1st
cloth ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 2004), pp. 26-27.
34 In 1920, Iraq was in revolt against British forces. In Egypt, as well as Palestine, British forces were under guerilla
attacks. See Herman Norman, "British Documents on Foreign Policy (1921), v. iii, no. 607.
35 Dabashi, Iran: A People Interrupted, p. 103.
36 Movasghi, Modernization and Refrom in Iran; from Theory to Practice, p. 203.









nation is usually articulated in relation to the struggle against foreign others (khareji). The

foreign others are always represented as enemies inside working with foreigners outside of a

presumably homogenous nation that has existed only in words but practiced in deeds.

Conclusion

In this chapter, I briefly described the specific historical condition that resulted in the

collapse of the century-old official state discourse of the Iranian monarchic absolutism. I

described how previously valued concepts were devalued, and new basic signifiers entered the

language. While in the pre-modem discourse of monarchic absolutism, the shah, who was

signified as the absolute provider of security for the Muslim-Iranian subjects, began to be

represented as the cause of insecurity and the threat to the Islamic way life. The meaning of the

shah as the security provider collapsed. Relatedly, the meaning of what was previously

represented as a divine political ordered collapsed. Meanwhile, four new signifiers gradually

entered the language. Together with traditional signifiers, the new signifiers began to construct

competing imaginations of Iran, which I have called "contending discourses," each with a

different image of an ideal nation-state that is secure, developed, lawful, democratic, class-just,

and Islamic.

I reviewed the Tobacco Uprising, which was the first urban-based mass movement that

shared a vision of a national community united against the shah and against Britain. In 1906, that

shared vision formed a unity among constitutionalists who wanted to establish a law-based

government. Soon after the establishment of the first Iranian constitutional government, the

extreme internal division, exacerbated by the occupation of foreign powers, forced the country

into civil, local, and tribal conflicts, which ended only when Reza Khan's British-backed coup

resulted in establishing the first modern state Iran. In Chapter 3, I will explain the formation of

Reza Khan's imagination of building a modern nation-state.









CHAPTER 3
THE DISCOURSE OF MODERN ABSOLUTISM (1922-1941)

Introduction

As explained in the previous two chapters, Iran's encountering the West produced new

collective imaginations, which I have called "political discourses," and if one discourse is

adopted by the state, I have called it the "official state discourse." In Chapters 1 and 2, I

demonstrated that Iran's encounter with the West caused the collapse of the discourse of Iranian

absolute monarchism (Saltanat-e Motlaq-e) in which the state (houkumat) was represented as a

divine political order bestowed upon kings. Accordingly, God was regarded as the absolute

sovereign, and kings were considered God's authoritative delegates, thus the absolute sovereigns

on earth. Texts represented the absolutist political order of kings as a divine design for

maintaining public interest (maslahat umomi) by providing order and security and preventing

chaos and conflict, which was also consistent with the interest of the Islamic community or

nation (maslahat umat-e Islam) at large. In other words, the legitimacy of the sovereign was

inseparably linked to the ability of kings to maintain an absolutist political order and provide

security. In Chapter 2, I showed that for many centuries, rural, urban, religious, and tribal

authorities simply acquiesced and adhered to this practice. Relatedly, since the Safavid dynasty

(1501-1722), Shi'i clerical authorities, for the most part, reinforced the legitimacy of this

political order.

In Chapter 2, I examined the rise and fall the 1906 Constitutional Revolution, which

marked the first time that law became the basic signifier that permeated the meanings of state

building, nation imagining, and foreign policymaking. For example, building a constitutional

state was conceptually linked to modernizing, civilizing, and developing the nation. Imagining

the nation was linked to instituting legal, rational, and administrative norms consistent with









Islam, class, and the people's local interests. However, during the 1906 Constitutional

Revolution, the battle between the old and new political order continued. On the one hand,

constitutionalists signified the primacy of law in establishing a legal, modern, class-just, and

sovereign political order. On the other hand, monarchists signified the primacy of security in

order to modernize the country without creating chaos, to maintain Islamic laws and traditions, to

prevent class warfare, to prevent revolution, and to protect the national interest by creating a

balance between Russia and Britain. Modernization vis-a-vis absolutism was the Japanese model

that interested Iranians. Whereas constitutionalists imagined a parliamentarian political model,

monarchists imagined a Japanese or German model. Nevertheless, by the 1920s,

constitutionalism failed and so did the state. Because of rampant insecurity, chaos, famine, civil

war, occupation, and tribal conflicts, the primacy of providing security once again became the

defining signifier for the state. I call this political discourse "modern absolutism."

I call it "modern" because the state began to signify and treat modernization projects as

historical missions. I also call it "absolutism" because the shah eventually personified the state

and essentially became the absolute sovereign over all aspects of social, political, and economic

life. Thus, the motto for Reza Shah's state-building project began with restoration of security

(amniat) to the country.

Once modern absolutism became the state official discourse, it began to permeate the

meanings of other signifiers-political order, modernization, law, people, class, and Islam. First,

the state wanted to modernize, centralize, militarize, and bureaucratize. This representation

meant valuing a particular understanding of modernization and devaluing traditional mechanisms

of governance. Second, the state signifiers-security and development-permeated the meaning

of"people" of Iran and constructed an official nationalism. Third, the state permeated the









meaning of Islamic myths. The state began to represent Islam as traditional, local, and not

originating in Persian myths, therefore antithetical to the discourse of absolute modernism.

Fourth, the state represented itself as the absolute law unto itself. Thus, the state attempted to

eliminate local, tribal, and religious customary laws. Representing the state as law unto itself

made rules under modern absolutism even more arbitrary than under the personalistic rules of

ancient regimes. Additionally, the concept of a constitutional state became a performative

instrument of reinforcing the absolutism of the shah and the state fused into one. Fifth, the state

represented and understood class-based identities as anti-Iranian and pro-communism. Sixth, the

state aligned itself with the West against the socialist East. This chapter will examine how the

state began to build a modern state, to construct an official nationalism, and to make relations

with other states constitutive of political discourse.

Establishment of a Modern Absolutist State

Constitutive of the political discourse of modem absolutism was the desire for the

restoration of order and security (nazm va amniat). By the 1920s, the meaning of a political order

(a sovereign order) was attached to the building of a strong and centralized state that could

provide order and security for the nation. In other words, order and security permeated the

meanings and practices of constitutionalism, which had resulted in utter chaos and insecurity for

the country from 1907-1921. Hence, the motto for Reza Shah's state-building project began with

restoration of security (amniat) to the country.

The restoration of order and security by the state became the primary signifier of the

official state discourse. Modem absolutists, or "modernists" for short, built an absolutist state,

which was equipped with a well-disciplined military that enforced its order and its official

nationalism. Modernists also built a modem bureaucracy to administer the state developmental

projects, and they instituted a judicial system to enforce the state official identity. During this









transformation, modernists destroyed local or traditional structures of authority, administration,

common law, and customs. In the next few sections, I will examine texts that illustrate how

modernists forged a great transformation by destroying traditional, local, and religious

mechanisms of governance. Instead, modernists began to govern based on what they understood

as Western models, which were represented and understood as progressive, efficacious, and

legitimate.

Based on these practices, modernists adopted an eclectic set of governing templates

modeled after various Western experiences. For example, the military was first modeled after the

British and later after the German system. The gendarmerie (the rural police) was modeled after

the French provincial police. The state bureaucracy was modeled after the Germans, and the

judicial system was adopted from French legal codes. Meanwhile, the prison system was

administered according to Swiss codes, the educational system was copied from the French

school system, and the Treasury Department was designed after the American system. In these

transformative adoptions, the key concern was the destruction of the traditional mechanisms of

governance because they were understood to be backward and thus illegitimate. But all models

of mimicking Western governance were viewed as signs of progress and therefore legitimate. In

other words, the justification for measuring the legitimacy of governance was not an objective or

tangible fact outside of the language. But the justification was indeed shaped by the very

representation of what was considered "modern" or "traditional." In other words, the legitimacy

of modernization was counterpoised to traditionalism, localism, tribalism, and decentralism.

While modernization was understood in terms of its oppositional differences with

traditionalism, localism, tribalism, and Shi'ism, the establishment of an absolutist order was

understood in terms of its oppositional differences with chaos, insecurity, underdevelopment,









class warfare, religious backwardness, foreign occupation, and intervention. Accordingly,

absolutism was valued and legitimized. Hence, violence, coercion, and fear were valued as

necessary means to establish order. But the use of dialogue, compromise, negotiation, and

consensus building was devalued as signs of the state's weakness. The use of violence, coercion,

and fear was in sharp contrast to the Weberian concept of legitimate authority, which

presupposes the least possible use of coercion and violence as signs of modern legitimacy.

During Reza Shah's modern absolutism, the frequent use of coercion and violence was

represented as the absolutist authority of Reza Shah. From this perspective, the building of a

modern military, police, gendarmerie, and bureaucracy were understood as instruments of

establishing an absolutist control over all aspects of social life rather than legitimizing

institutions. In other words, the use of violence or coercion was legalized, regularized,

bureaucratized, and normalized. Violence and coercion remained as a legitimate instrument of

maintaining and securing the state. In fact, Reza Shah fell from power as soon as the collective

fear for the regime disappeared and the legitimacy of the use of force became illegitimate. In the

next few sections, I will examine how modern absolutism represented, understood, and practiced

the building of the state, the imagining of the nation, and conducting relations with foreign

powers.

Militarizing and Bureaucratizing the State

In this era, the military grew from 40,000 men to a force of 127,000 well-disciplined

troops, controlled by a hierarchic command structure. The army consumed "thirty-three percent

of the annual budget."1 To expand the manpower pool, Reza Shah instituted a mandatory

conscription for all 18-year-old males. Islamists protested this move, but they were no longer any


1 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 136. Also see Hussein Makki, Tarikhecheh Jebhaya Melli (a Short
History of the National Front) (Tehran: 1954), pp. 109-113.









match for Reza Shah's regime. He established a military school for officer training in Iran and

sent officers to France and Germany for additional military training. Besides the army, Reza

Shah established a small airforce and navy. In short, the military became the primary pillar of the

state-building project, and high-ranking military officers gradually became the most powerful

among the state-elites.

Equipped with the coercive means of violence, Reza Shah instituted a modem

bureaucratic apparatus armed with legal codes and procedures. His bureaucracy modernized

governance by trying to destroy all forms of traditional governance, which was founded on

familial, communal, and consensus. In this modern and bureaucratically-administered

governance, the technology of creating and enforcing rule, order, control, discipline, and

punishment differed in three fundamental ways.

First, the reach of a brutal bureaucracy extended to the remotest part of the country. The

people as well as bureaucrats obeyed rules, and violators received harsh punishment. For

example, the state dictated migratory routes, force-settled some tribes, and replaced local and

religious authorities with bureaucratic ones. These measures extended the reach of the central

government beyond what any previous state in Iran had ever done. During this era, governance

was indeed systematic, centralized, and bureaucratized. Governance was also more brutal,

intrusive, and arbitrary than ever before because the system was constructed on insecurity. Fear

was represented and understood as an inevitable but necessary evil for governing. Hussein Makki

cited an occasion when Reza Shah ordered his chief of police, General Ayram, to find the

anonymous writer of an offensive letter. In a verbal account to Ali-Akbar Davar, the head of the

Judiciary, Ayram boastfully accounted for the bureaucratic procedures he had followed to take

the offender's confession of that "heinous" crime in one day. After Ayram finished his report and









left, Davar regretfully confided to his friend about the unknowable plight of those innocent

people whom the chief of police had falsely accused to take over their lands and simultaneously

make himself appear indispensable to the shah.2 In this representation, it is obvious that fear was

understood as an inevitable part of social reality. The shah feared a letter supposedly written by

social enemies; the chief of police feared the shah; the accused feared the state and even

confessed to crimes they did not commit; and the chief justice of the country feared the system

he had helped create. Moreover, the arbitrariness of rule is concomitant with the strict adherence

to bureaucratic procedures.3

Second, governance was rule-based, but rule making was as arbitrary as ever. Ervand

Abrahamian states:

[F]ew executions were carried out in these years for the simple reason that violent crime
rapidly diminished once the state established control over the highways and stamped out
rural banditry .... For the first time in history, the state was armed with the full machinery
of modern government-a central bureaucracy, a standing army, and a national police
force. In short, it had the Maxim gun and thus could dispense with the public gallows ....
The modern prison had come to Iran via the modified and more humanitarian systems of
early-twentieth-century Western Europe. Like much else in Pahlavi architecture, ancient
Iranian motives were grafted onto the building to give it an "authentic" look. The Western
penitentiary had been Iranianized.4

A Swiss administer operated the prison system more or less according to European models and

based on legislatively passed rules and procedures, but the shah decided to violate the rules. He

could easily do so by ordering the rules to be tailored to his liking. In other words, although

governance became ruled-based, modem, and bureaucratic, the rule-making remained as

2 Ervand Abrahamian and NetLibrary Inc., Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 26-27.

3 In a trip to Firouz Abbad, in the middle of the Qashqaye tribal territory, I encountered an old grave dating to Reza
Shah's reign. According to local residents, the grave belonged to a state-hired engineer who had failed a road
inspection. The engineer was allegedly placed under the tire of a military truck and run over. While this particular
story might be exaggerated or even false, the perception of Reza Shah as a strict enforcer of rules has become
mythical. Reza Shah, of course, was proud of his reputation.
4 Katouzian, State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis, p. 317.









arbitrary, personal, and absolutist as during the period of monarchic absolutism. According to

Taqizadeh, Reza Shah's favorite phrase was "I destroy you." He used these three words when he

decided to eliminate many of his once loyal ministers, bureaucrats, and tribal chiefs.5

Third, rules and procedures of governance were embedded neither in the social fabric of

the society nor in accordance with the existing social norms. Thus, rules and procedures of

governance were not understood and practiced because the state feared them. On the contrary, in

the traditional mode of governance rules, procedures, punishment, and mediations were all social

and local norms and thus understood and practiced accordingly. In other words, in the rush to

modernize and centralize the country, the state adopted rules and procedures modeled after

European countries but with total contempt for all existing social and local norms and practices.

As a result, for a great majority of people, modem rules and procedures were obscure and hard to

follow.

As if the incompatibility of social and local norms and practices with imported rules and

procedures was not enough, the inefficiencies of bureaucracy made sure that bureaucratic rules

and procedures remained without any mediating mechanisms. At least in the traditional

governance, many layers of mediation were in place for rule violators. For example, accused

violators of rules could seek holy sanctuaries, at least temporarily, to provide a cooling-off

period. In some cases, the family of an accused would solicit respected elders to lobby on the

accused's behalf. In other cases, respected clerks would provide a level of protection from the

state. On the contrary, for an overwhelming majority of the people, no legal path existed to

mitigate, mediate, or appeal false convictions, bureaucratic mistakes, and intended and

unintended abuses of rules. Hence, the birth of the first modern state in Iran was concomitant

5Bashiriyeh, Mavanea Tosa'yea Syasi Dar Iran (Obstacles to Political Development in Iran), Katouzian, State and
Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis.









with the destruction of locally-based norms and rules and the construction of a disembedded state

from the society.6

In short, during this era, Reza Shah established a sovereign absolutist state. Equipped with

military and bureaucracy, the state extended its reach into the remotest section of the country.

Although governance was rule-based, rule-making remained arbitrary. Additionally, for a great

majority of the people, the bureaucratized, centralized, and European-based rules and procedures

were too obscure and without mediating mechanisms to soften their arbitrariness.

Dominating the Polity

Constitutive of the political discourse of modem absolutism was the drive to purify the

political system from all other contending discourses. In this transformation, modernists led by

Reza Shah monopolized the political system. The Majlis abandoned its previous role of

representing the people and adopted the role of representing the will of the shah, who had

become the embodiment of the state. The Majlis gave up its plural identity and adopted a

singular identity with a unified voice that reflected that of Reza Shah. The Majlis changed from

choosing the cabinets and running the government to merely receiving and conducting orders

from the cabinet selected by the shah. In this transformative process of creating an absolutist

state, parties were banned and their leaders were deported, imprisoned, or killed.

Gradually and methodically, the state banned all modern forms of freedom of expression as

they had been practiced since the 1906 Constitutional Revolution-the press, trade unions,

strikes, protests, assemblies, political parties, and so forth. The state also destroyed traditional


6 Most scholars argue that because of the arbitrariness of personalistic rule in Iran, the state has always been
disembedded from society. For example, see Movasghi, Modernization andRefrom in Iran; from Theory to
Practice. Alamdari, Why Iran Lagged Behind and the West Moved Forward Hosain Makki, Tarikh-E Bist Saleh-E
Iran (History oJ .,. y Years) 8vols. (Tehran Nashre Nasher, 1945/1324), v. 6, p. 375. This argument, however,
assumes that there was always a centralized, controlling, and dominating state in Iran. However, evidence shows
that the traditional state in Iran was very weak and decentralized.









political authorities. By harsh and coercive measures, the state discouraged tribal and nomadic

lifestyles. For example, the gendarmerie restricted access to, and the movement across, the

traditionally recognized tribal territories. It expropriated many tribal lands. Reza Shah also killed

or deported tribal chiefs who were not completely co-opted. In some cases, even some of those

who were co-opted were killed after they could no longer fit into the state's modernization

projects.

The state also changed the structure of traditional authorities in rural areas.7 Landowners,

or in some cases the gendarmerie, appointed local authorities without the consensus of the locals.

Moreover, the state ordered the privatization and expropriation of previously held communal

properties. In these processes, large landholders, with access to the newly instituted State

Registrar Offices, could and did register their holdings under their names. But local and small

landowners, who were unfamiliar with the required legal formalities, lost legal rights to their

land. In short, the state monopolized all political powers to the fullest extent possible. With this

transformation, other contending political discourses, which had become united by the

signification of security, began to become a part of the opposition to the state.

Commanding the Economy

In addition to the monopolization of political power, the state-elites also monopolized the

economic resources. During this era, property relations changed in favor of a new breed of large

landholders whose acquired properties were the result of their military rankings, bureaucratic

positions, or court patronages. No traditional landholders survived this transformation except

those directly associated with the state. With an estimated holding of 15% of Iran's arable lands,

Reza Shah, by far, became the largest landholder in Iran. Additionally, Reza Shah appropriated



7 For the structure of traditional authority, see Chapter 4.









some of the most lucrative monopolies in the country. The shah's wealth, combined with the

wealth of a relatively small number of landed military and state-elites constituted the largest

portion of private wealth in the country. As though monopolization of private wealth-to the

extent that was possible or profitable-was not enough, the state began to control a substantial

portion of economic production. This monopoly of wealth and power gave the ruling elites, led

by the Pahlavis, unprecedented economic wealth and control. Accordingly, in a very short

period, the state monopolized all means of coercive, administrative, political, and economic

power. With the power and institutions of the state, Reza Shah went on to his state-building

projects according to how modern absolutism represented and understood development.

Development and Modern Absolutism

Modernizing (tosea) was one of the constituting signifiers for the political discourse of

absolute modernism. Identifying with modernism was the desire to develop, progress, and

civilize (Tosea, Taraqi, and Tamadon) Iran according to an evolutionary image of a history in

which the West led the way and Iran was forced to catch up along the same path. This

evolutionary image of history was understood as natural and universal. Hossian Maki's eight-

volume history book, Tarikh-e Bist Saleh (The History of Twenty Years 1921-1941), details Reza

Shah's period, presupposing the naturalness of the "law of development and growth." In one of

many implicit and explicit references to "this law," Maki wrote:

One of the most fixed laws of nature is the law of growth and evolution. All things in the
universe, from material things to human beings and from microscopic creatures to planets
and stars always and without interruption are progressing forward and incrementally
evolving. Human societies, which are a part of the nature, follow this fixed law.8

However, all contending discourses shared this understanding of progressive history, but

each with a different interpretation.


8 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 148.









For modernists, the interrelated levels of economic, political, and cultural development

determined the level of civilization or lack thereof. At the level of the economy, the criteria for

measuring economic development were the scales of bureaucratization, industrialization,

privatization, and capital accumulation. At the level of policymaking, the measuring rods for

political development were the size, power, and control of the state. At the level of society, the

criteria for measuring social development were the extent to which Iran looked Western-like.

Understanding Economic Development

At the economic level, the scale of projects and the role of the state were the criteria for

measuring development. Accordingly, large-scale, state-led, and foreign investments were

considered efficient, productive, and modern, but small-scale businesses were understood as

inefficient, unproductive, and local. Doing business on a large-scale basis meant that the state's

role in the economy changed from a previously non-interventionist and/or non-existent policy to

an intervention economic restructuring. As the revenue collection from oil, tariffs, royalties, state

monopolies, and deficit spending increased, the state's ability to enter into grand developmental

projects toward infrastructural and industrial building projects was enhanced.9 The state began to

build the trans-Iranian railways, roads, the National Bank of Iran, factories, the University of

Tehran, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health, and many more modernizing projects.

Additionally, state-owned companies operated utilities, financial cooperatives, trades, and a host

of institutional mechanisms that provided 20th century amenities and regulated the daily lives of

Iranians. 10 This modernism transformed the state into the largest investor, producer, consumer,

educator, and employer in the country.


9 Mohammed Amjad, Iran: From Royal Dictatorship to Theocracy, Contributions in Political Science, No. 242
(New York: Greenwood Press, 1989), p. 97.
10 For more information on these modernization projects, see Sims Ghani, Iran and the Rise ofReza Shah: From
Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Rule (London; New York: I.B. Tauris, 1998), p. 295.









Ali-Akbar Davar, perhaps one of the most important advocators of modem absolutism,

insisted upon economic development as the solution to Iran's main problem-underdevelopment

(aqab oftadegi). The following passage is an excerpt from Davar's writings:

The contemporary Western civilization is the result of the Industrial Revolution ... and the
West is not stronger or superior because it has more intellectuals, schools, libraries, and
scientists; all these are branches, leaves, and fruits of the Western civilization. The root
cause of the superiority of the civilization of others [the West] is their railroads ... as long
as they [the West] worked with their hands as we did, and carried loads with horses as we
did, their lives were not that much different from ours. But from the moment Europe drove
on rails and began to control the nature while our nation kept on riding donkeys, Iran was
destined to live in destitution. While the industrial revolution was taking place, we
[Iranians] were living in a world of sleep-like ignorance. Then when we woke up, we
saw two uninvited European giants on either side of our bed ... Although we recognized
the intrusion, we did nothing. Now that we have a few years of experience before us, now
that we have seen how Britain and Russia have carved up Iran into their spheres of
influence and have forced us to abject poverty once again. .[How can we change?]. ..
.What did Japan do forty years ago? Did they resort to poetry? Did they use their prayer
beads to develop their country? Did they curse their rulers and shout that foreigners stop
them from developing their country? No, they built a railway system, they opened up
schools and universities, hospitals and as long as we refuse to dedicate ourselves to an
economic revolution, as the Japanese have done, we will move or change nothing. We will
remain as a submissive nation of disaster-stricken, starved, and tattered cloaked beggars,
we continue suffering even more as time goes on. While it is true that we have six-
thousand years of history, we cannot exchange that history for factories, railroads,
hospitals, and schools.11

For Davar, who represented a great majority of the state-elites at the time, state-led

developmental projects meant the difference between becoming Western or non-Western.

Developmental projects, without the absolute power of the state, appeared impossible for Davar.

He wrote:

For Iran, the establishing of an absolutist state is a patriotic mission by which, as logic
dictates, a strong-willed and competent leader must lead this nation to its desired destiny
[development]. The leader must impose upon the nation what is good for them, and must
do what is necessary even if he has to use the force of whips. 12



1 Bashiriyeh, Mavanea Tosa'yea Syasi Dar Iran (Obstacles to Political Development in Iran), p. 72.
12 Ibid., pp. 75-76.









In these representations-analogous to Marxist-Leninist vanguards who assumed for themselves

the burden of pushing history forward to a certain desired destiny-Davar also wanted to push

the nation forward to a certain desired destiny. The problem was that the desired destiny was not

for the majority of the people, but for the state-elites.

The "desired destiny"-development-was represented as a patriotic mission, and its

achievement was represented as the absolutism of the state. Hence, the state-led developmental

projects were understood in terms of patriotic and historical missions that differentiated Iran

from its underdeveloped, traditional, rural, primitive, savage, non-Western-like opposite. Even

the way the state produced statistics reflected these representations and constructions. For

example, statistical indicators that referred to the levels of industrialization, urbanization,

bureaucratization, large capital investments, global trades, and the scale of the state intervening

powers were represented and understood as signs of development and progress. In contrast,

indicators that referred to agriculture, peasantry, tribes, small capitalists, merchant capitalists,

small-scale enterprises, and traditional merchants (bazzaaris) were understood as the shameful

signs of underdevelopment and traditional economy-and thus devalued. 13

As such, understanding development, led the state to pursue projects on a grand scale. By

far, one of the grandest of all the state projects was the Iranian Railway System. According to

Homa Katouzian, a well-known expert in the economic history of Iran, the scale of investment in

the railway system, as well as some other of Reza Shah's modernizing projects, did not justify its

actual or potential benefits to the country. 14 In fact, the actual and potential benefits did not

match, as Katouzian argued, the allocation of the national resources to the project. He concluded



13 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979, p. 79.
14 Ibid.









that economic projects pursued during Reza Shah's era were more about showing off the

construction of factories than the actual benefits received from their operation.15 He wrote:

"Based on available documents, it is evident that the economic policies during Reza Shah's era

resulted in expensive large-scale projects with low returns. This resulted in the wasting of

national resources."16

Understanding Political Development

The criterion for measuring political development was the scale and extent of state control

over the means of production, distribution, and consumption. Thus, the concentration of all

military, economic, and political power to the state, which was controlled by military and

bureaucratic elites, was represented and understood as political development. This way, the state

became the epicenter of all powers and institutions. It offered the most "lucrative posts, favors,

and futures to those willing to serve it.""17 The state enhanced the lives of those willing to submit

to it, but it deprived those who could not or did not submit to it. The state provided some modern

amenities to its urban citizens, but deprived its rural and tribal citizens.

In other words, to provide or deprive services, to invest or divest, and to facilitate or inhibit

economic activities by the state's bureaucratic regulations were not neutral economic decisions.

They were value-laden political decisions, which were constitutive of how and what the state

understood as legitimate services, good investments, and useful economic activities.

Accordingly, the absolutist power of the state was valued as a developmental necessity. Thus,

providing and investing in military personnel and bureaucracy were valued, as was providing and

investing in Western-oriented research and developmental and educational projects. As expected,

15 Ibid., p. 79.
16 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 137.

17 Ahmad Kasravi, Zendegani Man (My Life) (Tehran Bonyad 1944), p. 256.









those who worked for the state were among the highest paid and highly esteemed sector of the

society, and almost all high-ranking state officials had a Western education.

Conversely, the state deprived rural areas and small cities from state services. The state

divested itself from small-businesses, artisan production, the merchant class, and agriculture.

Also, the state inhibited tribal, nomadic, local, and traditional productions. These political

decisions reflected how the state understood what constituted modem development versus

traditional and thus underdevelopment (aqab oftadegi). Relatedly, those who worked in

traditional productions found themselves with lower earnings and disadvantaged social statuses,

that is, in contrast to those who worked for the state and had a Western education. Understanding

development as such created many dichotomies, for example, urban-rural development.

In the representation of urban-rural relations, those who lived in Tehran were represented

and understood as more educated, civilized, urbanized, and modernized than those who lived in

rural areas. But a new meaning was attached to "locality." In the past, those who lived in villages

and cities identified with their localities as their countries (Vatan). In other words, local identities

did not mean the stage of one's development, education, or civilization. However, gradually this

construction entered the language and has remained as part of the language ever since. For

example, in the construction of an urban-rural hierarchy, words such as a "villager" (Dewhati)

lost its previously neutral meaning and became a pejorative term that represented a negative

image of a crude, uncivilized, uneducated, and base person-an insult that plagues the language

even today. In another example, the word a 'malea, which literally means a "worker," was

previously a neutral word, but it became associated with villagers working in the growing

construction projects in Tehran and became a denigrating and offensive word. To be politically

correct, in recent decades, construction workers are referred to by the literal description of their









jobs since no noun has yet been coined that avoids the negative connotation of being a

construction worker.

Similarly, in the hierarchic construction of urban-rural relations, people living in cities

other than Tehran were categorized as ,shal/h// Ia\/ \ (non-Tehranis). Although not as negatively

loaded as that of Dewhati, the word is pejorative, and the connotation remains in the language

today.

Understanding Social Development

At the societal level, the sole criterion for measuring social development was the level of

Westernization, which meant taking on a Western appearance-most of the time in form but not

in content. Accordingly, the state represented Western education, Western lifestyles, and

instrumental rationality as social development. However, the state represented and understood

traditional education, lifestyle, spirituality, faith, religion, local customs, and local norms and

practices as social underdevelopment or backwardness regardless of their substance or lack of

substance.

In the attempt to appear Western, the state focused on the project of transforming

traditional ways to "modern" practices. Equipped with the administrative, coercive, political, and

economic powers, the state prohibited the practicing of religious rituals, gatherings, and

ceremonies. It banned Sharia laws, took away traditional clothes, and eliminated the role of

clergy as judges. Most significantly, the state began to replace the clergy, who up to then

administered various religious endowments (Vagf). As a result, the clergy benefited from an

autonomous source of income for various Shi'ite institutions. For example, the largest property

holder in Khurasan was-and still is-the Immam Reza endowment in Meshhad.

Whereas the building of the Iranian Railway System symbolized a grand economic

development, abolishing Shari laws symbolized the most significant social development. As a









result, the Ministry of Justice, headed by Ali-Akbar Davar, a Swiss-educated lawyer, banned the

practicing of the then common laws-Sharia laws. In its place, Davar adopted the French civil,

criminal, and procedural codes, which, according to Kasravi, Davar referred to as "world-like

laws" (Qanoon-e Donya Pasand) as opposed to Iranian-like laws. For Davar, however, the

world-like laws actually meant Western laws.18 But for most Iranians, these laws were alien,

obscure, and, in many cases, incomprehensible. The rules were difficult, if not impossible, to

follow in two ways. First, the people did not understand the rules because they were not

compatible with their social practices and norms. Second, the state did not provide mediating

mechanisms that could protect people from arbitrariness of its rules. As an example, for many

centuries, state authorities had recognized the sanctuaries of certain holy shrines where people

would seek a temporary reprieve from the arbitrariness of traditional rules. The state suddenly

stopped this practice, but it did not simultaneously provide alternative mediating mechanisms.

The state-led social transformation, however, went far beyond the mimicking of Western-

based laws and procedures; it extended into the state dictating clothing attire. Until 1928, the

majority of male adults in urban areas-clergy and non-clergy alike-wore a variety of frocks

(Abba), cummerbunds (shawls), and different headgear. Although the state had not officially

attached Western-Eastern meaning to clothes, modernists had. Most modernists wore Western

clothes, and Iranians associated the wearing of Western clothing with modernists. In his memoir,

Kasravi wrote of an occasion in March 1927 when he had gone to Davar for a job in the newly

instituted Ministry of Justice. Following the social norms of the day, Kasravi had worn his Abba,

(shawl) and ammameh (turban). 19 In the job interview, according to Kasravi, "Davar bluntly told


18 Ibid., p. 255.









me, 'I have a job for you, but it cannot be done with a turban.' I responded, 'I have no particular

attachment to my turban, sir.' Then Davar nodded approvingly and said, 'If that is the case, get

rid of the turban and then take a picture of yourself and send it to me.' I responded, 'I will.'"20 In

other words, even before Reza Shah ordered people to wear Western clothes, state officials

identifying with absolute modernism unofficially imposed Western-style clothes on the state's

employees. However, as the state became more powerful, so did the attempt to make the nation

uniformly Western in appearance.

In 1928, while the state banned the wearing of traditional and ethnic clothes for adult

males, it ordered them to wear Western-styled clothes and a particular type of hat, known as a

"Pahlavi cap" because Reza Shah wore one. The only conditional exemption to this edict applied

to the clergy; they had to obtain a permit from the state if they chose to wear their traditional

clothes. Supposedly, with this act, the state wanted to make the nation appear modern.

In 1934, in what Reza Shah's sycophants termed as the "Emancipation of Women," Reza

Shah outlawed the wearing of veils in public or any head-cover except the then fashionable

European hats. The police were also ordered to enforce the law. According to Mahmood Jam, the

prime minister at that time, the shah had ordered the state's high-ranking officials to attend a

public gathering with their wives-unveiled for the first time in their lives. After the official

speech, the shah consoled Jam for the unfashionable ways some women had attended. He then

commented, "They [women] will gradually learn how to follow fashions and wear pretty dresses.

Now that we have broken their prison bars, they must use their freedom to build a beautiful

house instead of a prison for themselves." 21 Of course, the first two pseudo fashion models for



20 Makki, Tarikh-E Bist Saleh-E Iran (History of II.. y Years) v.6, p. 267.
21 Mahmood Jam's Memoir in, Ibid.









Iranians were Reza Shah's own daughters-Princesses Shams and Ashraf-whose public

attendances and pictures set the tone for what was then considered fashionable. During

Mohammad Reza Shah's rule, his three different wives took on the job of being the most

fashionable models. Of course, none of them ever wore colorful clothes that, at the time, the

majority of rural and tribal women wore. Ironically, Iran, which had not become a formal colony,

lost a rich and colorful variety in its local cloths. India, which was a formal British colony, did

not lose its local and traditional cloths to the same extent that Iran did.

Additionally, Reza Shah ordered high-ranking state officials, military personnel, and

bureaucrats to take their wives to public ceremonies and gatherings. In short, in the name of the

"Emancipation of Women," the unveiling of women became another symbolic representation of

the West. The unveiling of was, however, a new representation and thus it produced many new

meanings.

Traditionally, the covering of women's bodies from the public eye was associated with

social statuses of women rather than religious ethics. Women with the highest social status

refrained from showing up in public. When in public, men of lower social status would have to

look down or away out of respect for these women. Public streets would be cleared in advance

for the women of the court. Nevertheless, for the overwhelming majority of the population living

in major cities and towns, these pretentious social ethics were luxuries unavailable and

unaffordable. Moreover, almost all rural and tribal women, who at the time constituted the

overwhelming majority of the female population, wore their own local clothes, which was not at

all uniform or Islamic. In any event, until then, women went about their lives as they had done

for thousands of years, bound by their communal social norms-just as men were bound by these

norms. Because of Reza Shah's edict, urban women with the lowest social status were hurt more









than those who could either afford to buy the relatively expensive hats (which were not

manufactured in Iran at that time) or stay home and be served or others. At the time, most cities

did not have running water, hence, women gathered around the nearest local water sources,

usually a small stream running through each neighborhood, to do their washing Additionally,

women were responsible for carrying drinking water from local water houses (Aab Anba 'r),

usually in open container on their heads. Women were also in charge of preparing food, which

had to be purchased, gathered, and picked from various local sources on a daily basis. Therefore,

those who could least afford Reza Shah's fantasy of Westernization-vis-a-vis clothes-had to

bear the heaviest burden. Under those conditions, women were expected to wear fancy European

clothes and hats, as the state imagined, while carrying water buckets over their head or washing

children's dirty clothes or cleaning pots and pans on the side of local water streams. The state

played a cruel joke on Iranian women. Interestingly, Reza Shah's fantasy of Westernization, as

seen by its clothing, was the result of his trip to Turkey, where, at the time, Ata Turk was also in

the process of modernizing his countrymen's clothing. Reza Shah's policy of Westernization,

however, collapsed with his regime. What has remained of his regime is how meanings have

been attached to clothing. From then on, how an individual dresses can offer much information

about his political or religious identity. Thus, while the state intended to make all Iranians look

uniformly Western, the result was that it instead infused religion into politics and clothing. In

other words, even clothing became a political statement.

In 1936, Reza Shah ordered all men to wear felt brimmed hats-the European bowler hats

(kolahfarangi). These hats had become fashionable in Europe. According to Hedayat Mukhber

al-Saltane, who had retired but still maintained contact with the court at the time, this forced









fashion statement was another attempt to make Iranians look Western. In his memoir, Mukhber

wrote:

In a meeting, the Shah lifted my hat and asked, "What do you think now?" [referring to his
latest "civilizing" attempt by changing the Pahlavi Cap to the European hat], to which I
responded, "The old one [Pahlavi Cap] had a better name." Agitated, his majesty took
some steps and retorted, "All I am trying to do is for us to look like them [European] so
they [Westerners] would not ridicule us." To which I replied, "And, of course, this has
been a thoughtful consideration of yours. Then I said to myself, what they [Westerners]
ridicule us for is because of what is under these hats, which are the type of our virtueless
emulations of them.22

Intended or not, for most people, the intent behind Reza Shah's decision to impose brimmed hats

was understood as another attempt to prevent faithful prayers to properly touch the ground with

their foreheads, as it is required in Muslim prayer. These practices created a deep division

between the state and society and caused resentment, riots, and protests. The result caused the

loss of hundreds of lives and untold number injuries-and did not transform the society as Reza

Shah had intended.23

Imagining the Nation

Constitutive of the political discourse of moder-absolutism was the way it represented the

official Irani from his internal and external other (Khareji). Iranian official nationalism was

linked to three symbols or codes: history, language, and race. This construction was formed by a

selective meaning of the history of Persia, of the Farsi language, and of the Aryan race. The shah

was the critical link connecting these codes to the state and the nation of the past to the present.

This linkage was supposed to reinforce the state official identity. These linkages are explicitly



22 Ibid., v. 6, pp. 263-267. However, the longer version of this text is interesting in another way. Although Reza
Shah and Mukhber had a different understanding of what Westerners might ridicule, they both were conscious of the
fact that Westerners ridiculed Iranians. In this text, and many other texts, the distinction between us/them,
superior/inferior Westerners/Iranians is very clear to both Reza Shah and Mukber, although their reactions are
different.
23 M. Afshar, Ayandeh June 1925, p. 5-6.









expressed in many of the modernists' texts during the Pahlavi dynasty. A great example of the

linkage between the shah and the state is an editorial article in Ayandeh (The Future) published

in 1925 by Mahmud Afshar, a European-educated political scientist, who wrote what was

explicitly and implicitly expressed in many modernist newspapers, academic institutions, official

slogans, and policies.

Our ideal is to develop and strengthen national unity. The same ideal created the nation-
states of Germany, Italy, Poland, and Rumania. The same ideal destroyed the multinational
state of the Ottoman Empire. What do we mean by "national unity"? We mean the
formation of cultural, social, and political solidarity among all the people who live within
the present borders of Iran. How will we attain national unity? We will attain [national
unity] extending the Persian Language throughout the provinces; eliminate regional
costumes; destroying local and feudal authorities; and removing the traditional differences
between Kurds, Lurs, Qashqyis, Arabs, Turks, Turkmans, and other communities that
reside within Iran. Our nation will continue to live in danger as long as we have no schools
to teach Persian and Iranian history to the masses; no railways to connect the various parts
of the country; no books, journals, and newspapers to inform the people of their rich
Iranian heritage; and no Persian equivalents to replace the many non-Persian place names
in Iran. Unless we achieve national unity, nothing will remain of Iran.24

In this text, the author linked the land, the language, and the nation to a pan-Persian view in

which the Persians are the "true" Iranians and non-Persians are not "true" Iranians. Historically,

these linkages were non-existent. Even in today's Iran, Farsi-speaking people easily understand

those who live in Afghanistan and Tajikistan but not those who live within the borders of Iran.

Therefore, making linkages among the land, language, and nation was as arbitrary then as it is

now. But that was how modernists imagined and understood the nation.

Romanticizing History

During Reza Shah's reign (1926-41), equipped with the state academic and intellectual

machineries, the romanticization of history of the Persian Empire took on new dimensions.



24 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, pp. 124-125. Translation by Morteza Saqeb-far, Shahnameh-E
Ferdosi and Iran's Philosophy of History (Shahnameh-E Ferdosi Va Falsafeh Tarikh-E Iran) (Tehran: Qatreh-
Moeyeen, 1998/1377).









During Reza Shah's era, the glories of the Persian Empire were linked to the state's

modernization projects, and the majesties of its kings were linked to Reza Shah's absolutism. In

these representations, as the Persian kings had been powerful and absolutist, so was Reza Shah.

As the Persian kings had defeated the non-Iranians, so was Reza Shah. As the Persians people

supposedly had revered their kings, so were the contemporary Iranians.

In this practicepractice, history was divided into "before the fall" and "after the fall" of the

Persian Empire. While the history of Iranian rulers before the fall of the Sassanid Empire was

romanticized as glorious and victorious, the history after the defeat of the Sassanid Empire by the

Arabs was represented and understood as the period of miseries, defeats, and non-Iranian rulers.

However, some exceptions to this general representation occurred. Abu Muslim Khurasani (700-

755) had defeated the Abbasids' Caliphate, and he was thus represented as an Iranian ruler. So,

too, was the Shah Abbas (1571-1629) who had defended Iran from the Ottomans. The fact that

Shah Abbas was a Turk and spoke Turkish in his court did not disqualify him as an Iranian ruler.

Nader Shah (1688-1747) was also represented as a great Iranian ruler and conqueror because he

had defended Iran from the Ottomans, and he had defeated the Russians and had conquered

India. Again, the fact that he was a Turk and spoke Farsi with difficulty did not diminish his

stature as a great "true" Iranian ruler. Similarly, Reza Shah was also represented as a great

modern shah-the equal of Cyrus the Great, Darius the Great, Abbas the Great, and, of course,

Nader Shah the Great. Reza Shah was represented as the man who was supposedly restoring the

glories of the past by building a strong, sovereign, modem state, which, of course, could become

as powerful as the Western states.

Official Language

Constitutive of the sub-discourse of the Iranian-outsider (Irani/Khareji) was how Farsi

became the official language of the state. Officializing the language also reinforced the









differential relations between Iranians and non-Iranians, Persians and non-Persians, urban and

rural, and Tehranis and Shahrestanis.

Farsi constituted a "true" Iranian language versus other languages. In officializing Farsi,

the state organized and funded a Center for Cultural Iranian Studies, Farhangetsan, which,

among other tasks, tried to purify the language of non-Persian words. It also turned Abol Qasem

Ferdosi (935-1020) into the personification of Iranian official nationalism. Ferdosi's most

famous book, .,h,1th-.\A;i,,h, is a collection of poetic narratives describing the majesties of

Persian kings in their wars with non-Iranians, such as Toranian, Aniran, and Devan (devils). For

the celebration of Ferdosi's millennium, which was proposed by the scholars of the Oriental

Studies at the time, the state built a grand memorial to Ferdosi.

For centuries, the importance of Ferdosi as an Iranian author has been what Homer is to the

Greeks-an oral history that is more than the factual events of the past; it is a mythological

narrative of the Iranian historical memory.25 Imbued with metaphors, myths, and mysticism,

Ferdosi's narratives are understood temporally in time and space, but in its entirety, Ferdosi's

Shah-Nameh consists of a collective historical imagination that is kaleidoscopic in interpretation

but unified in its form of delivery and presentation. In this collective imagination in form rather

than content, the rhymes, rhythms, and melodies of the flowing words of Ferdosi have remained

fixed in memories from one generation to the next. But the interpretation of his words has varied

from one moment in space and time to the next. This collective imagination, however, was not

just about Ferdosi. It was about Rumi, Saadi, Hafez, and hundreds of other literary works, but in

the officialization of language, Ferdosi was privileged over other literary works.




25 Ahmad Kasravi, Sheikh Safi and His Descendants (Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1352).









For centuries, Iranian poetry has been the skin that covered the body of Iranian collective

consciousness, the only collectivity that bound its otherwise fragmented body. This collective

imagination was not, however, just about Ancient Persia or its kings. It was also about Islam,

Erfan, Qur'an, and the experiencing of living and dying in one's time and space. These poems

were not purely Persians. They were not anti-Arabic or anti-Turkic, and they in no way

corresponded to the Pahlavi official nationalism. Ironically, not even Ferdosi was an anti-Arab or

Turkic racist. After all, \lll-.\Mi,tlh was written to be presented to Mahmood Ghaznavi (998-

1030), the shah of a Turkic dynasty (975-1187), loyal to an Arab Caliphate (Abbasids 750-1258).

Moreover, Ferdosi's language was not "purified" of Arabic or Turkic words.

For Iranians, regardless of their ethnic, religious, or geographic backgrounds, the poems of

Ferdosi, Rumi, Hafez, and Sa'adi were not compatible with the language of Iranian official

nationalism. Rumi wrote in Farsi, Turkic, and Arabic. The most famous Iranian poet, Hafez, had

no reservation about using Arabic words, Qur'anic phrases, Islamic metaphors, and Shi'ite

myths. If a "true" Iranian poet ever existed, Hafez would certainly qualify as one. On the other

hand, Sa'adi, who ranked as high as Hafez, was more concerned about the physical world than

Hafez's metaphysical world. Sa'adi was, however, a traveling political philosopher, a storyteller,

a poet, and an advisor to different courts. He was-and still is-known to Iranians, as well as

Afghans and Tajiks.

In other words, the language of Persian poetry, as a whole, had nothing to do with the

language of official Iranian nationalism. Nevertheless, a particular reading of Ferdusi's

narratives became a part of the official myths of the state. In the same way a few of the Iranian

kings represented an official history, a narrow reading of Ferdosi represented the official

language of the nation-supposedly a purified Farsi.









Therefore, Farhangestan concocted Persianized words to replace Arabic and Turkic words.

In a series of directives, Farhangestan ordered the state bureaucracy to use Persianized words,

phrases, titles, and even names. Accordingly, the state changed the names of government

ministries. For example, the name of the Ministry of Justice changed from Adleya to

Daadgostary. The Treasury Department changed from Maliah to Dara'ee. Besides, almost all

well-known state officials changed their names and titles. For example, Adlol Mulk, once the

speaker of the Majlis, became Dadgar, Mushir al-Dewleh. Two esteemed brothers in the 1906

Constitutional Revolutions changed their last names to Pearnia. Titles such as Mirza and Khan

were dropped in official references. The name of many of the provinces and cities were

Persianized. The southwestern province of Iran changed from Arabestan (home of Arabs) to

Khuzestan. Ironically, the majority of Arab tribes who had lived in southwest Iran for centuries

did not call the region Arabestan, a Persian word. They called this region al-Hhozia, which is

also another deflected Persian word and the root word for the current name for the city of

Ahwaza, the capital city in the province Khuzestan. The port city ofMahmareh was changed to

Khoramshahr. Paradoxically, while local names were being Persianized, the most well-known

Persian name of all, Persia, as Iran was then known to the world, was changed. In a 1936

directive to foreign embassies, the name of the country was officially changed from Persia to

Iran, which was the word natives used for the country.

These rhetorical practices also penetrated into social practices. Arabic and religious names

that Iranians had used for many centuries lost their linguistic neutralities, and, in many cases, the

naming of children became an exercise of representing a variety of political identities-the same

way clothes had become a political expression. For modernists, Persian names reflected the state









official patriotism while some Arabic and Shi'ite names had religious connotations.26 However,

with time, the politicization of Persian-Arabic names intensified not only for modernists, but also

for other Islamists. In short, the purification of the language was linked to the official

nationalism, and modernists' texts clearly showed the linkage.

Kasravi's texts could show an example of this linkage. Embedded in the official

nationalism, Kasravi, who was born in a Turkish-speaking Azerbaijani family, began to refer to

Iranian Turks as Azaris (people living in Azerbaijan).27 In many of his writings, Kasravi made a

bold claim: the people living in Azerbaijan and currently speaking Turkish were not and had

never been Turks by race. They were indeed "true" Persians who had adopted the Turkish

language after the invasion of Turkic tribes beginning in the 1 1th century. However, Kasravi did

not explain why many other ethnic languages survived the many centuries of Turkic rule in Iran,

but the Azaris did not. He made similar claims for the Arab-speaking population living in

Khuzestan and southern Iraq. In a sense, Kasravi began to Persianize Azaris, as well as other

ethnicities. For example, Kurds were represented as belonging to a branch of the Aryan

(Arya'ian) ethnic group-the Medes (Madah). During the Palavi era, high school texts

represented the Medes dynasty as a blood-relative of Ackaemenids and thus "true" Persians. The

Kurdish language was represented as the language of Avesta, Zoroaster, and Gathas (the hymns

believed to be written by those of Zoroaster). Nevertheless, for modernists, the fact that Kurdish

history and language were even more ancient than those of the Persians did not justify

"Kurdicizing" Iran rather than "Persianizing" it, as Kasravi tried to do.




26 While widely used names, such as Ali, Hassan, Hussein, and Mohammad, are politically neutral. Some have
definite religious attachment, intended or not.
27 Makki, Tarikh-E Bist Saleh-E Iran (History oJ ... -, Years) v. 6, p. 206.









Kasravi's attempt to "purify" Farsi from its own historical experience-by detaching it

from the present and then linking it to a dubious past-was a typical understanding of how the

discourse of modem absolutism understood official nationalism. Kasravi's books and writings

are full of creatively constructed words, which make it difficult to follow an otherwise excellent

historical account of the 1906 Constitutional Revolution.

Nevertheless, as Kasravi's purification of the language failed, so did the state

Persianization policies, as expected. More than 40% of words in Farsi are Arabic. Farsi is written

in the Arabic alphabet, and any language is a social experience not easily amenable to political

design.28 Separating Farsi from foreign words was as impossible attempt of an event as

separating the English language would be from it Germanic, French, or Latin words. But much

like the attempt to impose dress codes, the Persianization of the language had unintended

consequences. In the short run, Persianization provided a source of entertainment because some

Farsi words created in the offices of Farhangestan had dual meanings and connotations. Even

Reza Shah was aware of these situations. Once, he was so angered by the ridiculousness of a

newly concocted word that he appointed himself as the final check before new words were

officialized into directives. The situation was full of irony because Reza Shah was known for

being almost illiterate.29

However, the lasting result of the language purification was the construction of internal

others-Turks, Kurds, Arbas, Lurs, and so forth. For several millennia, people speaking different

languages had lived on the Iranian plateau. The possibility existed that some of these languages

have, or might have, common roots. But in practice, the Gilaks, Turks, Lurs, Kurds, Arabs,


28 In thel930s, a serious debate took place for changing the Farsi alphabet from Arabic to Farsi, as Ata Turk had
done in Turkey, but the proposal failed.
29 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979, p. 177.









Bluches, and Turcomans could not communicate with each other or with the Farsi-speaking

population. These Farsi-speaking people constituted roughly half of the country's population at

the time, but the people living in different location did not have to communicate with each other

in the past. However, during Reza Shah's rule, the officialization of the Persian language was not

successful. It did not create a unified national image, but instead politicized history and

language.

An Official National Race

Race also became an approved key word for official Iranian nationalism. Textual

representation of "true" Iranians was that of a superior race.30 Aryan (Arya'ian) was explicitly

represented as being superior to Arabs, Turks, and other ethnicities.31 Even elementary and high

school textbooks stated that savage Arabs, Mongols, Tartar, Turks, Uzbek, and Afghans were

counterpoised to gentle, highly cultured Iranians. Interestingly, Iranian victories over other

nations were represented as "civilizing missions," For example, the invasion of India by Nader

Shah matched, if not surpassed, the savagery of those who invaded Iran, but this savagery was

represented as the greatness of Nader Shah. No Iranian invasion, however, was represented as

"savage"-but "savage" was used to describe the Arab invasion of Iran in the 7th century. One of

the Persianized words Farhangestan coined for the word "Arab" was Tazi. The supporting

argument for this coinage was that in the ancient texts, Iranians referred to Arabs as Tazian-the

plural form for Tazi. Although the historic credence of this claim is dubious at best, the current

meaning of Tazi is that of a "savage" or the name for a type of "hunting dog." Nevertheless, in

official and literary texts Arabs were referred to as Tazian. Interestingly, to date, this word has

30 For the purpose of this dissertation, I refer to "race" only in its rhetorical practices and not in reference to any
apparent or not-so-apparent physiological or cultural differences.
31 "Aryan" is a categorical race and language designation attribute to the people who shared an Indo-European
mother language. The meaning of the word has gone through some changes of its own.









never entered popular texts, but it has remained in modernists' texts. In any event, these racist

connotations entered into fictional literature where the imagery of Arab and Turkic savageries

were truly noteworthy. In later decades, a particular literary genre developed in Iran: Roman-e

Tarikhi (romantic history) with three common themes in this genre. First, Iranians were

victimized by the Arabs and later by the Turks. Second, the post-Arab invasion of Iran has been

a struggle to defend the Iranian civilization from savages. Third, early Islamic-Arab

achievements in arts and sciences were actually the achievements of the Persians-not those of

the Arabs.

Academia also had a great role in the creation of this knowledge. In 1934, when the

University of Tehran formally opened, many prominent modernist figures helped establish a new

field-Iranology (Iran e.\/, t/ii). Iranology was a bridge that connected Persian history,

language, literature, and architecture to Iranian official nationalism. Abdolhossein Zarinkoub,

Zabihola Safa, and Badiozzaman Forouzanfar were three of the founders of Iranology. During

this era, Allameh Dehkhoda published his 15-volume Persian dictionary. Interestingly, Iranology

had begun in 1903 at the University of Gottingen in Germany. Not surprisingly, during the

1930s, when Reza Shah admired Germany as an ideal Western developmental template, the

University of Gottingen was at the apex of the production of knowledge in the newly established

field of Iranology. This new field produced academic and scientific knowledge for the Iranian

official nationalism. The common theme among Iranologists was to compare the glories of the

past to the miseries of the present. However, in this glory-misery dichotomy, the official

nationalism related the glories of the past to the unity of God, the state, and the people. Not

surprisingly, throughout the Pahlavi dynasty, the state motto was "God, King, and Nation"









(Khoda, .\Vs//i, Mehan). This slogan was imprinted on mountain-sides, billboards, lawns, and

other visible places.

Relations with Other States: Identities, Alliances, and Enemies

As modern absolutism became the official state discourse, it helped constitute the direction

of Iran's relations with other states. The identification of allies and enemies was ranked, based

upon the extent to which the other reinforced or weakened the official state discourse.32A foreign

state would be ranked as an ideal ally if it helped reinforce the state official identity, but it would

be ranked as a potential enemy if it threatened the official state discourse. In this hierarchic

construction of allies-enemies, us-them, and Irani-khareji, the Soviet Union was ranked at the top

of the state's enemies, and the Western states were considered potential allies. Nevertheless, not

all states were ranked equally. While Germany and the United States ranked at the top of ideal

allies, Britain was ranked at the bottom of the state allies.

This hierarchic ordering of allies and enemies had come out of the Iranian experience of

World War I, the Russian October Revolution, the political disintegration of Iran during World

War I, and the defeat of the 1919 Agreement.33 These experiences prepared the way for the

construction of how Iran ranked the allies and enemies. But these experiences were not in

accordance with some universally understood objective reality as the basis for making these

decisions. Instead, the hierarchic ordering of allies-enemies was the result of how political

discourses represented and understood Self in relation to others.

Accordingly, the official state discourse represented and understood Germany as an ideal

ally that reinforced how the state represented its developmental model, race, and external others



32 See Chapter 3.

3 See Chapter 6.









(Russia and Britain). The official discourse also represented the United States as an ideal ally

that was disinterested in colonial competition. Thus, officials attempted to solicit an alliance with

the United States despite the fact that the United States showed little or no interest in Iran until

World War II. Hence, Iran gladly acquiesced in making an alliance with Germany or desired to

do the same with the United States. However, Iran represented Britain as an ally that preserved

Iran against the Soviet Union at the price of robbing Iran for its own interest. Thus, while it

remained in a preservative alliance with Britain, it simultaneously resented, suspected, and

resisted Britain's influence. Relatedly, Iran represented and understood the Soviets as the main

external and internal threat to Iran's sovereignty. In many ways, this hierarchic ordering of allies

and enemies differs from the argument that economic interdependence reduces security concerns.

In this case, Iran's Anglo-Russo economic and political interdependence was at a high level, but

the Soviet Union was considered as an enemy and Britain as a suspect ally. In contrast, Germany

and the United States, which started with no economic and political interest in Iran, were ranked

as ideal allies. By 1941, Germany had become the most influential ally of Iran, but the United

States had chosen to remain disengaged. Hence, Reza Shaw made the decision to enter into an

alliance with Germany or the United States. The resentment to remain in a preservative alliance

with Britain and to fearfully take a defensive position against the Soviet Union made sense only

in the context of how the state understood itself in relation to others.

Relations with Germany: Acquiescent Alliance

During Reza Shah's reign, Germany was represented as an ally because it reinforced the

official state discourse by supporting Iran's absolutism, by cooperating in Iran's developmental

projects, and by reinforcing Iran's official nationalism. When Reza Shah's regime began,

Germany had no economic interests or political influence in Iran, but by the time Reza Shah was

forced to abdicate in 1941, Germany had become the most important ally of Iran. In this alliance,









with a determined and deliberate deference to Germany, Iranian elites made an alliance with

Germany, which, to a certain extent, was reciprocated. This acquiescent alliance turned out to be

a strategic blunder by Reza Shah and the highly Western-educated ruling class. During this time,

Iran awarded Germany the contract for the construction of the Iranian National Railroad, which

was the most emblematic developmental program during Reza Shah's reign. The railroad was

viewed as an essential part of the modernization program. The building of the railroad, on

average, took 5% of the national budget from 1934 to 1941.34 Additionally, by 1940, Germany

became Iran's most important and respected trading partner, and, to a certain extent, helped

break the trading monopolies that the Soviets and the British had maintained for decades.35

However, the German presence in Iran reflected more than an economic or security interest. At

the time, the official state discourse represented Germany as two nations of the same race-the

Aryan race. Officials represented Germany as reliable trading partners, worthy allies, neutral

military advisors, honest government administrators, competent industrial experts, and superior

architects, as evident in the construction of government buildings of the period. Moreover, the

representation of German brand names as reliable products increasingly made those products

desirable in Iran. The German educational system was also admired. More students were sent to

Germany to study than all other European states combined. Even in popular street rhymes,

Germany was praised as an emerging power that could defeat the British.36

However, this acquiescent alliance was not the result of an objective analysis of Iran's

domestic and international environment following rational adaptation. Instead, it had emerged


34 Makki, Tarikh-E Bist Saleh-E Iran (History oJ /! .. 1 y Years) v. 6, p. 222.

35 Katouzian, State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis, p. 271.
36 Baloon to hava khoda /i,'. i. /I-,. t ,,. ,.- mordeh-e vo Alman bejash-e, This rhyme equated the technological
advancing of Germany in the air and referred to how the British were dying and the Germans were replacing them.









out of the formation of a particular understanding of Self in relation to others. In this

representation, Germany reinforced how state-elites understood themselves. The official

discourse reinforced Iran's state-building projects, nationalism, and foreign relations. Although

making an alliance with Germany might sound like an irrational decision now, it was a perfectly

rational decision within the context of the official state discourse that constituted the state

collective preferences.

Relations with Britain: Preservative Alliance

Compared to Germany, Reza Shah's era began with Britain having the most economic

interests in Iran. Nevertheless, Britain was ranked at the bottom of the hierarchic ordering of

Iran's allies. In contrast to the Iran-Germany alliance, the Iran alliance with Britain was not an

alliance reached by acquiescence. Instead, Britain had imposed on Iran, and Iran had no other

choice but to go along. During Reza Shah's rise to power, state survival depended upon making a

preservative alliance with Britain. The choice was a simple one. After Britain lost its bid to take

the administrative control of Iran by way of the 1919 Agreement, it decided to instead prop up a

pro-British regime headed by Colonel Reza Khan. This strategy suited the majority of the

contending identities in Iran because the country was on the verge of collapse by internal

disintegration and external threats. This reluctant acceptance of, and continued resistance to,

British rule was constitutive of Iranian national identity. This identity emerged as an "imagined

community" of an otherwise fragmented Self in relation to the foreign others (Irani/khareji). As

in the case of the 1919 Agreement when Vosuq's cabinet had reluctantly accepted but

continually resisted its passage, Iran reluctantly accepted but continued resisting Britain during

Reza Shah's reign.

However, as the power of the state increased, so did the resentment toward Britain, which

undermined not only the state's official identity, but also other contending signifiers-people,









class, Islam, and the law. First, the state resented Britain because it undermined its

conceptualization of an absolutist and modernizing order. The mere association of Britain with

the state undermined the image of an absolutist king of kings (shahanshahs), whose divine rule

was supposed to free Iran from foreign powers and modernize it. Second, it also undermined

popular nationalism because Britain had already been represented as the Iranian "historic" other

since the Tobacco Uprising in 1876. This image had been reinforced only by many events,

including World War I and the 1919 Agreement. Third, socialists resented Britain as the primary

imperialistic and colonial other. Fourth, Islamists identities hated Britain for destroying the

Islamic and traditional way of life. Finally, constitutionalists resented Britain for undermining

the legal basis of Iran's constitutional government and supporting a military regime. In short, the

hatred for Britain was almost universal, but the state remained in a preservative alliance with

Britain while resenting, suspecting, and resisting it. In other words, the alliance simultaneously

maintained and undermined the state and created tension.

This tension put Reza Shah in a precarious position. As someone who had come to power

with the help of the British, he consciously went out of his way to point out that he was a "true"

independent nationalist. Thus, he harshly punished those suspected of having the slightest

contact with the foreign powers in Iran. On one occasion, in front of some notable elites, he said,

"I know the British brought me to power, but I have served my country well."37 In other words,

he badly needed to show himself as independent from British control. Therefore, he never

allowed British advisors to take part in his state-building projects, and never funded students to

go to Britain for an education.





3 Pahlavi Mohammed Reza, Answer to History (New York: Stein and Day, 1980), p.124.









Reza Shah also suspected the British as being the mastermind behind many conspiratorial

schemes. This suspicion cost the lives of many of his most loyal supporters and created mass

suffering and misery. Reza Shah construed even the slightest criticism as yet another British

conspiracy to overthrow him. However, representing the British as the mastermind behind all

political and non-political issues had by then become a hegemonic and pervasive understanding

in Iranian politics. Elites as well as the common people constructed incredible narratives about

how the British controlled every behind-the-scenes situation. In this atmosphere of suspicion,

official or non-official contacts with foreign powers, especially those with the British and the

Soviets, were deemed as potential conspiracies against the state. Mohammad Reza Shah's

memoir contains many references to how his father was suspicious of Mohammad Mussadiq's

being an agent for Britain.38

The atmosphere of suspicion deeply influenced the way diplomatic relations were

conducted. For example, a complimentary comment in The Daily Mirror published in London

caused an uproar in the country and endangered the lives of many of Qaj ar descendants living in

Tehran.39 On another occasion, some French newspapers published articles referring to the

dilapidated conditions of Iran and its corrupted leaders. Upon reading these derogatory articles,

Reza Shah abruptly broke off diplomatic relations with France. Relations were reestablished only

after the French president wrote a letter and asked Reza Shah to reconsider his position. In his

response, the shah blamed the French newspapers for not "really knowing" about Iran and

expressed his hope for reestablishing mutual trust between the parties (ravabet bar asa 's-e

mohkam va moeta mediaa 'nea).40 In other words, the state understood Western criticism as a form


38 Katouzian, State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis, pp. 320-321.
39 Makki, Tarikh-E Bist Saleh-E Iran (History of / .. Years) v. 6, pp. 410-412.
40 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 162.









of conspiracy against the regime-a theme that was repeated many times. This perspective

resulted in the policy of banning any direct or indirect contacts with foreign governments unless

approved by the shah.

In addition to the atmosphere of suspicion, Anglo-Iranian relations were imbued with

resentment. For example, in 1934, Britain sold the rights for exploration and subsequent

production of the oil fields and oil production in Bahrain to Standard Oil of California. Bahrain

was formally recognized as a part of Iranian territory, but it had been under British occupation

since 1861. Once the sale became public, Iran announced that the transaction was illegal.

However, it had to quietly swallow its pride and submit to the reality on the ground.

Another point of resentment was complete British control of the Iranian oil industry.

Britain determined the level of production, managed the distribution routes, marketed the

petroleum products, and even chose the accounting practices, which cheated Iran of its already

meager revenue share. Additionally, Britain would not hire Iranians for its managerial positions,

and clearly discriminated against Iranian laborers. The housing quarters for Iranian and British

staff varied significantly. In front of the British residential quarters, a sign was posted: No

Iranian Allowed. Britain, in most cases, dealt with oil workers-by far the largest segment of the

Iranian industrial working class-very poorly. An example of this harshness follows:

On May Day 1929, eleven thousand workers in the oil refinery struck for higher wages, an
eight-hour day, paid annual vacations, company housing, and union recognition. Although
the oil company granted the wage demands, the British navy dispatched a gunboat to
Basra, and the Iranian authorities arrested over five hundred workers. The British foreign
minister formally congratulated the shah for his "speedy and effective handling of the
incident."41






41 Makki, Tarikh-E Bist Saleh-E Iran (History of ... Years) v. 6., p. 156.









While the people resented the discriminatory policies of the oil company, the state resented

Britain because it was at the mercy of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company for its revenue. Therefore,

the tension between the two states was always very high.

In 1932, for example, Britain's deliberate lowering of the oil production in Iran reduced

Iran's revenue. Frustrated by the lack of control over the state budget, Reza Shah ordered the

sudden cancellation of the oil concession.42 The popular media celebrated the move, but after

more than a year of negotiation, the shah had to once again submit to a modified version of the

original oil concession, which had been agreed to under dubious circumstances. The 1933 oil

agreement increased the duration of the concession from the remaining 27 years to 60 years.

Additionally, it changed the flexible revenue share of Iran from 16% of the profit to a fixed share

of four shillings per barrel.

This was a clear defeat for Iran-and the shah resented it.43 Upset with this defeat, Reza

Shah punished those who negotiated the agreement. Timour-tash, chief negotiator of the

agreement and one of the most loyal supporters of the state, lost his life on the accusation that he

had angered Britain by also entering into negotiation with the Russians. The Iranian signatory to

the agreement, Hassan Taqizadeh, who had served the state for many decades, was deported for

his part and his reputation was ruined.

In short, Britain imposed an alliance on the state, and Iran reluctantly submitted to it for

the sake of its survival. This preservative alliance was not, however, a sustainable one because

almost all other identities understood Britain as their foreign other.



42 The concession was originally granted to a British subject named William Darcy in 1901. In 1909, the concession
was taken over by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. In 1914, when the British government converted its navy from
coal to oil, it decided to nationalize the company by acquiring 51% share of the company.
43 For example, Taqizadeh, who was involved with the negotiations, thought that the new contract was a defeat.









Relations with the Soviet Union: Defensive Confrontation

Constitutive of the discourse of modern absolutism was the representation of the Soviets as

a threat to the very survival of the absolutist state, its development projects, and its official

nationalism. Given the historical experiences of Iranians, understanding the Soviet Union as the

main external threat might have been expected. Iran feared the Soviet Union as a potential

occupier. Iran also feared the Soviet Union as a revolutionary force. Understanding the Soviet

Union as the primary external threat constituted Iran's foreign relations with the Soviet Union.

While Iran cautiously treated the Soviets' concerns on trade, economic, and political issues, it

remained committed to the alliance with Britain, and Iran entered into new a security agreements

with its neighboring countries for defense against the Soviets.

The treaty of Saad Aabad was one of these measures. In July 1937, after serious

concession on Iran's part, the Saad Aabad Pact was signed. Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran

agreed to a collective non-aggression pact in which an attack on either one of those countries

could constitute an aggression on all. For the successful conclusion of this pact, in its relation

with Iraq, Iran gave up substantial revenue rights in Shat al-Arab. Iran also gave up its territorial

rights to some of the richest oil fields in western Iran, which is now Iraq. In its alliance with

Turkey, Iran gave up its claim to some of the strategic territories in Ararat's mountaintops. In its

alliance with Afghanistan, Iran accepted the borders that the British had imposed on Iran in the

1850s. Reza Shah felt these concessions were small prices to pay for securing Iran from the

Russian-Soviets. For instance, General Arfa, who was charged with surveying the borders

between Iran and Turkey, wrote about a brief meeting with Reza Shah. In the meeting, Arfa tried

to explain the strategic significance of various mountaintops. The general wrote that Reza Shah

angrily snapped back at him and said:









It is obvious that you have not understood what I mean ... it is not important which
location is better or worse, higher or lower. The important thing is that after a few hundred
years of division between Iran and Turkey ... [they must] become friends .. against our
common enemies ... [the Russians who] defeated Abbas Mirza in 1928 while Turkey
remained silent then in 1829, Russian troops attacked the Turks. Obviously, if both
countries were friends then Russian troops would not have attacked Iran first and then
Turkey next.44

As this text clearly shows, Reza Shah did not make a distinction between the Russian Empire

and the Soviet Union. For him, the Soviets remained the primary enemy as the Russians had

been for more than a century. For modernists, the Soviet Union was understood as an old threat

to Iran's sovereignty and identity, and it was also a new threat to Iran's Western-oriented identity

with development. In most texts, the Soviet Union was referred to as "Russian-Soviets" (Russi-

ye ./in/u avi). The phrase invoked the Russian body of the regime rather than its socialist face. The

Soviet Union had dramatically changed its behavior toward Iran, from the perspective of official

Iranian nationalism and also for the majority of the population. The Soviets invoked two images,

which were deeply embedded in Iranian social understanding. The Soviets were viewed as a

brutal occupying state and also as a source of civil war, chaos, and revolutions.

Relations with the United States: Acquiescent Alliance

In the early 1900s, the United States was represented and admired as a great non-colonial

power. For example, in 1911, in what came to be known as the "Shuster affair," Iran hired Dr.

Morgan Shuster to modernize its treasury department, but it was forced to fire him because

Russia-with the British consent-invaded Iran.45 In other cases, Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen

Points, first presented in January 1918, had been widely published and understood as the U.S.



44 Memoirs of General Arfa who had been charged with surveying boundaries between Iran and Turkey, W. Morgan
Shuster, The Strangling ofPersia; a Story of the European Diplomacy and Oriental Intrigue That Resulted in the
Denationalization of I.. /I.. Million Mohammedans, a Personal Narrative (New York,: The Century Co., 1912).
45 See Chapter 6. Also see Amir-zia Gafari, Nagsh-E America Dar Iran: Sadeh Capitalisyoon (the Role ofAmerica
in Iran: The Century of Capitulation) (Tehran: Amir Kabir 1380/2001), p.106.









position against Britain. Additionally, to the dismay of the British Foreign Office in Tehran, the

U.S. objection to the 1919 Agreement had also been widely published in Iran. These

representations of the United States raised its stature as the disinterested defender of Iranian

sovereignty. During Reza Shah's rule, the positive representation of the United States continued.

These positive representations depicted the United States as an ideal counterweight against

British imperial designs.

Additionally, in popular texts, the representation of Americans almost matched that of

German ideal. Americans were viewed as sincere, ethical, and hardworking people. This was in

sharp contrast to the negative representation of the Russians as brutes and the British as sneaky.

For example, in 1909, Howard C. Baskerville, a teacher in a missionary school in Tabriz, joined

the constitutional revolutionaries and fought many battles on behalf of Iranian constitutionalists.

In one of these battles, the loyalist troops surrounded Baskerville and eleven of his comrades-in-

arms. To save his comrades, Baskerville charged the troops and he was killed. Thousands of

people attended his funeral and buried their American national hero.46 In the funeral, prominent

revolutionaries compared Baskerville's decency to the indecencies of the Russians and British.

Two years later, this positive image of Americans was reinforced when Morgan Shuster tried to

reform the Iranian Customs. In his attempt, he offended the Russians but invoked the admiration

of Iranians as an honest and ethical American. Unlike Britain and Russia, prior to World War I,

the representation of the U.S. involvement in Iran centered on the concern for the safety of

American missionaries.47 In other words, Iranians had positive images of both America as a state

and Americans as a people.



46 Ibid.

47 U.S. State Department, (1910-21), Decimal File 891.801A, March 830, 1921.









During Reza Shah's reign, the state went out of its way to engage the United States in

Iranian politics. For example, in 1921, Iran formally wanted to employ ten American advisors. 48

Iran specifically wanted to rehire Shuster as the head of the Iranian Central Bank.49 In 1922, the

U.S. State Department agreed to the hiring of Dr. Arthur Millspaugh as the head of Iran's

Treasury General. In 1927, Reza Shah fired Millspaugh because the shah's vision of a

centralized and growing government did not correspond with that of Millspaugh's vision of

small and efficient government. However, the firing of Millspaugh did not diminish the status of

America or Americans.

Additionally, Iran tried to solicit American-based companies to invest in the Iranian oil

industry. In 1921, Iran first offered a generous oil concession to the Standard Oil Company of

New Jersey.50 Then, in 1922, Iran reoffered it to the Sinclair Oil Company. Nevertheless, the

policy of engaging the United States and its companies failed for four reasons. First, unlike

Britain and Russia, the United States had a hands-off policy over its oil companies. Second, to

avoid competition, Britain entered into separate contracts with these possible concessionaires and

offered to buy their rights for a fast cash profit. This was a deal breaker for Iran because it would

increase the influence of the British Oil Company and not decrease it as Iran had intended.51

Third, the Soviet Union declared that it would not allow the transport of Iranian oil over its

territory, thus making the cost of transportation prohibitive. Finally, the Soviets, citing previous

treaties, effectively protested that Iran had no right to give concessions to a third party in its



48 Ibid., Decimal File 891.801A, April 810, 1921.

49 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 131.
50 Makki, Tarikh-E Bist Saleh-E Iran (History o ii. -y Years) v. 6., p. 334-338.

51 Majid Sharifi, "A Historical Review of the Caspian Sea (Bahsee Dar MoredDaryai Khazar Va Dor NamayAan) "
Azadi, no. 30 (2003/1382).









northern territories, which were in the previous Russian sphere of influence. The Soviets argued

that the cancellation of its rights gained under the tsars was contingent upon those rights not to

be given to a third party.52 The Soviet objection resulted in the 1922 Treaty of Friendship

between Iran and the Soviets, which clarified some of these ambiguities.53 However, Iran's

intention to engage the United States had failed.

Conclusion

The rise of Reza Shah to power became possible when restoration of order and security

became the signifier under which otherwise contending identities united. Backed by Britain, a

military coup brought Reza Shah to power and most political forces acquiesced. The state began

to restore order and security by militarizing, bureaucratizing, and centralizing the government.

Once the state consolidated it power, it began to push for state building, national imagining, and

conducting foreign policy. I have called this political identity "modern absolutism."

I have called it "modern" because the state began to signify and treat modernization

projects as a historical mission bestowed upon the state by a divine design. I have also called it

"absolutism" because the shah eventually personified the state and essentially became the

absolute sovereign over all aspects of social, political, and economic life. The motto for Reza

Shah's state-building project began with restoration of order and security (nazam va amniat) to

the country, and it ended up consolidating its power by forging a particular image of Iranian

nationalism by which a "true" Iranian was differentiated from its internal or external "non-

Iranian" Other.




52 Mirfendereski, A Diplomatic History of the Caspian Sea: Treaties, Diaries, and Other Stories.

53 Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics,
2nd ed. (London; New York: Verso, 2001).









In this section, I argued that the official identity of the state constituted its policies and

practices. Moreover, the state discourse formation permeated the meanings of order,

development, law, Islam, and class. By 1920s, the meaning of political order (nezam), social

order (nazm), public security (amniat umoomy), and public interest had become attached to the

building of a modern, centralized, and bureaucratized state that was absolute and divine and thus

law unto itself. In contrast, during the 1906 Constitutional Revolution, law was the primary

signifying identity of the state. Law was imagined as the foundation for political and social

order, as well as the basis for providing public security and interest. Hence, law or the

constitution was imagined as being sovereign unto itself and thus the state. Furthermore, law

permeated the meanings of development, Islam, class, and people. However, during Reza Shah's

rule, order permeated the meanings of other signifiers.

Accordingly, the official state discourse constituted how the state understood an ideal

political order, developmental projects, and official nationalism by forging a particular official

patriotism, history, language, and race. The state discourse constituted the direction of Iran's

relations with other states. The ranking of allies and enemies was based upon the extent to which

a state reinforced or weakened the official state discourse.

In 1941, when Allies invaded Iran for the second time in less than 40 years, the regime

collapsed and neither elites nor the people rushed to rescue it. Instead, some of the most ardent

supporters of the state discourse turned into its outspoken critics. Once again various contending

identities began to compete for hegemony. Chapter 4 will examine this competition from 1941 to

1951 when constitutionalists and modernists controlled the state and other contending discourses

struggle to establish their own hegemony. The consequence of this competition was the

emergence of Iranian democratic nationalism, which is the subject of Chapter 4 and 5.









CHAPTER 4
THE FALL OF REZA SHAH AND THE SHARING OF THE STATE (1941-1951)

Introduction

In this chapter, I will review how the fall of Reza Shah's regime provided a condition

conducive to the re-emergence of free political expression by contending discourses. Each

discourse was struggling to establish its respective political hegemony in a context in which

Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States were also competing to control the state. This

created a condition favorable to an unprecedented level of freedom of expression concomitant

with shifts in policies and practices. Nevertheless, with the end of the occupation 1947, the

discourse of monarchic modernism began to largely constitute state building, the nation

imagining, and conducting foreign policy.

In this chapter, I will discuss events and discourses from 1941 to 1951. Then I will review

Iran's state building, nation imagining, and conducting foreign policy in this era.

Events (1941-1951)

The Fall of Reza Shah and the Sharing of the State

On August 25, 1941, dissatisfied with Reza Shah's declaration of neutrality, Soviet

forces from the north and British forces from the south invaded Iran. The state collapsed in less

than a month. For the most part, Iranians had no idea of the turmoil that was to befall them.

Three days after the invasion, Reza Shah's military spun into disarray. Generals in Tehran

released thousands of soldiers from their duties, while other soldiers escaped to their villages.

Reza Shah was confused and indecisive as to whether to surrender or resist. His confusion sent

conflicting signals to the Allies and exacerbated the British loss of confidence in Reza Shah's




1 For a discussion of political hegemony, see Makki, Tarikh-E Bist Saleh-E Iran (History of Twenty Years) v.vii.










loyalty.2 On the fifth day of the invasion, Reza Shah appointed Mohammad Ali Furuqi (Zaka al-

Mulk) who accepted the conditional surrender of Iranian sovereignty and negotiated the terms of

Reza Shah's abdication. By the third week, the previously irrelevant Majlis began to demand

more control over the cabinet.3 In short, within a few weeks from the invasion, the myth of Reza

Shah's invincibility was shattered.

For 16 years, Iranians had experienced and understood Reza Shah as the personification of

a man on a historic mission to lead his nation of Persians to its rightful place among civilized

Western states. But in less than a month, both the mission and the dictator had failed. Reza Shah

agreed to the dictated terms of his abdication, which allowed his son, Mohamad Reza, to save the

Pahlavi dynasty.

Soon after the invasion, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) began to broadcast an

unprecedented radio campaign against Reza Shah. The common theme of these messages was to

characterize Reza Shah as a cruel, corrupt, and illegitimate leader of Iran who had stolen

property from the people, mismanaged the economy, and murdered innocent citizens.4 However,

the shift from supporting Reza Shah's autocratic rule for two decades to invading Iran in alliance


2 Before the invasion, in a speech to graduating officers, Reza Shaw cancelled their customary vacations and warned
them of the imminent threat to the country. Sixteen days after the invasion, Itial 'lat published an article titled The
People are Sadden (Tasor-e Mordom). The article, which was picked up by the international press, sent the signal to
the effect that the shah might intend to mobilize the masses against the Allied invasion.

3 See Ali Dashti's speech in the Twelve Majlis. "Foreign Relations of the United States 1941 ", ed. The Near East
and Africa The British Commonwealth (United States Government Printing Office, 1959).

4 Although the pretext for the occupation was the presence of the German fifth column in Iran, the occupation
occurred because London and Moscow did not trust Reza Shah to remain neutral if Germany's military advances on
the Eastern Front continued. The Allies also wanted to have a secure access to southern and northern oil fields in
Iran in addition to a secured road and railway system from the Persian Gulf to the northern borders. The pervasive
sympathy for Germany in southern tribes could have caused serious trouble for the Allies as it had during World
War I. Moreover, in March 1941, Rashid Gilani, an Iraqi nationalist, had overthrown Abdullah's pro-British
government in Iraq. Although the coup in Iraq eventually failed and Gilani escaped to Tehran, it alarmed Winston
Churchill into preventive actions in Iran. For more, see correspondence between the United States Council in Tehran
and Washington from June to September 1941, in volume iii, Pahlavi Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country,
1st ed. (New York,: McGraw-Hill, 1961), 75.









with the Soviet Union and attempting to teach Iranian democracy only reinforced the already

existing perception that Britain, with the full consent of the Soviet Union, had installed Reza

Shah as they wished and deported him when they both pleased. The negative image of foreigners

reinforced the idea of a weak Self in opposition to the great powers of foreigners. This

perception was further validated when the cabinet recognized the Allies' de facto sovereignty

over the occupied territories in the south and north, agreed to cooperate with the Allies, and

declared war against Germany, Italy, and Japan.5

With the fall of Reza Shah's regime, the official state discourse began to compete with

other contending discourses for reestablishing its previous hegemony. It formed an alliance with

the United States without alienating Britain or directly confronting the Soviet Union. From 1941

to 1951, Iran went through "12 premiers, 31 cabinets, and 148 ministers" as various discourses

competed to establish their respective idealized nation-states. The intense competition among

contending discourses caused socio-political chaos. Bur it also popularized the six Iranian basic

signifiers-security, development, law, people, class equality, and Islam-among the masses.6

As in previous periods, during this era, the state understood itself and behaved in

accordance with, and in response to, how it related to other contending discourses. From the fall

of Reza Shah until the 1953 CIA coup, for the most part, modern absolutists controlled the court

and military, constitutionalists held on to the Majlis, and Islamists, socialists, and democratic

nationalists became the opposing discourses. From 1951 until the 1953 CIA coup, Mussadiq




5 Years later, in an effort to reconstruct history to reinforce his rule, despite the fact that the Allies had imposed this
alliance on Iran, Mohamad Reza Shah claimed that this tripartite alliance "was not merely inevitable but also highly
desirable." See Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 170.
6 Frances Bostock and Geoffrey Jones, Planning and Power in Iran: Ebtehaj and Economic Development under the
Shah (London, England; Totowa, N.J.: F. Cass, 1989).









managed to control the state by uniting the opposing identities against Britain. I will discuss that

era in Chapter 5.

The Building of a New State

Economic Development

In the same way Germany had produced a state-centered developmental knowledge for

Reza Shah, the United States produced a liberal and market-centered developmental knowledge

for Iran, which Mohamad Reza Shah attempted to adopt. This was a clear shift from the previous

era.

Speaking from the position of modern absolutism, the head of Iran's central bank in

December 1942, Abul Qasim Ebtehaj, argued that Iran's development depended not only on

financial assistance, but also on an economic template from the United States.7 It was

inconceivable that Iran could develop independently of foreign powers. Now that Germany had

been eliminated, the United States became the source of knowledge for developmental model for

Iran. The plan for Iran's development was not, however, designed according to Iran's

socioeconomic needs or conditions. Instead, the plan was a global template designed at New

Hampshire's Bretton Woods Conference in July 1944. By 1949, the Bretton Woods discourse of

development had become a one-size-fits-all model that the United States and Britain adopted for

all the countries in the Middle East. Essentially, the plan became a "regime of truth" that called

for economic development by privatizing state-owned industries, by getting rid of nepotism and

bureaucratic inefficiencies, and by promoting open trade. Britain wanted the plan because it

allowed Britain to maintain and consolidate its financial holdings in the Middle East. The United

States promoted it because it would allow expansion into Middle East markets. But the Soviet



7 George Benedict Baldwin, Planning and Development in Iran (Baltimore,: Johns Hopkins Press, 1967).









Union rejected the plan as a capitalist developmental design. Nevertheless, Iran-the subject of

the plan-had no voice in making the plan, so it acquiesced to it.

In addition to the epistemic knowledge for the developmental plan in Iran, the details of

the plan were produced and proposed by an American engineering firm, Morrison Knudsen of

Boise, Idaho, which had prepared it in less than four months of surveying in Iran. The plan gave

priority to modernization in agriculture, transportation, education, health, and security. As

expected, Mohamad Reza Shah liked the security and the transportation segments of it, but

opposed or ignored the rest. Based on this plan, Iran applied for a $250 million loan from the

World Bank (WB), which in turn demanded another "expert" evaluation of Iran.8

An engineering group, Overseas Consultants, Inc. (OCI), which was recommended by the

U.S. State Department, provided the evaluation report.9 In 1949, after only four months of

surveying Iran, OCI, which was associated with both the U.S. oil industry and the newly-formed

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), presented a plan. The Majlis passed the plan enthusiastically

and immediately, for the plan represented an "objective" survey of Iran, it showed the

"pathological" and abnormality of Iran's economic structure, and it prescribed a "scientific"

method to fix the problem.

Kermit Roosevelt, who was also one of the principal planners of the 1953 CIA coup, wrote

the final draft of the plan, which became the first development plan in Iran's modern history. In

later years, the plan became the basis for establishing the Plan Organization (PO), which, until

1979, constituted the organization for producing knowledge in state-building projects.10



8 Bostock and Jones, Planning and Power in Iran: Ebtehaj and Economic Development under the Shah, pp. 94-99.
9 Ibid., p. 107.
10 Keddie and Richard, Modern Iran: Roots and Results ofRevolution, p. 122.









As expected, the framework of the plan was in accordance with the American discourse of

development in those years. The plan emphasized four points: (a) invest in technology and

education; (b) privatize state ownership of industries; (c) focus on light rather than heavy

industries; and (d) improve profit incentives in order to advance management quality, increase

production, and raise productivity.11

This plan contrasted with alternative epistemic knowledge that the Soviet Union was

producing at the time, and it was sharply different from the knowledge that Islamic and

democratic nationalists were producing. Hence, the knowledge produced by the Plan

Organization was competing with other knowledge produced by the United States, each one with

a different objective and rationality. For example, while American developmental models

focused on small and mid-size projects, the Soviet developmental model prioritized large state-

owned heavy industries. The communist Tudeh Party devalued the liberal model of

industrialization and called it the "light" assembly industrialization (sanat-ih muntag), arguing

that the designed was to benefit the West rather than Iran. In contrast, the Tudeh Party valued the

Soviets' model, which called for "heavy" or "mother" industries.12 In other words, "light"

industrialization was considered bad, but "heavy" was good; "assembly" industries were bad, but

"mother" industries were good. Interestingly, this is the language that Reza Shah, his son, the

Tudeh, and the Islamic Republic shared, that is, "mother" industries are considered "real" and

"good," but "assembly" and "light" industries are the code words for economic weakness and

dependence.




1 Ibid, Ali Moarefi, "The Iranian Seven Year Plan and Its Monetary Effects" (Thesis--Georgetown University,
1950).
12 For more information, see Keddie and Richard, Modern Iran: Roots and Results ofRevolution, p. 122.









However, the plan was doomed from the start because it privileged security over other

contending signifiers. Accordingly, although both Reza and Mohamad Reza Shah valued

economic development, they wanted absolute control over state resources. Hence, the plan was

doomed for its internal contradictions. Ironically, Mohamad Reza Shah's regime valued the

rhetoric of liberal economic development, but the state-elites practiced state-centered economic

politics.

Nikki Keddie argues, "The Plan's scant accomplishment during its first year brought

criticism."13 While those with political connections to Mohamad Reza Shah and Majlis largely

supported and benefited from the plan, some constitutionalists, Islamists, and socialists criticized

the plan by blaming "the United States and Britain for backing men who cared little for Iran's

economic development."14 Additionally, socialists in the Tudeh "attacked the plan and its foreign

advisors" for the Tudeh understood the plan as a means to further penetration of American

imperialism into Iran.15 In less than a year, the plan's failure became obvious.

The Overseas Consultants, Inc. blamed the failure on "the old, corrupt forces" operating in

Iran. This, representation should have been expected since the image of Iranians as corrupt and

incompetent, as opposed to the objective, honest, and competent Americans, was a prevalent

feature of these discussions. But the OCI did not blame itself for aiming to liberalize the

economy without liberalizing the polity, for it feared the spread of communism. 16 In this context,

security signified the meaning of, and criterion for, how developmental planning was designed.

This securitization made it impossible for planners to conceive the possibility of dismantling the


13 Ibid.
14 Ibid.

15 Ibid., p.23.

16 Bostock and Jones, Planning and Power in Iran: Ebtehaj and Economic Development under the Shah, P. 102.









institutional legacy of modern absolutism inherited from Reza Shah's era and continued to

operate in the country. As a result, the attempt was made to liberalize the economy without

tackling the issue of polity. In other words, since security was the governing statement for U.S.-

Iran relations, it shaped thw wya various aid packages were designed.

In his 1949 trip to Washington, through his envoys, Mohamad Reza Shah communicated

that he was more interested in military than economic aid. According to Frances Bostock and

Geoffrey Jones, the Shah's preference "caused confusion in Washington and consternation in

Tehran."17 But the confusion in Washington disappeared when Eisenhower became president

and securitized Iran even further. In later years, Mohamad Reza Shah began to blame the failure

of the plan on Mussadiq, which was a different source of corruption than the OCI had blamed.

Mohamad Reza Shah argued that Mussadiq's "negative policies led straight to the sort of

political and economic chaos which foreign agents [Tudeh members] found ideal for their

purposes." In other words, the shah did not conceive of the possibility of failure because of the

institutional legacy of modern absolutism,18 but he blamed Mussadiq's policy of nationalizing

the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC).

However, Keddie correctly rejected these representations and concluded, "It is often said

that the cutting off Anglo-IOC royalties finished the Plan, but its de facto demise was assured

before oil nationalization. 19 Keddie argued, "The assumption that development was possible and

desirable without a basic change in social [political] structure fundamentally weakened planning

[economic development] in Iran.20


17 Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, 126.

18 Keddie and Richard, Modern Iran: Roots and Results ofRevolution.
19 Ibid.
20 Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, 126.









However, what Keddie saw as the necessity of economic and political liberalization and/or

democratization, Mohamad Reza Shah perceived as the threat of nationalism and communism.

Mohamad Reza Shah articulated his thought in later years: "Nationalism, like imperialism, is a

tricky notion. In its true form, nationalism can lead a country to greatness. For example ...

America's notable progress, and my father's amazing achievements which was due to ...

the pure spirit of nationalism instinctive to our [Iranian] people."21 He then argued that while his

father had eradicated imperialism and promoted a "true" Iranian nationalism, Mussadiq's

"irrational, emotional temperament" had provided conducive conditions for communism and an

"immature nationalism" when we [Iranians] were in an irrational phase" of our history.22

Mohamad Reza Shah continued linking his brand of nationalism, which prioritized security, as

"true nationalism and patriotism."

In sum, security permeated the meanings of how the state development was imagined,

designed, and practiced. In a rationalistic world, it would have been expected that because the

shah had experienced the fragile nature of his father's absolutist state, he would not have

continued the process of othering local and national forces while increasing his reliance on the

coercive forces of the state equipped and financed by the United States. However, in the

imagined world of reality, he did what his father had done and failed-the securitization of the

state at the expense of othering all other competing identities.

Political Development

Mohamad Reza Shah represented and understood political development in terms of

consolidation of power, which he personified. The Shah vigorously guarded his absolute control



21 Ibid., 109.
22 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, 246.









over the military. He acquiesced in an alliance with the United States and strengthened the

military. He also pardoned officers who had deserted their posts during the Allied invasion,

lobbied to preserve military spending, solicited military aid from the United States, and even

spent some of his own inherited fortune to please military officers. As expected, security

signified the basis of an ideal political order and the focus of an obsession for building a loyal

military.

As such, any political development that would weaken the Shah's personalistic control

over the state military and/or bureaucracy would be interpreted as a threat against the shah-

centered state. This drive to consolidate power picked up speed as the Cold War began. By 1950,

Mohamad Reza Shah nearly reestablished the absolutist control that his father had once enjoyed.

For example, Khandaniha, a weekly digest, printed the picture of Mohamad Reza Shah

appearing in public: "Once in 1942-46; once again in 1943-1944, twice in 1944-45; twelve times

in 1945-46; and eighteen times, seventeen of them in military uniform, in 1947-1948."23 In other

words, as the state was consolidating its power, Mohamad Reza Shah was taking more personal

control of the state. After the Russians withdrew their forces in 1946, "Iran's social and

economic problems intensified, as did social conflicts and foreign interference."24 But Mohamad

Reza Shah pushed to complete his control and command of the state intensified.

By the end of October 1949, to the dismay of both the United States and Britain, Mohamad

Reza Shah's control and command over the state was as absolute as that of his father, Reza Shah.

By then, he had achieved it by the same means-violating the constitution, breaking legislative





23 Keddie and Richard, Modern Iran: Roots and Results ofRevolution, p. 110.
24 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 249.









precedents, manipulating elections, using legal and illegal means, and utilizing the military and

police to intimidate, deport, imprison, and kill opponents.25

More interesting, however, was the way these practices were constructed as the threat of

international communism, fanatical Islamism, and immature nationalism by the shah-centered

state. For example, in February 1949, a failed assassination attempt became the platform for

representing the shah-centered state against internal and external enemies. Mohamad Reza Shah

represented the event as a conspiracy with three connections to Islamists, communists, and the

British. In the officially-approved newspapers, such as Ettellaat andKayhan, the story of

assassination was portrayed as: (a) the event was a conspiracy planned by the Tudeh as the agent

of international communism; (b) the would-be assassin was an ignorant agent of "the most

backward religious fanatics;" and (c) the British were involved because the girlfriend of the

would-be assassin "was the daughter of the gardener that worked in the British embassy."26 This

event became the platform for further securitization of the state, which resulted in the

implementation of a series of repressive actions. Mohamad Reza Shah declared martial law,

closed major newspapers, arrested Islamic, nationalists, and communist leaders, outlawed the

Tudeh party, deported Ayatollah Kashani to Beirut, and forced Mussadiq to remain at his village-

estate. According to Abrahamian:

The shah acted quickly to crush all the opposition. He declared martial law throughout the
country, closed down all the main newspapers critical of the court, outlawed the Tudeh,
deported Kashani to Beirut, confined Mussadiq to his estates, and tried to implicate even
Qavam [prime minister in 1950] in the conspiracy. What is more, the shah promptly
convened a Constituent Assembly. Elected under martial law, the assembly unanimously




25 State Department to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, 1 February 1949, Foreign Relations of United States
(Washington, D.C., 1949), 6, 476; also quoted in Mohammed Reza, Answer to History, PP. 57-59.
26 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 249.









voted to create a Senate, half of whose members would be nominated by the monarch, and
granted the shah the right to dissolve Parliament whenever he wished.27

All of these actions, once again, were done in the name of establishing "order and security."28

By 1949, the drive to absolutism alarmed even the U.S. State Department, which

"felt that the shah ignored the [U.S.] military advisors, hastily changed the constitution, was

obsessed with tanks, and unrealistically dreamed of $500 million in economic aid and $200

million in military aid to finance an eventual army of 300,000."29 In October 1949, the shah was

prepared to travel to the United States during a time when U.S. support for him was waning

while his appetite for more military aid was growing.30 At this time, voices of dissent in the

United States were beginning to criticize the shah's increasingly autocratic rule while

questioning the usefulness of increasing American military and financial aid. Attuned to

American political currents more than political dissent in his own country, the shah represented

the threat of communism, Islamic fanaticism, and nationalism as a way to convince his American

audience as to why he desperately needed more military aid than economic assistance.

On February 10, 1950, The New York Times, reflecting the consolidation of power in the

hands of the shah, wrote, "Circumstances surrounding the session of the newly elected

Parliament that opened yesterday indicate that this Parliament's attitude will decide whether Iran

is to have a dictatorship."31 Despite these debates in the United States, the shah continued to



27 Ibid., p. 251.

28 For example, see the proceeding reports of the 15t Majlis in February and March of 1949.
29 Walter H. Waggoner, "Iran's Shah to Ask Assistance in U.S.; Monarch, Due on Wednesday, Expected to Express
Need for Millitary, Economic, Aid," The New York Times, Nov., 13, 1949.

30 Albion Ross, "Iran Parliament Faces Power Test; Packed by 1,000 Families,' Its Attitude Will Determine If
Dictatorship Is Set Up," The New York Times, Feb. 11 1950. Also see, Ross, "Iran Parliament Faces Power Test;
Packed by 1,000 Families,' Its Attitude Will Determine If Dictatorship Is Set Up."

31 Editorial, "The Fire Is Rekindled," The Fire (Atash) 1946.









receive full U.S. support, for both the United States and the shah, security from the threat of

communism, Islamism, and Iranian democratic nationalism permeated the meaning of economic

and political development. Meanwhile, the shah was beginning to lose the collective imagination

of Iranians to another security threat-the construction of the common threat of Anglo-Iranian

Oil Company, which is the subject of Chapter 5.

In sum, the economic and political developments were driven by the fear of communism,

Islamism, and nationalism. In this era, the United States produced the knowledge for Iran's

developmental plan, and the shah-centered state adopted it without actually liberalizing either the

economy or politics. Nevertheless, the United States went along with Mohamad Reza Shah's

modern absolutism and his consolidation of power. For both the United States and Mohamad

Reza Shah, security from communist constituted the main signifier in their political discourses.

While the construction of a common threat made the Iran's acquiescent alliance with the United

States possible, it made compromise with socialist, Islamist, and nationalist opposition

impossible. To compromise or enter into a dialogue with these contending discourses meant the

deconstruction of the very signifier (security) that made the shah's policies and practices

meaningful.

Imagination of the Nation

With the fall of Reza Shah and the temporary loss of absolutism, the nation that Mohamad

Reza Shah imagined remained much the same as the one his father had imagined. But some

shifts also occurred. Unlike his father, who represented himself as a no-nonsense, tough, and

disciplinarian patriarch, the son represented himself as Western-educated and a progressive

democrat, who respected law, adhered to Islamic norms, and sympathized with the plight of what

he called "my people," which in the discourse of modern absolutism meant being the "subject"

of the shah. However, much like his father, his ideal typical model of nationalism was an abstract









model of Western-like nationalism. In a series of conceptual linkages and differences,

nationalism was linked to Persian glories: the Persian glories to Persian nationalism, the Persian

nationalism to the naturalization of a historical mission assumed by all leaders and the shah, the

mission to a divine design, the divine design to Shi'ism, Persian monarchism, and so forth. These

relational linkages were then counterpoised to another series of linkages such as Iran's

backwardness that was linked to words, such as Arabs, non-Persians, Russians, communists,

"bad" Muslims, and nationalists. According to this logic, in this era, a citizen subject was

imagined as one who revered the king (Vh/ah Doost), worshiped Iran (Iran Parast), glorified

Persian heritage and language, and wanted to revive Iran's ancient glory to match the

developmental stages of Western countries. An Irani was considered a devout but "modern"

Muslim. Relatedly, a Khareji was represented as one who was anti-shah and thus did not

properly revere the 2500-year history of Persian monarchy.

As Reza Shah had previously done, Mohamad Reza Shah imagined a historic nation of

Persians against non-Persians. Texts embedded in modern absolutism were imbued with

references to the glories of Persian empires, the sweetness of the Persian language, the

superiority of Persian ethics, and the perseverance of Persian culture. This body of knowledge

had entered the official language during Reza Shah's era, and it remained in texts as uncontested

historical facts. Embedded in this body of knowledge, even opposing identities utilized the

glorification of ancient history to illustrate the weakness and corrupt nature of the present.32

Indeed, in some circles, questioning the glory of the past was interpreted as an anti-Iranian (zed







32 See Queen Suraya, "New Year Messages," Ittial'lat Mar. 28, 1953, p. 12.










Irani). Similarly, many of the nationalists also identified with the sub-discourse of Pan

Persianism.33 I will discuss this point further in Chapter 5.

In this era, Muslims were classified into two categories: "Good" Muslims were considered

as pro-development, Western-like, Western-dressed, pro-shah, and anti-communist; "bad"

Muslims were considered as fanatical, anti-development, and anti-shah. Bad Muslims were

represented as close-minded, superstitious, crude, and pre-modern people. Phrases and words,

such as "fallen-behind" (aqab uftad-ih), "fanatical" (fanatic), "traditional" (sunati),

"superstitious" (khurafati) and "religious dogmatism" (khushk mazhab) described bad Muslims.

Additionally, bad Muslims were represented as Arab-like rather than Iranian or Western-like.

This logic of differentiation and categorization between good and bad Muslims continued

throughout the reign of the second Pahlavi, Mohamad Reza Shaw.

This differentiation between good and bad was very prominent throughout the reign of

Mohamad Reza Shah. In this dichotomization, good clerics visited the shah, supported the shah's

anti-communist campaign, and refrained from political activities. Chapter 5 will discuss this

phenomenon further.

The dichotomization of good and bad Muslims also included women. Good Muslim

women remained unveiled and Western-like in appearance, but weak and Eastern-like in their

behavior. Mohamad Reza Shah promoted this view of women throughout his reign. For him, the


33 For example, the Pan-Iranist Party, which was first led by Mushin Pizishkhpoor and Dariysh Furuhar, primarily
identified with the identity of Persianism. Historically, the party was a pro-German party, but between 1941 and
1951, its main objective was fighting the Tudeh Party and communism through the representation of communists as
kharejian. When Mussadiq's oil nationalization struggle became the primary national issue differentiating the
Irani/Khareji, the party became a pro-Mussadiq Party. However, Mussadiq was gradually re-represented as pro-
communist, and thus a Khareji, the party's position changed again. Then, Pizishkhpoor, who led the party, became
an ardent supporter of the shah absolutism even though it was a known fact that the shah was receiving help from
both the United States and Britain. But Furuhar deviated from the Pan-Iranist party line and continued identifying
with Mussadiq as an Iranian nationalist and constitutionalist. In 1997, Furhar and his wife were stabbed to death by
some agents in the Information Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The accusation was that Furhar was
associated with Kharejian.









model for modern Muslim women was a particular image of a woman best portrayed by his

various queens. They all were multilingual, had upper-level degrees from Western educational

institutions, lived and grew up in Europe, knew various dignitaries, and frequently attended

political, social, and cultural events. For example, in March 1953, on the occasion of celebrating

the Iranian New Year of 1332/1953, in a series of events, the king and the queen Suraya

represented ideal images of good and modern Muslim Iranians. They returned from their

vacation to Tehran to attend various New Year ceremonies, and they both addressed the nation.

The queen's address was particularly modern yet it would have been impossible in previous eras

when Iranian queens were not heard or seen in public. Besides, at any given time in Iranian

history, the king had too many queens so addressing the nation by hundreds of queens would

have been unimaginable. Nevertheless, the queen addressed the nation as if this has always been

a natural and historical act:

My dear compatriots, from the bottom of my heart, I congratulate this magnificent and
ancient holiday, which is the cherished memory of our ancestors. One of the good deeds of
this beloved heritage is what our forefathers have taught us. They taught us that after
thanking the blessing of God, we must renew our commitment to our God. Then, with
God's willing, kindness, and blessing, we must clean our conscious from impurities and
renew our desire to begin a New Year while we obligate ourselves to give to the poor, care
for the sick, aid the disabled, assist each other, and participate in the social welfare of the
country. If we do these good deeds, then God will bless us and help us unite the country
for a good and happy New Year, which will be waiting for the intelligent nation of
Iranians.34

In this text, while the queen reminds the nation of their beloved Iranian heritage, an

idealized version which never existed, her multiple references to God are deeply embedded in

Islamic understanding of God. She includes herself as a part of "we the people," that is, these

people are empowered, modern, intelligent, and ethical. These people can renew, commit, and

obligate themselves. These people are good to others and thus good for the social welfare of the

34 Suraya, "New Year Messages."









country. After both the shah and the queen addressed the nation, the royal couple visited a girls'

vocational school in Tehran and donated 360 school uniforms. This act was not only an Islamic

act of benevolence, but also an act of a modern patriarch, as was expected of him. For the

occasion, the shah also took his private plane to the holy shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad. Out

of respect for Islamic scholarship, the shah also received some of the grand ulama in his Marble

Palace. The photographs of all these public appearances were widely published in major daily

papers-the shah and the queen were modern, Muslim, and Iranian patriots who interpreted

Islam in accordance to their own individual beliefs and discretion. Although they sought

worldly pleasures, plentitude, progress, and high social status, they remained the blessed servants

of God in a holy mission to modernize the country.35 In short, the shah and the queen were

"good, modern Muslims," and this was a clear shift in the modernists' representation of Islam. In

other words, the discourse of modern absolutism was defining the meaning of Islamic values.

One of these shifts in meaning was in the way charity was represented and understood. In

Islamic discourses, charity was a virtuous value associated with men, done in private domain,

and performed inconspicuously. However, all of the shah's queens did their charity works

conspicuously and publicly. In fact, in contrast to Islamic charities, the queen's striking beauty

combined with careful stagecraft, emphasized the performative aspects of charity. In these

practices, modernism had permeated the Islamic discourse of charity. In other words, Iranian

queens were represented as good Muslims, but also modem, Western, beautiful, and fashionable.

These practices were repeated in commercial advertisements in which Iranian housewives looked

more like the shah's wives than Eastern looking Iranian housewives normally did. Through a

review of hundreds of advertisements in various newspapers, I did not find even one commercial


35 "The King and Queen Visit a Girl School Ettelaat March 28, 1953.










advertisement that depicted a veiled Iranian woman-as if they did not exist even as

36
consumers.

The same trend could be seen in the growing movie industry. According to Hamid

Dabashi, "Not until the advent of the Islamic Revolution and the active 'Islamization' of the

cinema, did women appear veiled in motion pictures."37 The general texts showed unveiled

women as educated, modern, and articulate. In contrast, veiled women were represented as

traditional, motherly, and inarticulate. Moreover, it was unthinkable to imagine that a female

employee of the state or even a private firm would have veiled women employees. In fact,

working women were equated with being modem, mobile, fashion-conscious, Western-like,

educated, and wealthy. Conversely, being a traditional woman was equated with being veiled,

homebound, religious, uneducated, and traditional.

Nevertheless, in the discourse of modern absolutism, women remained as weak, irrational,

and emotional to be protected by their respective patriarchs. In a passing statement referring to

Mussadiq, his greatest rival before Ayatollah Khomeini, Mohamad Reza Shah suggested,

"Mussadiq and his followers cried like women and indulged in hysterical tirades."38 In an

interview with Oriana Fallaci, he suggested that women were created to be beautiful, charming,

and comforting to men, for they do not have the ability to become Michelangelo, Bach, or even a

great chef39






36 Dabashi, Iran: A People Interrupted, p. 20.

37 Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, p. 126.

38 Oriana Fallaci, Interview with History, 1st ed. (New York: Liveright, 1976), pp. 270-272.

39 Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, p. 298.









Foreign Relations


The Foreign in Foreign Policy

During the colonial competition in Iran, all politics began in foreign embassies, and all

local politics had a foreign policy dimension. Since that time, all contending political discourses

in Iran have identified their enemies as "foreigners," and this era was no exception. In other

words, in the existing political spaces in Iran, it was inconceivable to imagine politics

independent of foreign intervention.

In the discourse of modern absolutism, the United States and its Western allies constituted

Self, and communists, democratic nationalists, and Islamists constituted the Other. As Reza Shah

had imagined Germany as a Self-like Aryan nation and thus a natural ally, the young shah

perceived the United States as a Self-like Western nation and thus a natural ally. Referring to

America, Britain, Canada, and France, he wrote, "Our cultural relations with the Western

democracies go back many centuries; our ties with those people are no sudden growth.

Culturally, the West has borrowed extensively from us, and by choice, we have absorbed much

that is Western. Today, we have the same basic goals."40 Additionally, as natural allies are

supposed to do, the shah expected the United States to protect his state from the threat of what he

called the threat of "international communism." He argued that for developing countries such as

Iran, security "is their first essential for advancement,"41 and the Middle East needed not only a"

Marshal Plan," but also a "security shield comparable with NATO. ... If a country fails to

secure its defenses, the Communists play with it as a cat does with a mouse."42 In other words,

for the young shah, the communists were both domestic and international enemies, and the

40 Ibid., p. 296.
41 Ibid., pp. 293, 296.

42 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, pp. 173-176.









United States was Self-like and thus a natural ally. For the shah, the U.S. Self-likeness was

historical and cultural; for his father, the German Self-likeness was racial. In other words, neither

geographical nor political intervention constituted the meaning of "foreign" in foreignness.

Instead, the "foreignness" of foreigners was conceptualized and constituted as a relational

difference in which the Self was represented, understood, and behaved in opposition to the

Other. Relatedly, it was, and still is, natural to label one's political opposition as "foreign" or

"foreign agents."

However, classifying one's political opposition as "foreigner" was a particular

representation that every generation of Iranians since the constitutional revolution had

experienced vis-a-vis occupation, domination, and intervention. This era was no exception.

The end of Reza Shah's regime was the beginning of occupation, domination, and/or

intervention into Iranian politics by Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States. With the

occupation and intervention of the Allies, the body politic of Iran, which was kept together by

the absolutist power of Reza Shah for sixteen years, fragmented into pieces. Tribal, religious, and

ethnic factionalism returned once again. Tribal chiefs began to seize their confiscated tribal lands

and reestablish their previous authorities.43 Tribal and provincial forces began to challenge, and,

in some cases defeat, the military. Once more, the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (Ferqeh-yi

Demukra't Azerbijan) was established, as was the Democratic Party of Kurdistan. The demands

for these two parties ranged from wanting total independence to calling for a certain degree of

local autonomy. Additionally, an unprecedented number of political organizations, representing

various identities, sprung up.





43 Amjad, Iran: From Royal Dictatorship to Theocracy, p. 53.









In this chaotic situation, three coalition forces converged to shape Iranian politics-

Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States-and their respective internal actors. Britain and the

Soviet began fostering groups sympathetic to their respective interests, and they arrested, killed,

and deported individuals opposing their respective interests. Meanwhile, the United States

invested in the shah's military and police.

On the one hand, Britain began supporting the Fatherland Party led by Sayed Zia, a known

pro-British politician. Sayed Zia's appealed to his bazaaris and hooligan constituents by

representing the threat of the Tudeh Party and communism, the threat of the shah's military

dictatorship backed by landed elites, and the threat of Western intellectualism to Islam.44

On the other hand, the Soviet Union supported the Tudeh Party and the Azerbaijan and

Kurdistan democratic parties. These parties represented the shah, the landed elites, Sayed Zia and

their respective foreign supporters as the threat to socialism and self-determination.

In the meantime, the United States began to invest in Mahd Reza Shah's military, and the

Shah was very eager to reciprocate-a natural alliance that was born then and continued until the

fall of Mohamad Reza Shah. By 1944, the U.S. advisory position in the military, the economy,

the police, and gendarmerie (rural police) was a prominent feature of Iranian politics.45 General

Hassan Arfa, Iran's former chief of staff, explained why the shah wanted to involve the United

States. He wrote, "Our policy was to bring as many Americans as possible to Iran"46 The goal

was to deter the Soviet Union from interfering in the internal affairs of Iran.



44 For example, Sayed Zia al-Din Taba-Tabai, Reza Shah's ally in the 1921 coup, was a pro-British activist who
helped organized the Party of Justice (Hezb-e Edalat) and the Party National Will (Hezb-e Eradeh-ye Meli). He tried
to mobilize the masses by utilizing politics of hate, his base was the bazzaris, his ethos was Islamic, but his
messages were anti-communism, anti-intellectualism, anti-tax reforms, anti-court, and anti-shah, and anti-Soviet.
45 Hassan Arfa, Under Five Shahs (New York,: W. Morrow, 1965), p. 272.
46 "Asnadi Az Asl-I Chahar-I Turuman Dar Iran (1325-1346 H.Sh.) = Documents on Truman's Point Four in Iran
(1946-1967)," (Tihr*an: Vizarat-i Farhang va Irshad-i Islami, 1382).









In other words, contending discourses interpreted their foreign enemies and their domestic

agents according to their own self-referential conditions of conceivability. For Sayed Zia the

Mohamad Reza Shah and communists were agents of the United States and the Soviet Union.

For the communists and separatists, Sayed Zia and Mohamed Reza Shah were agents of Britain

and America. For Mohamad Reza Shah and modem absolutists, Sayed Zia, the Tudeh,

nationalists, and Islamists were agents of foreigners. Meanwhile, the meaning of "foreign" in

foreignness had a varied impact for different people. The notion that a domestic opposition must

have some kind of connection with a foreign power still pervades Iranian politics.

Foreign Policy

During World War II, Iran had no foreign policy because the Allies dictated it, but as the

war ended, the competition to steer Iran's foreign policy toward the three main foreign

contenders and their respective domestic coalitions began. Reflecting the convergence of foreign

and domestic interests during the war, the cabinet, the Majlis, and the court participated in the

conduct of foreign policy. When the war ended, the court, in alliance with the United States,

began to become the most important actor in shaping Iran's foreign policymaking until 1951,

when Mussadiq took over the government for 27 months (see Chapter 5). Nevertheless, during

this era (1941-1951), a majority of constitutionalists, democratic nationalists, and even some

Islamists supported the Iran-U.S. alliance, for it was inconceivable to imagine the United States

as a "foreign" state and thus an enemy. In the collective memory of Iranians, the United States,

unlike the Soviet and Britain, was not associated with any of the known local or traditional

political actors or parties. Additionally, except for the Tudeh Party, President Truman's Four









Point Program, which offered economic aid to Iran, created a political space in which imagining

the United States as a belligerent foreign enemy was not possible.47

Moreover, unlike Britain and the Soviet Union, the United States did not have political

infrastructure on the ground, so it primarily invested in the Mohamad Reza Shah's military and

police, and the Shah reciprocated-and an acquiescent alliance with the United States was

created. This alliance was so vital to the survival of the Shah that he became an extension of the

U.S. foreign policymaking in the region. In other words, the combination of rhetoric, policies,

and practices constituted the making of an acquiescent alliance between the Shah and the United

States, which was not initially contested by the other contending discourses. However, in later

years, this alliance took on a life of its own and turned into the basis for differentiating the Shah

and the United States on one side and all other contending discourses on the opposite side.

In this era, both the United States and Mohamad Reza Shah signified the Soviet Union as a

security threat, and this did not contradict how Islamists, nationalists, and constitutionalists

securitized the Soviet Union, albeit with a different interpretation. Thus, the securitization of the

Soviet Union was linked in a series of other relational links, for example, separatism to non-

Persianism, non-Persianism to communism, communism to atheism, and atheism to immorality,

chaos, and foreign enemies.48 In 1945, the first battle of the Cold War took place within the

context of multiple political spaces gathered into two camps.

On one side of this camp were the Soviet Union, the Tudeh Party, the Democratic Party of

Azerbaijan, the Democratic Party of Kurdistan, and their respective constituents. In this camp,

the Soviet Union refused to pull its troops out of Iran, as was required by the Tehran Treaty of


47 For more information on the Point Four Program, see Barry Buzan, "Rethinking Security after the Cold War,"
Cooperation and Conflict 32, no. 1 (1995).
48 For the concept of securitization, see Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, pp. 226-260.









1943, in the name of wanting to protect democratic movements in Kurdistan and Azerbaijan. The

Soviet Union supported the Tudeh Party as the main voice of Iranian people, and it claimed the

right for having an oil concession for the northern fields.49

On the other side of this camp were Britain, the United States, Mohamad Reza Shah,

Islamists, nationalists, and their respective constituencies who feared the Soviet Union and the

growing influence of the Tudeh. In fact, the most critical threat to the British interest until 1946

was a strike led by Tudeh in the southern oil fields, which seriously threatened British interests.50

Britain began to consolidate its military assets in the south and started mobilizing Bakhtiyari

tribes. It brought more troops to the Persian Gulf and threatened to land its troops.

Concomitantly, the United States intensified its supply of arms to Mohamad Reza Shah and put

pressure on Prime Minister Qavam's government.51 All these practices were represented as the

reaction to the threat imposed by the Soviet Union vis-a-vis its proxy, the Tudeh Party.

For Iranians, however, these representations were the same old politics of foreign

competition for the control of Iran's resources. Qavam's cabinet followed what had been

traditionally understood as the policy of positive equilibrium (muvazeneh musbat), which meant

playing the interests of one power against the other-a text born out of, and embedded in, the

context of colonial competition in Iran. Following this policy, Qavam appealed to the Russians

by allowing and encouraging the Tudeh Party to freely participate in its political activities.

Qavam went as far as arresting some of the Tudeh's right wing opposition. He entered into

negotiation with the separatists by promising them a certain degree of local autonomy, for


49 Mostafa Elm, Oil, Power, and Principle: Iran's Oil Nationalization and Its Aftermath, 1st ed., Contemporary
Issues in the Middle East (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1992), ch. 3.
50 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions.

51 Ibid., pp. 225-231.









example, allowing education in local languages. More importantly, he signed an agreement to

grant the Soviet Union the concession of oil fields in the north subject to the Majlis

confirmation.52 "While offering the Soviets and oil concession, Qavam tried to reassure the

Americans by proposing to them an equivalent concession in the southeast and by renewing the

U.S. military mission."53 However, immediately after the Soviet troops pulled out of Iran, the

government troops brutally repressed the separatist movements. The government banned the

Tudeh Party, and the Majlis never approved the oil concessions.54 Moreover, in 1947, with the

help of Qavam and Mussadiq, the Majlis passed legislation that barred the government from

entering into any negotiation for giving concessions to foreign governments.55 In the end, Qavam

claimed, and many people agreed, that he had played off the threat of the Soviets against that of

the British and had won the game. Meanwhile, the shah also claimed victory.

Nevertheless, the representation and interpretation of these events differed among various

identities. The shah represented the 1947 Soviet troop withdrawal as a military victory brought

about by his prudent military alliance with the United States. Until 1979, the shah celebrated this

move as a historical victory for Iranian sovereignty. He claimed that the victory was on account

of his military power, which implicitly legitimized the United States as a reliable military

alliance. This "victory" was represented as a military victory that had restored order, security,

and sovereignty to the country. The shah claimed that he had "saved Azerbaijan" and thus the






52 Ibid., p. 228.

53 Ibid.

54 Elm, Oil, Power, and Principle: Iran's Oil Nationalization and Its Aftermath.

55 Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, p. 124.









"fatherland" from foreign traitors and communist spies.56 This "victory day" was celebrated with

much fanfare until the fall of the Pahlavi dynasty.

In contrast to the Shah, constitutionalists and nationalists in the Majlis represented the

victory as a legal victory. They argued that the victory had become possible by Qavam

convincing the Soviets that he would lobby the Majlis on their behalf. This maneuver would

have been impossible without a legal and functional Majlis, constitutionalists argued. Moreover,

they argued that Qavam had cleverly utilized the Majlis to make a positive equilibrium

(muvazen-ya musbat) between the British and the Soviets. Accordingly, constitutionalists

believed that having a functional Majlis in charge of making treaties gave legal sanction to ruling

elites to pit one power against the other. Qavam made this point in a 1949 letter from Paris to the

shah as the shah was in the midst of his most aggressive move to reduce the role of the Majlis. In

his letter, Prime Minister Qavam reminded the shah that the 1946-1947 negotiation with the

Soviets would have failed had it not been for the Majlis and the constitution. He strongly advised

against further weakening of the constitution, urging that it would not only threaten the national

interest but also endanger the Pahlavi dynasty. For that advice, the shah took away Qavam's title

(ashrafor eminent), which he had given to him for negotiating the Soviet withdrawal in 1947.57

However, as power shifted from the cabinet and the Majlis to the shah, foreign policy

shifted from the concept of positive equilibrium to what the shah, in later years, called the policy

of "positive nationalism," which essentially meant the shah's acquiescent alliance with the

United States and its allies. Nevertheless, the articulation of the shah's concept of "positive

nationalism" was possible only in the context of Mussadiq's foreign policy of negative


56 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, pp. 225-231.

57 Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism, Princeton
Studies in Culture/Power/History (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996).









equilibrium, which meant non-alignment and was counterpoised to the traditional doctrine of

positive equilibrium. In fact, the doctrine of positive nationalism was the mirror image of the

Tudeh Party's acquiescent alliance for the Soviet policy. But the Tudeh called its foreign policy

"internationalism," which presupposed an acquiescent alliance with the Soviet Union.

In short, through policies and practices, the discourse of modern absolutism constructed

the "foreign" in foreign policy. In this era, with the consolidation of power in the hands of

Mohamad Reza Shah, the discourse of modern absolutism linked communists, nationalists, and

Islamists together as "foreigners."

Conclusion

In this era (1941-51), the Allies invaded Iran and forced the abdication of Reza Shah. As

Reza Shah's regime of modern absolutism fell apart, various discourses once again struggled for

state building, nation imaging, and conducting foreign relations. While constitutionalists and

modernists mainly dominated the state, Islamists, socialists, and nationalists opposed the state

and competed to establish their own ideal political order. Although this era was marred by chaos,

disorder, and conflict, it was also the only era in modern Iranian history when freedom of

expression was not and could not be suppressed. In this era, contending discourses were able to

construct values that have remained in the language (see Chapters 5 and 6).

For example, in state-building, had it not been for the discourse of development in Iran, it

would not have been possible for the Shah to imagine the United States as a natural ally that

could have helped his country to develop. Had it not been for the American produced power and

knowledge, it would not have been possible for the construction of an acquiescent alliance

between Mohamad Reza Shah and the United States (as will be discussed in Chapter 6 ).

In nation imagining, had it not been for the discourse of Islam, it would not have been

possible for Mohamad Reza Shah to represent himself as a "good" Muslim as opposed to "bad"









Muslims whose ignorance would threaten Iran, Islam, and historical development (Chapter 6).

Furthermore, had it not been for the discourse of Shi'ism, it would not have been possible for the

Mohamad Reza Shah to represent himself as a devout Shi'ite and a modern king (Chapter 6).

developmental model. Had it not been for the discourse absolutism, it would have been

impossible for the shah to represent himself as the linkage between "Iranian instinctive

nationalism" and security of the fatherland.

In foreign policy, the articulatory practice of the Shah's acquiescent alliance with the

United States would not have been conceivable, had it not been for the construction of the threat

of communism. Relatedly, the articulatory practice of imagining the Soviets as a communist

threat would have been inconceivable, had it not been for the logic of relational linkages. For

example, discursively, the linkages among communism and the Soviets; the Soviets with the

Russians; the Russians with colonialism; the colonialism with interventions; the intervention of

the Soviet Union with the Tudeh; the Tudeh with separatists; the separatists with non-Persians;

the non-Persians with foreigners; and foreigners with the Soviet Union.58 In this tautological

circle, the Persian Self understood itself in its opposition to its non-Persian foreign other

associated with existential narratives in the language. In other words, in the discourse of modern

absolutism, "we the Persians" was understood in opposition to "those communists," but both the

"we" and "them" could be understood only in the context of contending discourses in Iran.

Moreover, the articulatory practice of imagining the Soviets as an atheistic threat would not have

been possible, had it not been for Iranians linking Soviets with Russians, Russians with

Christianity, Christianity with non-Muslim rule, non-Muslim rule with colonialism, and

colonialism with un-Islamic rule of others. In this tautology, the Muslim-Iranian Self understood

58 For more information of indirect rule and colonialism, see Homa Katouzian, Musaddiq and the Struggle for
Power in Iran (London; New York: I.B. Tauris 1990), p. 66.









itself in opposition to the non-Muslim foreign Other. In Chapter 5, I will discuss how the

discourse of democratic nationalism prioritized people rather than security, which gave meaning

to how security, development, law, class, and Islam were interpreted.









CHAPTER 5
DEMOCRATIC NATIONALISM (1951-53)

Introduction

In this chapter, I will narrate the rise and fall of the Mussadiq era (1951-1953). The official

state discourse in this era became the discourse of "democratic nationalism." This chapter will

also examine the formation of the basic signifiers in the discourse of democratic nationalism.

Through examination of texts, I will demonstrate how the shift in official state discourse was

represented, understood, and practiced. I will demonstrate how a particular formation of

"people"-as a primary signifier of this discourse-permeated the meaning of security,

development, law, class, and Islam. The state's projects of state building, nation imagining, and

conducting foreign policy reflected the values constituted within the discourse. Finally, I

conclude by suggesting that the traces of the discourse of democratic nationalism permeated not

only the discourse of modernists, but also Islamists (will be discussed in Chapter 6).

Events

In 1949, as Mohamad Reza Shah was consolidating his power, he began to lose the

collective imagination of the people to an issue that symbolized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company

(AIOC) as all that was wrong with Iran. The issue was the once celebrated 1933 Oil Agreement

between Iran and the AIOC.1 Mohamad Reza Shah and his Anglophile deputies, who held a

majority in the Majlis at the time, planned to rubber stamp the modification to the agreement, but

their plan backfired and the issue changed from an ordinary trade issue into a national struggle

for independence from foreign powers. In a matter of weeks, Mohamad Reza Shah's supporters

could not help but criticize the compensatory shortcomings of the proposal, while the opponents

of the agreement began to question the legality of the 1933 agreement, calling it a violation of


1 Ibid., p. 69.










Iran's sovereignty, "high treason" committed by signatories to the 1933 agreement, and freedom

from foreign domination.2 Simply put, a hegemonic discourse was constructed by symbolizing

the AIOC as the manifestation of"foreignness" linked to domination intervention, occupation,

weakness, backwardness, misery, and indignity of Self in a relational opposition to Britain.3

In this hegemony, supporting the Nationalization Bill proposed by National Front (NF)

equated to nationalism, and opposing it meant being a foreigner or foreign agent (Muzduran

Khareji).4 Even the chief negotiator of the Supplementary Agreement, Jahangir Gulshahiyan,

meekly asserted that he could have reached a better deal, had it not been for the pressure from

above-the court.5 As a result, a small coalition of deputies easily postponed the bill for the 16

Majlis.6

The control of 16 Majlis became the battle between two forces-the shah, Mussadiq, and

their respective supporters. At the heart of the battle, however, were two different discourses for

the nation-state-modern absolutism versus democratic nationalism. While modern absolutists

relied on the state's coercive power supported by the United States, democratic nationalists relied

on the power of the street.




2 Mohammad Musaddiq, Musaddiq's Memoirs, trans. Homa Katuzain (London: JEBHE, National Movement of Iran,
1988), V. ii, chapter 8. In fact Musaddiq's memoir is replete with the assertion that Anglophiles and Reza Shah
conspired to extend the Darcy Concession for another 30 years, e.g., Musaddiq, Musaddiq's Memoirs, p. 312. Also
see Katouzian, Musaddiq and the Strugglefor Power in Iran, p. 67. According to Mussadiq's memoir, Dr. Hussein
Fatemi first suggested that the nationalization of Iranian oil industry was a good strategy for Iranians because "it
made it no longer necessary to prove the invalidity of the 1933 Agreement."

3 By hegemonic identity, I mean that contending discourses were temporary unified by identifying with one sign. In
this case, it was Iran against the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

4 National Front (NF) was a coalition made up of nationalists, Islamists, and the democratic socialists.

5 See M. Fateh, Panjah Saal Naft-EIran/Fifty Years of ranian Oil (Tehran: Chehr Press, 1956/1335), pp. 385-411.
Also see Elm, Oil, Power, and Principle: Iran's Oil Nationalization and Its Aftermath. Also see,
6 See Ross, "Iran Parliament Faces Power Test; Packed by 1,000 Families,' Its Attitude Will Determine If
Dictatorship Is Set Up."









When the 16 Majlis began on February 10, 1950, The New York Times, reflecting the

ongoing struggle between the two different political discourses, wrote: "Circumstances

surrounding the session of the newly elected Parliament that opened yesterday indicate that this

Parliament's attitude will decide whether Iran is to have a dictatorship."7

A few days before the shah's 1949 trip to the United States, Mussadiq protested, claiming

election frauds, and led a large group of prominent national leaders to take sanctuary bastt) in the

yard of one of the shah's palaces. Protesters demanded a free press, free elections, and the lifting

of martial law. The shah was caught off guard by the boldness of Mussadiq's move at a time

when the shah's demand for U.S. military aid was being debated.8 He backed off and publicly

promised to hold free elections.9 When the 16 Majlis began in February 1950, the National Front

did not have a majority, but it had the power of mobilizing the people. 10 With this move, there

was a shift in the practices of both forces. Suddenly, Mohamad Reza Shah who had shown no

respect for the constitution, began to invoke the supremacy of constitutional laws, legislative

precedents, and legal procedures. Mussadiq, a lawyer and a professional bureaucrat, admonished

the Shah for breaking precedent and began to invoke the people's rights and devalue laws that

did not "serve the interests of the people."11

Public support for Mussadiq was extensive and deep. It was extensive because various

associations of lawyers, engineers, ulama, bazaaris, and journalists supported him. Moreover, a



7 Waggoner, "Iran's Shah to Ask Assistance in U.S.; Monarch, Due on Wednesday, Expected to Express Need for
Millitary, Economic, Aid."

8 Ross, "Iran Parliament Faces Power Test; Packed by 1,000 Families,' Its Attitude Will Determine If Dictatorship Is
Set Up." Also see Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 252.

9 Makki, Tarikhecheh Jebhaya Melli (a Short History of the National Front).

10 For more information on the National Front and its core members, see Ibid.

1 Ibid.









large majority of the people simply identified with Mussadiq. His support was deep because

political parties, such as Iran's Party, the Party of Toilers of Iran, the Tudeh Party, the Party of

Democrats affiliated with Qavam, the Society of Muslim Warriors (Jamaya Mojahedian Islami),

and the Devotees of Islam (Fadaian-i Islam) supported him. 12

Sensing the popularity of Mussadiq's movement, Mohamad Reza Shah needed a

strongman to settle the oil issue and appointed General Ali Razmara to be the prime minister.

This choice backfired; Razmara tried to make a coalition of the pro-Soviet Union Tudeh Party

and Sayed Zia's pro-British party. Razmara's coalition began not only to scare the Shah, but also

Islamists in the NF, who were not against the Shah at the time but against Razmara whom

Islamists perceived as a British stooge. Ayatollah "Kashani encouraged all 'sincere' Muslims

and patriotic citizens to fight against the enemies of Islam and Iran by joining the nationalization

struggle. Finally, the Fadaian-i Islam authorized one of its members ... the 'scared mission' of

assassinating that 'British stooge,' Razmara."13

The public rejoicing over Razmara's death left no doubt as to the intensity of the hatred for

anyone represented as an "Anglophile." The shah appointed Hussein Ala as prime minister.

However, Ala's government fell in less than two months when the Tudeh Party's organized

strike in the AIOC refinery in Abadan was turning into a revolution that drew British gunboats to

the Persian Gulf. The strike also alerted the shah of the strength of the Tudeh organizational

power. It became obvious that the National Front and Tudeh Party overwhelmingly controlled

the popular imagination, and each was infiltrating the military, the police, and the state


12 Katouzian, Musaddiq and the Struggle for Power in Iran, pp. 71-77. Also see Abrahamian, Iran between Two
Revolutions, p. 254-255. For a list of members, see Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 266. People such
as Mussadiq, Kashani, Maki, Haari-zadih, Bagai, Sanjabi, Shaiygan, and Fatemi were among some of the most
effective orators.

13 Elm, Oil, Power, and Principle: Iran's Oil Nationalization and Its Aftermath, ch.5.










bureaucracy. To avert a social revolution, the shah and the Majlis sided with the nationalists and

agreed to Mussadiq's nine-point plan for nationalization of the oil industry as a precondition for

him to form a new government.14

Relying on his public support, Mussadiq nationalized the AIOC. Britain reacted with fury

not only at the loss of its most valued prize, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, but because of the

blow to its Middle Eastern the imperial prestige and possessions. Anthony Eden, the British

prime minister, called for confronting Iran for the return "of stolen property" and prevention of

the "spread of Mussaddiqism in the Arab Middle East."15 As Britain's effort to defeat Mussadiq

intensified, so did Mussadiq's popularity16

On July 16, 1952, Mussadiq ratcheted up the pressure. In effect, he told the shah that either

he must give up his post as the military commander-in-chief or Mussadiq would turn in his

resignation. Considering the immense popularity of Mussadiq at the time, that meant a possible

revolution.17 The shah initially refused and nominated Qavam as the prime minister whom the

British favored to form a new government.18 On July 21, 1952 (Siya Tir), the revolutionary

uprising, which was organized by nationalists led by Mussadiq, Islamists led by Kashani, and

socialists led by the Tudeh, began to mutiny in the military. The generals ordered soldiers back

to their barracks, and protesters began to control the streets. By 5 p.m., news of the victory of

14 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, pp. 261-266. Also, Katouzian, Musaddiq and the Struggle for Power
in Iran, pp. 117.
15 Katouzian, Musaddiq and the Struggle for Power in Iran, p. 122.

16 Britain first referred Iran to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and later to the National Security
Council, but it lost its cases. Britain also began to use its various embassies throughout Iran as the basis for
fomenting opposition, but Mussadiq closed all of them. Then the British economic blockade worsened the economic
conditions of Iran, but it was not enough to bring down Mussadiq's government. Finally, Britain resorted to military
means by lobbying for a military coup. See Katouzian, Musaddiq and the Struggle for Power in Iran, 122-25
17 It appears that Mussadiq was content to retire. In his memoir, he alludes to his fatalistic desire to go back to
retirement. Also see Mohammad Mussadiq, "Public Letter of Resignation," Ittial'lat, July 17, 1952.

18 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 270.










Mussadiq's supporters was triumphantly broadcasted from the state radio. 19 From that point, Siya

Tir (July 21) entered into the language as a mythical day when people defeated the state.20 The

day after the uprising, Mussadiq effectively used his unmatched popularity to form his second

government with the promise of freedom for the people and independence from foreigners.

Once Mussadiq's control of the state was complete, the coalition of the contending

discourses that had helped him take over the government began to collapse. First, Britain was

represented as a defeated power. Hence, what had unified people with contending discourses in

their opposition to Britain disappeared. In a number of speeches, Mussadiq attempted to refocus

the attention of his opponents back to the British question, but he was not able to do so as

Ayatollah Khomeini successfully would do some 37 years later by allowing Americans to be

held as hostages.21 In a total reversal of position, Islamists broke away from Mussadiq and

represented him as the enemy of Islam.22 Constitutionalists represented him as a dictator who

was in violation of the scared constitution.23 Ironically, Mohamad Reza Shah and modernists








19 The account of how many people were killed or seriously injured ranges from 29 to 750. Abrahamian suggests
that 250 were either killed or seriously injured See Ha'er-zadeh, "Parliamentary Proceedings, 17t Majlis (May 19,
1953).
20 The headline in Ettela 'at, July 22, 1952

21 After the 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini appeared to have understood that he needed to maintain America
as the symbol of unity.

22 Haerizadeh, a prominent member of the Majles, stated: "Mussadiq was out to destroy our country with class
conflicts." See, Fateh, Panjah Saal Naft-E Iran/Fifty Years of ranian Oil
23 The right wing of the National Front was comprised of well-known individuals such as Ayatollah Kashani, by
then a member of the Majlis; Bager Kazemi a respected non-clerical Muslim devotee; Mehdi Bazargan, a new breed
of highly educated Muslim devotees, the head of the Islamic Society. For reversal of the National Front fortune, see
Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, Mohammed Reza, Answer to History.










represented Mussadiq as a British agent and an anti monarchist.24 Finally, the Tudeh represented

him as an American stooge trying to serve the interest of U.S. imperialism rather than Britain.25

However, despite the collapse of the hegemonic coalition build by Mussadiq and

counterpoised to Britain, Mussadiq's popular support surpassed the support of all other

contending discourses combined. Up to the day of his fall from power, Mussadiq maintained the

support of some of the most respected public intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, politicians,

ulama, younger generation of military officers, and clearly the majority of the press.26 However,

external events once again sealed whatever fate Iran's democratization might have had. After the

1953 CIA-backed coup succeeded and Mussadiq's government fell, the discourse of modem

monarchism became the official state discourse for the next 27 years. I will discuss the

construction and collapse of that discourse in Chapter 6.

Political Identity of Democratic Nationalism (1951-1953)

By signifying "people," the discourse of democratic nationalism constituted the meanings

of order and security, development and modernization, law and civilization, Islam and ethics,


24 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 321.

25 The Tudeh perceived Mussadiq in two ways. The old generation of Tudeh represented and understood Mussadiq
as the representative of the national bourgeois in a progressive struggle against the shah's feudalism and British
imperialism. The younger and more radical wing of the Tudeh, closely following the Soviet line, represented
Mussadiq as the representative of the comprador bourgeois linked to American imperialism. The pages of Be-su-ya
Ayandih (Toward the Future), which officially reflected the views of the Tudeh Party Central Committee, is full of
texts representing these two approaches. This ambiguity in the Tudeh's position toward the National Front resulted
in a fatal blow not only to the discourse of democratic-nationalism in Iran, but also to the Tudeh that bore the brunt
of the Shah's repression after the CIA coup of 1953. In short, the Tudeh primarily identified with the class-analysis,
and thus its support for Mussadiq was contingent upon how it interpreted the state of capitalism in Iran. However, as
the Mussadiq's grip on the control of the state became stronger after the event of July 21, the Tudeh became more
oppositional toward Mussadiq because it was gaining more confidence that after Mussadiq's fall, it could easily take
over the states. The Tudeh Party had proven that it had the ability to mobilize more than 300,000 people. See
"Mussadegh, the Politics of Oil, and American Foreign Policy" (Upper Montclair, New Jersey, Oct. 30, 1992). For a
review of why the Tudeh did not mobilize, see the General Discussion of a conference held by some of the most
well-known Iranian experts, "Protest in Baharestan Circle," Ettelaat August 17, 1953.
26 The morning after the initial coup, which appeared to have failed, thousands of people gathered in Bahrestan to
protest the coup. People brought down many of Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Shah statues. See Said Fatemi, "To
End the Pain of Hunger, a Man Hunged Himself," Bakhtar Emrouz June 1949.









and class and justice. Through a particular signification of "people," democratic nationalists

imagined an ideal nation-state in which the "people" were represented as a unified body with no

distinction made between Persians and non-Persians, capitalists and workers, civilized citizens

and savages, Muslims and non-Muslims, and modern and traditional. In other words, the

"people" became the basic signifier that linked a series of images, words, and practices to

construct a political space in which differences in Self disappeared to constitute a unified body

called the "people" conceptualized as the absolute sovereign; therefore, the provider and the

beneficiary of order or security, law, development, justice, and ethics.

However, transforming the fragmented body of the nation into a unified Self needed a

historically available and socially understood sign or symbol in the language. That sign was

Kharejian (foreigners), which was already related to how Iranians imagined themselves in

relation to others. Since the 1906 Constitutional Revolution, the word "foreigner" (Kharejian)

had signified weakness, poverty, misery, insecurity, and domination of Self by arrogance, power,

and wealth over others. Yet Kharijian had exited into the language in many forms. To transform

this heterogeneity into homogeneity needed another available, possible, and imaginable sign in

the language. That sign was the AIOC, which linked Britain. Foreigners reflected all that was

imagined wrong with Iran-no independence, no freedom, no law, underdevelopment, class

injustice, and unethical practices. In effect, this discourse represented Iran as a collective body

threatened by the AIOC and Britain. In the discourse on democratic nationalism, Iran was

represented as a biological body whose very survival was threatened by Britain. Through this

practices, the people were motivated and mobilized as though they were a singular body

threatened by Britain. In the next section, I will discuss how rhetoric, policies, and practices in

the discourse constructed a political space in which people were turned into the absolute









sovereign and thus the legitimate provider of security, development, law, democracy, equality,

and social ethics.

Imagining the Nation

Motivating, Unifying, and Mobilizing the People

Representing people as the absolute sovereign discursively constructed a singular body of a

nation in opposition to foreign powers and their Iranian agents. The binary representation of

"people" opposing "foreigners" translated into the struggle for people's motivation and

mobilization. Articulating this representation were individuals such as Khalil Maleki, Ali

Shayigan, Ahmad Razavi, Jalal Naini, Rahmat Mustafavi, and Hussein Fatemi. The latter three

men edited a daily paper titled Bakhtar-i Emruz (Today 's East), which became the official organ

of the National Front. However, as the NF fragmented, the paper remained a loyal promoter of

Mussadiq's discourse of democratic nationalism until the fall of his government. By representing

the "people" as a unified body in a life-and-death struggle, Bakhtar-i Emruz motivated the

people to take the state away from foreign usurpers of power and establish the people's

sovereignty (hukumat-i mardumi). For example, in its first issue in 1949, the headline read, "To

End the Pain of Hunger, a Man Hung Himself."27 The piece is not, however, about the plight of a

man; it is about the body of the nation that is dying because of corrupt and incompetent state-

elites who pursued their own self-interest and the interests of foreigners (Kharejian), but ignored

the horrible socio-political conditions of the nation. The paper stated that if the elites were of the

people, the suffering would end. The paper therefore argued that the only solution for ending the

suffering was for the people to establish the people's sovereignty, free from the contamination of





27 "Commemorating Imam Hussein's Birthday," Bakhtar Emruz May, 9 1950.









Kharejian and their Iranian agents. In other words, the paper represented a man as a dying

embodiment of a nation that had to establish its own people's sovereignty.

This was done by representing people's sovereignty as a natural fact of history embedded

in both Persian and Islamic myths. For example, for the occasion of commemorating Imam

Hussein's birthday, Bakhtar-i Emruz compared the present with the past by suggesting, despite

all odds, that Imam Hussein struggled against the unjust rulers and thus created an epic example

of valor for resisting unjust rule and promoting freedom and justice for people. The text

represented Imam Hussein as a contemporary nationalist in a struggle to build a state free from

foreign domination and/or intervention. 28 In other words, signifying the people as the absolute

sovereign not only motivated and mobilized people, but also drew upon the meaning of Islamic

and Persian myths. Signifying the "people" as the source of governing was how Mussadiq's

government came to power and maintained it for 27 months.

For example, a year after Mussadiq's government had been in power, he decided to place

the military and police under civilian rule. The shah refused to give up his most prized authority,

and the matter was settled in the street. On the anniversary of the uprising in July 21, 1952 (Si-ya

Tir), Bakhtar-i Emruz described the ideals of democratic nationalism in which people are

represented as a unified body resurrected in a great Jihad to achieve the people's sovereignty and

thus freedom, independence, law, development, justice, and ethics.29

The text argued: "In that historical day with words and blood ... we call for freedom .

Sand understood that freedom is not a gift."30 This representation utilizes Islamic myths to


28 -- "Si-Ya Tir, the Day of National Resurrection," Bakhtar Emruz, Monday, July 20, 1953/1332.

29 As a reminder, Si-ya Tir is the day of the showdown between Mussadiq's government and the shah's appointed,
Qavam's government. Mussadiq won this battle.
30 Fatemi, "Si-Ya Tir, the Day of National Resurrection."









invoke the Marxist language of historical struggle, not against class enemies, but against

Kharejian and their historically determined fates. The text then represented the "people" as the

legitimate source of laws. It stated:

We have waited to see a constitutional government; now, we will build one by ourselves.
We will first level your palaces and then construct our nation on their rubbles. We will
free ourselves from centuries of misery and slavery, and we will build a government of
the people, by the people. We will break all idols and idolatries, and we will demand our
rights and freedom.31

The text also represented the "people" as the legitimate interpreter of the law: "The government

uselessly invoked the constitution, rules, procedures, and laws; all that it had already been

corrupted."32 Moreover, the text represented the "people" as a historically united body:

We the people .. shared a divine unity [inherited] from our forefathers whose voices
came from within us, we want to destroy this shameful despotism and restore the spirit of
our constitution, we want freedom for our people .. and fighting us is as if you are
fighting the words of God."33

While the people were represented as a singular body with a common history, faith, blood,

will, and leadership, their religious, tribal, class, and historical differences were muted.

Moreover, the people's enemy was also represented as a historical entity their fathers had fought

but had not won yet. The text argued that "we Iranians had not yet cut the hands of foreigners

and the backstabbing traitors, and by relying on the infinite power of the people led by our

'beloved' leader, Mussadiq, we will soon establish our sovereignty fully."34

Discursively, in the historical and religious struggle between the people and their foreign

enemies, the very life of the nation is threatened by internal and external enemies. Moreover, the



31 Ibid.
32 Ibid.

33 Ibid.
34 Jamal Emami, "Parliamentary Proceedings," (1951), 16th Majles, Nov. 13.









people were represented as the absolute sovereign and thus the source of security, development,

law, equality, and Islamic ethics. As such, Mussadiq always threatened to go to the people, and

his opponents used to deride him for using "street politics."35 In a fiery speech to the Majlis

(Parliament), Jamal Emami protested, "Statecraft has degenerated into street politics. It appears

that this country has nothing better to do than hold street meetings."36 According to Emami:

Is our premier a statesman or a mob leader? What type of premier says, "I will speak to the
people" every time he is faced with a political question? I always considered this man to be
unsuitable for high office. But I never imagined, even in my worst nightmare, that an old
man of seventy would turn into a rabble-rouser. A man who constantly surrounds the
Majlis with thugs is nothing less than a public menace.37

Indeed, for democratic nationalists, motivating, unifying, and mobilizing people created a

political space in which imagining people as the absolute sovereign was conceivable, and that

conceivability permeated the meaning of how law, development, social or class justice, and

Islamic and Persian ethics were interpreted. Moreover, for democratic nationalists, what

remained constant before and after Mussadiq's takeover of the government was how the nation

saw itself in terms of its historical struggle against foreigners embodied in Britain.

Imagining People as the Source of Law

As discussed in the previous chapters, "law" has been one of the basic signifiers in the

shaping of Iranian contending discourses identities. Since the 1906 Constitutional Revolution,

law, constitution, civilization, and the West had been discursively constructed in their relational

differences to despotism, lawlessness, and absolutism in the East in general and Iran in

particular. These relational linkages and differences remained in the language practices of



35 Ettelaat, June 20, 1951.
36 See Fateh, Panjah Saal Naft-E Iran/Fifty Years of Iranian Oil p. 580.

7 Quoted in Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 267-268. Translation in, Said Fatemi, "Either Freedom
or Death (Ya Marg, Ya Azadi)," Bakhtar, August 18, 1949.









democratic nationalists. They shaped how the "West" was signified as being lawful, civilized,

and industrialized democracies where freedom, justice, and ethics flourished. This representation

was constructed in opposition to the East. Said Fatemi, one the founder of Bakhtar, wrote :

In the West, the level of civilization and development of a country is measured ... in terms
of a political environment in which freedom, justice, and good governance flourish. In the
East, after many generations of struggle to achieve "freedom" and "justice," we do not yet
understand the meanings of these concepts. We cannot even contemplate that there is
another world out there [the West], where people do not suffer from despotic tyranny,
invasion, force, and despotism .... But out beyond our grassless, waterless, and desolate
deserts, there is a world called the West. A world where people do not fear from
government-owned bayonets; where people do not adulate their leaders by force or for the
sake of their survival; and where elites do not betray their own people to succeed in
politics. However, under this colonial rule we call the East, people cannot decide for
themselves, people are not sovereign, and people live as animals do in the state of nature-
the state of nature where only the fittest and strongest survive.38

In this representation, the East-West is catergorized as the civilized West in opposition to the

state of nature in the colonized East. The text then makes a clear differentiation between the

West and foreigners. In other words, the West is not a concrete geographic location or

homogenous concept. Instead, the West is dichotomized: the West where people are sovereign

and states are lawful, civilized, industrialized, and democratic, and the West where foreigners,

colonizers, and despots and their supporters originate.39

In this country, leaders sell their beliefs for pennies; legislatures pride themselves for their
association with foreign embassies, but feel humiliated to stand up for the interest of the
people. While the government suffocates patriotic writers and citizens, it rewards
sycophants and traitors.40

In short, the signifier for democratic nationalists was the people in opposition to Western

foreigners, colonizers, despots, and corrupt leaders, all of whom the discourse labeled as



38 Fatemi, "Either Freedom or Death (Ya Marg, YaAzadi)."

39 Ibid. Bakhtar is another name for various versions of Bakhtar Emruz, which was repeatedly suspended by the
government, and it was republished under different versions of the same name.
40 Musaddiq, Musaddiq'sMemoirs, p. 354.









Kharejian (foreigners). However, Kharejian were not yet equated to the West as a whole.

Instead, the West was glorified as the place where people were sovereign, and the West where

foreigners came from.

Discourse of Developing the State

Freedom, Independence

In this interpretation, the relational opposition between Irani and Khareji shaped how

freedom and independence were represented, understood, and practiced. For democratic

nationalists, people's freedom meant independence from foreign powers in economics, politics,

and foreign relations. Mussadiq wrote: "For me and men like me, a foreigner is a foreigner

whatever his aims and ideology. What can anyone do when every clique of foreign agents seeks

the dominance of its own master, and the destruction of men like me in this country?"41 In this

rhetorical practice, nationalism and nationalizing are equated to independence from foreign

powers. This articulatory practice was conceived as "good" because it linked the people's

sovereignty to nationalizing the AIOC: (a) pursuing economic autarky, (b) subordinating the

military to civilian rules, (c) forcing the shah to reign rather than rule, (d) constructing history

accordingly, and (e) following a policy of non-alignment.

Political Development

Representing the people as the absolute sovereign meant constructing relational linkages

between "people" as being the legitimate source of constructing a political order and establishing

security. Representing the "people" as the provider of security and development was in sharp

contrast to how modem absolutists represented political development, which was embodied in

the shah. When Mohamad Reza Shah formed the Senate, Mussadiq declared it as illegal and



41 Mohammad Mussadiq, Speeches by Dr. Mussadiq 2vols. (Tehran: Bee Jaa, 1979/1348), v. 2, p. 14.









illegitimate because it did not represent the people. In all these arguments, Mussadiq represented

"people" as the legitimate source of laws. To devalue criticism that Mussadiq was not following

the law, he would occasionally argue that "the constitution was for the nation, not the nation for

the constitution."42 In contrast, he would criticize his opponents for not paying attention to public

opinion.43

Mussadiq argued that if Mohamad Reza Shah ruled as an English monarch does instead of

an absolutist despot, his father's fate would not be awaiting him-dying in exile alienated from

his people and without the support of his foreign allies.44 He often said: "The king of England is

highly respected because he stands outside politics and avoids the dirty business of appointing

and dismissing ministries, deputies, and governors."45 Classifying "people" as the absolute

sovereign created the possibility of reclassifying the shah as a historical institution and not the

embodiment of the state as modern absolutists depicted him.

For example, on the ninth anniversary of Mohamad Reza Shah's rule, the editorial column

of Bakhtar-i Emruz referred to the shah as "the young, kind, and democratic shah of Iran."

Referring to the Soviet occupation, the paper admired the patriotic role the shah had played in

returning Azerbaijan and Kurdistan back to the fatherland. The piece argued that the shah's

Western education was a positive attribute that gave him the necessary insight to care about the

deplorable conditions of Iranians and compassion for his people. The piece stated: "Without any

doubt whatsoever, if all those who are responsible for the affair of this country cared to perform

their national duties as consciously as the shah did, then, these gloomy conditions would cease to

42 Ibid., p. 22.

43 For example, his rhetoric against Razmara, see Musaddiq, Musaddiq's Memoirs.

44 Ibid.
45 "The Ninth Anniversary of His Reign," Bakhtar Emruz, Sep. 5, 1949.









exist."46 In other words, the text differentiated the shah from the corrupt state-elites. This

representation of the shah continued until the 1953 coup became apparent. From then on, the

shah was never again represented as democratic, progressive, or a part of the people. In fact, for

all the contending discourses, the shah became the symbol of foreign domination and

intervention.

Following this logic, in 1952 Mussadiq formally requested the subordination of the

military to the civilian rule, which would effectively force the shah to reign rather than rule. On

the other hand, the shah viewed himself as the absolute sovereign and saw the military as his

personal inheritance, the relinquishment of which would mean the fall of the state, so he refused

to give up his post. Mussadiq resigned, but his resignation set off the event of Si-ya Tir, which

could have blown into a full-scale revolution. Thus, the shah was forced to give up his role as the

commander in chief of the military and police.

Additionally, Mussadiq legally barred the shah from negotiating with foreign diplomats

without the knowledge of the Majlis or the presence of a cabinet member at all meetings.

Nevertheless, the United States and Britain maintained their direct contact with the shah, the

military, and some of the deputies in the Majlis. Since democratic nationalists perceived people

as the sovereign, the perceived freedom, independence, and development in a relational

opposition to foreigners was embodied in Britain and, to a lesser extent, the Soviet Union.

In effect, during this era, two governments existed, each with a different vision of

independence from foreigners and thus political order and development. Modern absolutists

viewed the shah as the sovereign. They therefore saw Mussadiq as the embodiment of anti-





46 Mussadiq, Speeches by Dr. Mussadiq p. 22.









Iranian monarchic nationalism and the corresponding ways of perceiving economic and political

development.47

Economic Development

The key to economic development for democratic nationalists was its independence from

foreign powers. In contrast to modem absolutism supporters, who wanted rapid, large-scale, and

state-led growth in alliance with a supportive great power, democratic nationalists wanted a

gradual, middle-sized, and locally-based developmental program. Interestingly, Mussadiq's

economic plan was very similar to the British economic plan at the time, and it did not deviate

from the economic principles of the Plan Organization proposed by the United States. However,

neither one of these powers saw Mussadiq's economic plans for its objectives, which was to

promote domestic economic growth by small and mid-size industries, diversification, and

uprooting "the old and corrupted forces in operation in Iran," as the American consulting firm,

the Overseas Consultants Inc. (OCI) had advised. Thus, the intransigencies on behalf of Britain

and Iran were less about the substantive content of economic policies than the articulatory

practices of them.

On one hand, Britain refused to accept Iran's rights to nationalize properties even though

Iran had agreed to pay a fair market value for the AIOC. Fakreddin Azimi contends:

Refusing to believe that the movement for the nationalization of the oil industry was
anything more than spurious, the British dismissed Mussadegh as a "Lunatic," impervious
to reason, unable or ill-equipped to identify, understand or safeguard the interests of his
country. Perceiving their privileged position to be beneficial to Iran, if not part of the
natural order of things, they were determined to save Iran from itself, and purportedly from
communism, by whatever means necessary.48



47 Fakhreddin Azimi, "Mussadegh, Iranian Nationalism and Oil (paper presented at the Mussadegh, the Politics of
Oil, and American Foreign Policy Oct 30, 1992), pp. 24-25.
48 Ibid., p. 24.









On the other hand, Mussadiq perceived anything less than the explicit recognition of the

nationalization of oil industry "as a defeat of national aspiration and concomitantly the

undermining of democratic objectives."49 Alternatively, the World Bank's formula for settling

the dispute between Iran and Britain could have been acceptable, had it explicitly recognized

Iran's sovereign rights as the International Court of Justice in The Hague had done.50 The oil

nationalization issue was about identity issues rather than objective and disinterested economic

issues for Iranians. According to Hussein Maki, before Baghai became an ardent enemy of

Mussadiq, he had declared that "Iran's oil resources should be destroyed by an atom bomb rather

than remain in the AIOC's hands."5 In other words, the understanding of economic

development was not based on some objective economic criteria independent of the politics of

identity, which linked nationalization to Iran's independence. As such, nationalization was

represented as the only way to cure Iran's underdevelopment. Mussadiq would occasionally

reiterate, "There would be no way to assure Iran's freedom and independence unless all of its oil

industry is nationalized."52 Interestingly, the legal term that the government used to describe the

oil nationalization policy was Khal-i Yad, which literally means hands off. This term invoked the

oppositional relation between a property owner and a thief. Conversely, Britain branded Iranian

oil sold to third parties during the dispute as "stolen property."53






49 Musaddiq, Musaddiq's Memoirs, PP. 334-354.
50 For information on how Mussadiq felt about this issue, see, Katouzian, Musaddiq and the Struggle for Power in
Iran, p. 137.
51 Mussadiq, Speeches by Dr. Mussadiq v. 1, p. 109.

52 Katouzian, Musaddiq and the Struggle for Power in Iran, pp. 122-125.

53 Ibid., p. 141.










In other words, both economic and political development were represented, understood,

and practiced in terms of independence from foreign powers.54 That is why even negotiation

with foreign powers appeared suspicious, unpatriotic, and conspiratorial. Conversely, economic

independence, self-sufficiency, and self-reliance appeared patriotic and good. This articulatory

practice justified the nationalization of the AIOC and the non-renewal of the Soviet Union

fishing concession in the Caspian Sea. It also justified other economic policies pushed by

Mussadiq's government. Mussadiq argued that if Iran denied the nationalization of the AIOC,

other countries, which implied the Soviet Union, would not have an excuse to demand favorable

55
concessions.5

Mussadiq's government encouraged domestic economic growth by reforming civil,

criminal, press, administrative, tax, and labor laws, and by reducing the military budget

concomitant with increasing export and decreasing import.56 Pursuing these policies under

economic sanctions was challenging, but Mussadiq's government was gradually overcoming

them.57 On the other hand, marketing oil directly to buyers was beginning to diminish the

effectiveness of Britain's naval blockade and the U.S. refusal to buy Iranian oil. It appeared that

the government was on its way to recovering from the initial shock of the oil nationalization

project.







54 Katouzian also made this argument, that is, establishing a sovereign state was more important to Mussadiq than
immediate economic development; see, Mussadiq, Speeches by Dr. Mussadiq p.116.

55 Ibid., p. 13.
56 James Bill and Roger Louis, eds., Mussaddiq, Iranian Nationalization and Oil (Austin: University of Texas Press,
1988), p. 223.
57 "Carrying Iranian Oil to Japan Is a Great New Loss for England.," Ettelaat April 14, 1953.









For example, news of Japanese and Italian oil tankers arriving, loading, and leaving

Abadan was enthusiastically reported as if Iran had already defeated Britain. In a sense, the

government began to treat the oil issue as if it had already won the battle, and all indications

pointed that way. According to Katouzian, "On purely economic grounds, the fall of Mussadiq's

government was by no means inevitable."59

In short, the discourse of democratic nationalism constructed a political space that made a

particular representation, description, and rationalization of economic development as the only

way to assure Iran's aspiration for freedom, independence, and development. All other

alternatives or possibilities were represented as bad, foreign-driven, and detrimental to Iran's

survival. Even history was reconstructed to prove the point. Mussadiq argued: "I was opposed to

oil concession .. ever since the 9 Majlis when the 1933 Agreement was concluded ... [and] I

was certain that, as long as foreign powers operated Iran's oil resources, this country would

never see the face of freedom independence and development."60

Foreign Relations

Democratic nationalists imagined the nation as a singular body united in a historical

struggle against Kharejian. This dichotomization of Iran versus foreigners permeated into the

conduct of foreign policy. Patriotism meant standing up to Kharejian and betrayal meant

supporting foreigners. For example, in his memoir, to prove that he has always been a patriot,

Mussadiq wrote:



58 For example, a front page title read, Carrying Iranian Oil to Japan Is a Great New Loss for England. In a
celebratory tone, another title on the same day read, Loading the Twenty-Thousand-Ton Japanese Tanker Finished
and It Left Abadan Today; Tomorrow Loading the Five-Thousand-Ton Italian Tanker Begins. See Bill and Louis,
eds., Mussaddiq, Iranian Nationalization and Oil, p. 225.
59 Mussadiq, Speeches by Dr. Mussadiq
60 Musaddiq, Musaddiq's Memoirs, pp. 280-281.









It bears witness to the fact that, in the entire period of my premiership, I had no insidious
dealings with any foreign power which plays an important rule in Iranian politics, be it
England or the Soviet Union. It shows that I have put the interest of my country above
everything else, including my own life, and all my words and deeds have been in the
service of the Iranian people. It also provides that the blow against me was due to the plans
drawn up by foreign powers, and executed on the orders of some of my fellow countrymen
[that is, the shah].61

The text counterpoised Iran and foreign interests. The formation of this particular construct

translated into the foreign policy of what democratic nationalists called "negative equilibrium"

(Muvazeneh-Manfi) as opposed to "positive equilibrium" (Muvazeneh-Musbat), which had been

the dominant discourse in Iranian foreign policy for decades.

The phrase Muvazeneh-Mosbat (positive equilibrium) is revealing. It is the Farsi

translation of the term "balance of power," which had essentially entered political texts from the

West. In the context of Iranian politics, positive equilibrium meant playing the interest of the

Soviets or Russia against Britain by auctioning off major concessions to one or the other party.

This policy had grave economic and political costs for Iran that, as a weak power, was always a

loser whether the two powers competed or cooperated. During the competition between the

powers, each power negotiated various deals with Iran to reinforce its own position in relation to

the power of its competitor, which always weakened Iran's position. During cooperation between

the two powers, both negotiated with one another as how to divide Iran without even bothering

to negotiate with Iran, for example, the 1907 Agreement between Britain and Russia.

However, the concept of negative equilibrium was not a Western concept. Jawaharlal

Nehru first articulated the concept of non-alignment in 1947, which essentially rejected the East-

West or the communist-capitalist bifurcation, and encouraged the policy of non-alignment,

which called for independence from domination, intervention, and rivalry of great powers.

61 Hussein Kay Ustovan, Siyasat-I Muvazaneh-I Manfi Dar Majlis Chardahum (the Politics of ... ,.. -
Equillibrium in the 14th Majlis (Tehran: Muzafar, 1950), v. 1, p. 193.









Nehru's doctrine of non-alignment had great intellectual traction in Iran. In fact, it coincided

with the split in the generally pro-Soviet position of the Tudeh Party and the eventual rise of the

Third Force, which became the intellectual engine for representing the ideals of the discourse of

democratic nationalism. Members of the Third Force were among the most loyal supporters of

Mussadiq.62 In other words, negative equilibrium entered the texts as the opposite of positive

equilibrium-a concept that already existed and was perceived as a failure in dealing with British

and Soviet-Russia.

Despite these distinctions, however, the two concepts were not exactly antonyms. Negative

equilibrium had much broader political, economic, and foreign policy implications. It meant

independence from foreign powers, and the concept entered the language as an opposite of

positive equilibrium, which signified the opposition to the dominant discourse of foreign policy

in Iran. Mussadiq articulated negative equilibrium in terms of independence from foreign powers

manifested in his attitude toward Britain and the Soviet Union. In the 14th Majlis, he argued:

Those who insist on pursuing the policy of positive equilibrium in effect argue that we
must also give up the rights to our northern oil fields for the next ninety-two years
[referring to the British 1933 Agreement] in order to make a positive balance. This flawed
logic is similar to the logic of asking a man, who has lost one of his arms, to cut his other
arm for the sake balancing his body.63

The understanding of negative equilibrium would have been impossible without counterpoising

it against positive equilibrium, which was inevitably linked to the role of Britain and Soviet-

Russia in Iran, though it was not linked to the role of the United States. In other words, although

the doctrine of negative-equilibrium was supposed to apply to all foreign powers, it actually


62 The discourse of the Third Force, especially the position of neither East nor West, eventually permeated the
language of all opposition against the shah and his acquiescent alliance with the West, which included both the
Soviet and the United States.
63 George C. McGhee, "Recollection of Dr. Muhammad Mussadiq," inMussadiq Iranian Nationalization and Oil ed.
James A Bill and WM. Roger Louis (Austin: University of Texas, 1988).









applied to Britain and the Soviet Union, but not the United States. In fact, Mussadiq wanted to

engage the United States in Iran, and he never criticized the increasing role of United States in

the military, the Plan Organization, and the court. The United States was not identified a foreign

power until the post-coup era.

Relations with the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union: During this era, 1951-

1953, the United States was not considered an insidious foreign power. In fact, it was represented

as a democratic and friendly state. Mussadiq's trust in the United States was reflected in his

belief that the United States (a) would understand Iran's position against the AIOC, (b) would

not stop buying Iranian oil, (c) would not block Iran's request for a loan from the World Bank,

and (d) would facilitate private investment in Iran's oil industries.

Mussadiq relied upon the knowledge that the United States was, in fact, a democratic and

friendly state. In Mussadiq's visit to the United States in 1952, his letter to President Harry

Truman, and his appeal to the American people, he tried to convince America of the democratic

characteristics of his government. For Mussadiq, it was inconceivable that the United States

would throw in its lot with Britain against the democratically elected government in Iran. In fact,

when Mussadiq received an invitation from President Truman, it gave him the false impression

that Truman would sympathize with Iran's position.64 According to George McGhee, Mussadiq

understood the United States as a friendly state and could not conceive of the possibility that the

United States would take the side of the shah and Britain to the detriment of his government.

McGhee argued that Mussadiq was confident that the United States took the threat of







64 Ibid., pp. 302-304.









communism seriously enough not to allow his government to fall.65 Even during the CIA coup,

the United States was not identified as an enemy state.

For example, on the afternoon of August 16, 1953, when it appeared that the coup had

failed and the shah had escaped to Italy, people began to converge in front of the Majlis. By 3

p.m., in the burning heat of August in Tehran, thousands of people were shouting "death to the

coup makers," "long live the nation," and "hang the coup makers." Addressing the crowd were

some of the most prominent state officials such Hussein Fatemi, Jalali, Shaygan, and Razavi. In

their addresses, no one mentioned the United States or its role.66 It was not yet conceivable that

the United States would overthrow or seriously oppose Mussadiq's government.

At the time, the dominant discourse was that Mussadiq's government benefited the United

States. This discourse was not only prominent among nationalists but also among socialists,

although in two hierarchic formations. Democratic nationalists perceived Mussadiq's

government as a democratic alternative against the pro-Soviet Tudeh party and, therefore, a

natural ally of Western democracies led by U.S. socialists. On the other hand, the democratic

nationalists portrayed Mussadiq as a liberal democrat standing against the cause of international

communism. They accused Mussadiq of paving the way for the United States to replace Britain.

For example, on July 14, 1952, when President Truman sent Averell Harriman to mediate Iran's

dispute with the AIOC, the Tudeh party represented the trip "as proof of a complete sell-out to

the United States," and it organized one of the largest and bloodiest demonstrations aimed at

discrediting the government.67 Although from two different points of view, both nationalists and

socialists perceived Mussadiq as a natural ally of the United States.


65 "Protest in Baharestan Circle," pp. 1-4.

66 Katouzian, Musaddiq and the Struggle for Power in Iran, p. 116.
67 Mohammad Mussadiq, "The Prime Minister Raido Message to the Nation" Et-iha'lat April 6, 1953.









At the time, for democratic nationalists, the conditions of conceivability for understanding

the United States as an enemy did not yet exist. According to Said Fatemi, the personal translator

of Mussadiq and the nephew of Hussein Fatemi-Iran's foreign minister at the time, Mussadiq

was occasionally told of British spies infiltrating the government, but Mussadiq would

confidently respond, "Let them be so they know what it is that we are doing."68 To Mussadiq, the

British conspiracy against him and Iran was an act of British nature, but the United States was

not yet imagined as an enemy.

In his radio speech after the failed February coup in 1953, which turned out to be a practice

run for the August coup, Mussadiq reported the details of what had occurred without mentioning

one word about the American involvement. But his speech was full of references to the role of

Britain. He said:

Colonial governments are adaptive to their conditions; they have always misused any type
of internal differences for their own sinister end. For the last 150 years, whoever has
struggled to defend the interest our nation, they have eliminated them with treachery and
duplicity .... From the 1921 coup until now, the British have wanted to see me in despair
and defeat.69

Then he reminded the people of his suffering, imprisonment, exile, and at least two assassination

attempts perpetrated by the British. He concluded:

The February event was yet another instance of our national enemy conspiring against our
people. However, the people of Iran were aware of the truth and, once more, they did not
allow the enemies of Iran to defeat our national movement.70

In the text, which is typical of the official texts during the months leading to the coup, Britain is

the main enemy of Iran, Mussadiq is the savior of Iranian nationalism, and "true" Iranians are

those who oppose Britain, disengage from the Soviet Union, and support Mussadiq. In other

68 Said Fatemi, Mussadiq's ( lhIll.. ., Speech for Iranian Cultural Society of South Florida, unpublished.
69 Mussadiq, "The Prime Minister Raido Message to the Nation".

70 Bill and Louis, eds., Mussaddiq, Iranian Nationalization and Oil, p. 222.









words, democratic nationalists represented their friends and foes according to a particular

identity formation that reinforced the perception of Self in relation to Others.

Conclusion

This chapter demonstrated how Mussadiq came to power by captivating the collective

imagination of the nation by unifying them against the AIOC, which symbolized the British

colonial policies. In a seemingly routine trade negotiation, the once celebrated 1933 Agreement,

like a ghost from the past, began to haunt Britain, the shah, and their allies while it loosely

connected otherwise competing discourses. In a relatively short period, democratic nationalists

represented British ownership of Iran's oil industry for all its ills, for example, poverty,

corruption, and intervention and/or domination of foreign powers. This promotional practice

unified the otherwise competing identities into an ideological bloc against Britain. This bloc

became the source of power for democratic nationalists to impose their identity on the state.

Once in power, constitutive of the state identity, policies of state building, nation imagining, and

foreign policymaking were pursued accordingly.

After a year in power, as the government appeared to be winning its struggle against the

AIOC, Mussadiq's ideological bloc began to collapse, and various contending discourses once

again began to pursue their respective idealized nation-state. However, had it not been for the

military interference of the United States, Mussadiq's government would have survived. In fact,

on February 28, 1953, Mussadiq embarrassed Mohamad Reza Shah when he easily foiled a coup

attempt against his government. He arrested some of the same state-paid hooligans who had been

released from prison on August 19 so they could beat, injure, and kill opponents of Mohamad

Reza Shah and attack Mussadiq and his supporters.7 In the weeks preceding the August coup,


71 One of the better known figures who led the February 28 coup was Shaban Jafary, also known as Bee-Mukh (the
Brainless or the Bully). On February 28, he led his street gang, intent on murdering Mussadiq as he was coming out










Mussadiq "was very well aware that a coup was being planned, but he could not imagine that the

United States would get involved with an illegal and undemocratic act."72 Indeed, Mussadiq did

not see the United States as an enemy. Hence, he was confident that his government would

survive any possible coup attempt by Britain. He was so overconfident that as the August coup

was well under way, he mistook the initial setback by the coup makers as another success. Thus,

to prevent bloodshed, he did not mobilize his popular support. According to eyewitnesses, up to

3 p.m. on the afternoon of August 19, the street protests in Tehran looked as normal as any other

day. Although various opposing identities intensely competed to take over the state, had it not

been for the U.S.-backed coup, the chances for Mussadiq's government survival would have

been high, for no other identity had the breadth and the depth of Mussadiq's popular support.73

After the coup, once again, the people were represented in a relational opposition to the

foreign others, which turned out to be the United States and Mohamad Reza Shah. I will

illustrate these practices in Chapters 6.














of an arranged meeting with the shah, but Mussadiq escaped. Ironically, when the shah's brother was questioned
about the security of the palace or lack thereof, he responded: "People are free to demonstrate anywhere they want."
Notwithstanding the irony of this statement after the bloody and repressive years of the coup, on August 19, once
again, Shaba'n the Brainless, escorted by military personnel carriers, led his gang to Mussadiq's house. Again, for
the purpose of killing him.
72 A personal interview with Dr. Said Fatemi, nephew of Dr. Hussein Fatemi, and the official translator of Mussadiq
during the hearing in the International Court of Justice. Florida International University, conference arranged by the
Iranian Cultural Society, 1999.

73 For politics of interventions, see Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 419.









CHAPTER 6
THE CONSTRUCTION AND COLLAPSE OF MODERN MONARCHISM (1953-1979)

Introduction

This chapter discusses how the state official discourse alienated itself from its own society

and provided a conducive condition for constructing a hegemonic bloc against the state. This

chapter reviews four successive eras of restoration, reform, consolidation, and collapse of the

shah by demonstrating how the official state practices delegitimized the regime and facilitated

the establishment of an Islamic state. The processes of delegitimization of the state occurred

despite the state's having an absolute monopoly over all the means of violence and repression.

In this era, the state's practices and policies did not produce the legitimacy the state sought, nor

did they convey the messages the state intended.

First, I will explain how the restoration era began when the CIA overthrew Mussadiq's

government and ended as the Kennedy administration came to power in January 1961. During

this era, the discourse of monarchic modernism lost much of its representational power. For a

majority of the people, the state's discourse became the language of domination rather than

productive means for producing legitimacy and building consensus. Accordingly, the state failed

to project onto the society its interpretation of legitimacy. In contrast, contending discourses

succeeded in representing the shah as a delegitimate agent of the United States, a country

depicted as an imperialistic power. Contending discourses also devalued the state's

modernization as Western domination and the state social norms as unacceptable and corrupt.

Second, the era of reform began 1961 and ended in 1964. As the impetus for the 1953 CIA

coup had began with the shift of power from the Truman administration to the Eisenhower

administration, the "reform era" also began with the shift of power from the Eisenhower

administration's to the Kennedy administration. During the early 1960s, fearing a revolution in









Iran, the Kennedy administration pressured the shah to be less obsessed with security and

military build-up and instead be more interested in investing in economic and political reform.

As a result of this shift, the shah reluctantly appointed Ali Amini, a man Kennedy preferred to

lead a reformist government in Iran. Eventually, Amini's government failed, but the shah

adopted some of Kennedy's reformist agenda.

However, the shah's reform delegitimized the state further, even among conservative

clerics and landed elites-the shah's traditional supporters in modem Iran-in addition to his

previous opposition by nationalists and socialists. The "reform" resulted in increasing the size of

the state with concentrating its power in the hands of the shah and a small circle of his cronies

who controlled all state resources and institutions. By 1964, once again, the United States Iran

policy shifted from economic reform back to security issues. So the reform era ended, and the era

of consolidation of power began in a shah-centered state backed by the United States.

Third, the era of absolute consolidation of power began when the state revenues increased

to the extent Iran no longer needed foreign aid and loans. During this era, the shah-centered

state's representation of its practices and policies began to be interpreted according to, and

associated with, two different webs of meanings. In the official state discourse, the shah was

represented as the provider of security, law, progress, justice, and ethics, but he was also seen as

the divine embodiment of the Persian-Aryan nation. In addition, he was viewed as the key player

for Iran's alliance with the West in general and the United States specifically. However, for a

great majority of Iranians, the shah's language and practices were interpreted as the means of

foreign the social reality of domination and quiescence. In contrast to apolitical Iranians, for

political activists who were embedded in the discourses of democratic nationalism, socialism,

and Islamism, a common language of resistance was being formed. Increasingly, political









activists represented the shah-centered state as the hired-hand or the "Servant of American

imperialism," although for each group of activists, the meaning of "imperialism" differed. For

Islamists, imperialism meant an imperial non-Muslim power. For socialists, imperialism meant a

non-proletarian power. For nationalists, imperialism meant a non-Iranian sovereign.

Nevertheless, the association between the shah and U.S. imperialism was articulated by the same

words, images, and even associated with the same narrative of experiences-the 1953 CIA coup.

Fourth, the era of collapse began at the height of the shah's power. A hegemonic bloc of

contending discourses began to communicate with a common language of resistance against the

Iran-U.S. alliance. This hegemonic discourse glorified a life-and-death struggle against the

Mohamad Reza Shah and the United States.

Accordingly, a shift occurred in the rationality constructed in the language. In this shift,

acquiescence to the power of the shah and the United States was devalued, and in contrast the

struggle against the shah and the United States became a respectable social value. Writers, poets,

movie-makers, actors, and religious clerics whom the shah had imprisoned became the role

models of resistance against the unjust regime. In other words, the language that political

activists had articulated for decades permeated into a common language of the people.

Accordingly, values, concepts, and rationalities associated with resisting, fighting, and dying for

the common cause overthrowing the regime, became a part of the language. In this hegemony,

while the differences among socialists, nationalists, and Islamists were totally muted, the ideal of

struggling against the regime was privileged.

In this hegemony, material and institutional resources available to the state were

interpreted differently. Unlike previous eras during which the state's monopoly of means of

coercion, surveillance, control, discipline, and governance were interpreted as omnipotent,









fearsome, and indestructible, suddenly the same resources and institutions were interpreted as

impotent, benign, and fragile. Instead, contending discourses represented the unity of the people

as omnipotent.1

In contrast to previous eras, in these shifts, the people no longer feared the shah and his

coercive means, and they did not imagine the United State as a powerful state. Previously,

Iranians had quietly accepted the shah's representation of development, law, class-justice, and

social norms as a natural reality of the time, but suddenly they no longer accepted them as such.

In fact, what was accepted as social reality began to anger them as unethical norms that had to be

stopped. Moreover, the shah providing "security for the country" was understood in terms of

insecurity for the people.

In sum, the shah-centered state lost its productive power to discipline and punish, regulate

and control, naturalize power relations, create quiescence among people, and construct consensus

and shared beliefs. The shah-centered state lost its legitimacy. At that point, the condition of

conceivability for imaging anything else but a violent overthrow of the regime became

impossible.

As the shah's regime was collapsing, "Islam" became the primary signifier under which a

great majority of people united with one voice-the shah must go and Khomeini must rule. But

in this unison, a multiplicity of voices, concepts, values, and rationalities arose, which were

previously constructed in contending discourses in Iran. Nevertheless, for a particular moment in

the time and space of the collective imagination of an overwhelming number of Iranians, a

monolithic voice appeared that identified Self in an opposition relation with the shah as its main




1 However, this unity formally disappeared only 24 days after the establishment of the Islamic Republic when the
state ordered all female employees to wear Hejab (the Islamic dress code).









Other. The result was the collapse of the regime. In brief, this chapter is about the construction

and deconstruction of the official state discourse from 1953 to 1979.

Part I: Restoration of the Discourse of Modern Monarchism (1953-1979)

After the coup on August 19, 1953, the state began a two-prong policy of eliminating its

opposition and simultaneously building its particular vision of the state. Considering U.S.

economic and military aid, the granting of various loan packages, and the lifting of the embargo

on Iran's oil export, all of which had followed immediately after the coup, the state gained the

material power to physically repress its opposition and pursue its particular vision of state-

building, nation-imaging, and conducting foreign policy. However, while the state succeeded in

eliminating its opposition and somewhat muting the voices of opposition, it failed to influence,

shape, or permeate values, concepts, and rationalities embedded in, and expressed by, contending

discourses. It seemed that the state spoke in one language and the society mistranslated it into

several other languages. In this divide, the state represented itself as a modernizing state headed

by the shah as the provider of security and the embodiment of law, nationhood, equality, and

Islamic ethics. However, a great majority of the people interpreted the state as an omnipotent

foreign entity to be avoided if possible, but to be accepted as necessitated by social reality. In

this social environment, while the Iranian society in general acquiesced in the omnipotency of

the state, subversive voices of contending discourses appeared in the heavily censored non-

official texts. In this section, I compare values, concepts, and rationalities produced by the state

with the subversive voices of discontent coming from the contending discourses and devaluing

the state language as one of deceit, threat, and domination.

Building and Securitizing the State

After the 1953 coup, in a series of relational linkages and differences, the state was

represented as the embodiment of the shah threatened by internal and external enemies. With this









relational logic, the shah began to appropriate the largest portion of the state's budget to build up

a military that was too small to oppose the Soviet Union's supreme conventional forces and too

big and blunt for crashing internal unrest or uprisings. Nevertheless, having internal and external

enemies for the regime constituted the logic behind the state's securitization policy.

Constitutive of this securitization was the full backing of the Eisenhower administration,

which helped the shah eliminate his opposition and begin to build a police state personified by

the shah, who represented the embodiment of progress, law, people, justice, and Islamic norms.

The shah began to represent communists, nationalists, and Islamic fanatics as threats to the state

monarchic order, Persian-Aryan nationalism, and Iran's alliance with the West.

From the day after the coup, the state began a brutal round of executions, imprisonments,

and deportation of many of the well-known leaders of the opposition. It also banned these

leaders' organizations and muted their voices.2 In these practices, the communist Tudeh Party

paid the heaviest price because the threat of communism was the defining enemy for the state's

articulatory logic. By the end of 1953, at least 2,300 members of the Tudeh Party were arrested.3

In addition to communists, nationalists were also rounded up. Mussadiq spent three years in

prison and then was put under house arrest until his death. Hussein Fatemi, whose newspaper

articles, speeches, and actions had turned him into a heroic figure for nationalists, was executed

by a firing squad. He was put to death because of his fiery speeches against the shah's illegal acts

against the government and his alliance with the CIA and Britain.

In the official state discourse, the shah was represented as the embodiment of the state and

the people. Constitutive of this representation was the logic of the shah's campaign to represent


2Jame A Bill, The Eagle Adn the Lion: The Tragedy ofAmerican-Iranian Relations (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1988), pp. 98-100.
3 Pahlavi Mohammed Reza, "The Shahanshah Message to the Nation" Ettelaat, August 23, 1953.









the coup as a "the people's resurrection," "people's revolution," or "the shah and people's

uprising."4 However, for three days preceding the coup, the narrative attached to the coup was

different. In newspapers, the shah had escaped from Tehran, fearing his people. Additionally, for

hundreds of thousands of people who had been mobilized in support of Mussadiq during the

tumultuous years preceding the coup, the shah's representation of the 1953 coup as "the people's

uprising" appeared to be a hollow campaign of repression and empty words because, in this case,

the state's representation did not match the existential experience of most people. Therefore,

from the first days of restoring the shah's regime, two different narratives were linked to the

same event-official and non-official. For a great majority of the people, the coup represented

foreign domination headed by the shah. For the state, the coup meant the "people's resurrection,"

supported by Self-like Western allies against enemies of Iran and Western democracies. While

the state's official narrative continued until the regime fell in 1979, the societal unofficial version

lived on despite the passage of time and the state's tremendous power to try to propagate its

vision.

In other words, although the state succeeded in the physical repression of opposing

persons, groups, organizations, and political parties, it failed to eliminate their voices in the

language. The result was the construction of two languages: the language with which the state

represented and understood itself and the language with which the people understood the state. In

this section, I will explain the official discourse of the state and then I will review the language

of resistance to the state.







4 For example, see major headlines of Etteaalat and Keyhan during the first month after the coup.









Imagining the Nation

The Shah as the Embodiment of the Nation-state

On August 22, 1953, Mohamad Reza Shah attached a new narrative to the coup upon his

return from Rome to Tehran. By addressing the nation via state national radio, Mohamad Reza

Shah thanked the nation for rising up in his support:

My dear people, how can I thank you for your resoluteness in wanting to preserve your
national ideals and your shah by willing to sacrifice your own lives and becoming martyrs
for my nation. As you know [referring to previous assassination attempts on his life, which
he claimed were signs of divine protection extended to him by Shi'i Imams], I have done
the same in the past. I was also ready to die for my nation a few times and why should
one refuse the honor of sacrificing self for the people who readily give up their lives for
me; indeed, I would give up my life for them.5

In this representation, the peopel demonstrators and agitators whom the CIA organized were

represented as the people. However, those who were being rounded up while Mohamad Reza

Shah was speaking did not constitute the people.6 Moreover, the previous assassination attempts

on Mohamad Reza Shah's life were represented as voluntary acts of self-sacrifice for the people

in the same way people sacrificed themselves for him. Althouhg no known supporter of

Mohamad Reza Shah lost his life during the coup, he represented them as imagined people who

sacrificed their lives for him thus for the nation in the same way the Shah would have sacrificed

his life for the people had he not been protected by some divine power.7 In other words, in the

discourse if the state, the Shah and people were united in both body and spirit; each would die to

save the other and neither could live without the other. Moreover, what is interesting in this




5 Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country.
6 For the lack of

7 For the shah's contention that he was being protected or guided, see Pahlavi Mohammed Reza, White Revolution
(Iran National Bank/ bank-e meli-i Iran 1966/1345), Mohammed Reza, Answer to History. Mohammed Reza,
Answer to History.









representation was Mohamad Reza Shah's appeal to the Shi'i myth of martyrdom and self-

sacrifice.

By classifying the shah and the people into a singular body and spirit, Mohamad Reza

Shah became the embodiment of the people's body and mind and thus the sovereign, the law,

and the nation. Note that he referred to the "people" and the "nation" as "my people" and "my

nation" in an authoritative tone that obviously pointed out his relational position as a proprietor

of both. This tone and theme was a typical relational position Mohamad Reza Shah took even

when he lost his thrown.8

By referring to his near-death experience, Mohamad Reza Shah invoked the Islamic

concept /hil, it (martyrdom) and the Shi'i concept of.y/Ji 'at (request for protection) to

represent himself as a faithful Islamic-Shi'i leader. In other words, he would be ready to sacrifice

self for the divine cause of the nation.

The logic of being under the protection of, or being favored by, Imams is a Shi'i concept

(.\/hyt'at) that roughly means "the people," who are presumed to be natural sinners and thus

fallible. The people can appeal to the naturally innocent and infallible Imams who could possibly

grant them their wishes or protect them from hazardous situations. It is not, however, clear

whether Imams are the mediators between the people and God, the granters or protectors of the

forgiven sinner themselves. This concept is one of the bases for the Shi'i ritual of visiting the

holy shrines of Imams, a concept that was repeatedly invoked by Mohamad Reza Shah.

To reinforce that he was a faithful Islamic leader in addition to being a modem one,

Mohamad Reza Shah used to make periodic pilgrimages to Mecca, Karbala, Qum, and Mashad.

These frequent pilgrimages represented Mohamad Reza Shah as a faithful Muslim ruler whom


8 Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country.









Shi'i Imams protected and guided.9 Moreover, by allowing prominent religious leaders,

"especially Ayatollah Bourujerdi, Ayatollah Behbahni and the Imam Jome-eh of Tehran" to

continue easy access to the court, he reinforced these images.10 During weekly radio broadcasts,

Ayatollah Falsafi, "the able religious preacher, was given a weekly [program] on the state radio

in which, for many years, he did not merely deliver religious sermons and counsel, but also

engaged in biting polemics against 'materialists,' Mussadiq and the Popular Movement."1

These practices seemingly contradicted the logic of being an ultra modern man. But they

made sense in the state discourse of modem monarchism, which symbolized the singularity of

Mohamad Reza Shah as not only a modern monarch of a Persian-Aryan nation, but also a Sultan

of a nation of Muslims with the divine blessing of God upon his thrown. 12 This was the theme

Mohamad Reza Shah set for his regime after the coup, that is, he was supposedly the absolute

and divine sovereign whose unity with the people protected the nation, modernized the country,

and maintained Iran's alliance with the West against the threat of international communism.

The People: The Official Representation of Civil Society

With the restoration of the regime by the state, the state began to represent itself as a

democratic monarchy, which had a mandate from its active civil society and civil organizations.

This rhetorical practice made sense because during Mussadiq's era, the concept of "people's

sovereignty" had become a hegemonic concept. After the coup, the state was compelled to value

what had entered the language as "people's rights." After all, the coup was represented as the

9 For the shah's contention that he was being protected or guided, see White Revolution, Mohammed Reza,
Answer to History. Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 421.

10 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979, p. 193.

1 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, Keddie and Richard, Modern Iran: Roots and Results ofRevolution,
Katouzian, Musaddiq and the Struggle for Power in Iran.
12 This representation was an added nuance that was not prominent during Reza Shah, although Reza Shah also
represented himself as a religious Muslim believer who cared about the spirit of Islam and not its traditional rituals.









resurrection of the people. Discursively, therefore, it would make sense to have an officially

formed civil society. Why did the state feel compelled to represent itself as being democratic and

responsive to the people's mandate? After all, during Reza Shah's reign, the concept of having a

mandate from the people or civil society did not exist in Mohammad Reza Shah's logic.

In previous chapters, I noted that during the discourse of monarchic absolutism in pre-

modern Iran, the logic of the relation between the state and the people was based on the state

being the protector of the people-not their representative. In modern Iran, this relational logic

began to shift from one discourse to another. In the discourse of constitutionalism, the people

continued to be represented as the securitized subjects of the state, and the state was represented

as the embodiment of the law. Thus, the law turned into the securing agent of the state. During

the discourse of modern absolutism practiced by Reza Shah, the people continued to be

represented as the securitized subjects of the shah-centered state and the state as the securing

agent, as well as modernizing one.

However, after the fall of Reza Shah's regime in 1941, competing discourses of socialism,

Islamism, and nationalism began to mobilize millions of people by representing the people as

active participants in their respective civil societies, although the content of civil society differed

according to contending discourses. Socialists (the unions of workers and their voices), Islamists

(the faithful Muslims), and nationalists (Iranian citizens) constituted the social content of the

various forms of civil society. 13 Nevertheless, no dominant discourse represented the people as

the passive subjects of the state, as it had been done previously. 14 In contrast, contending

discourses, including the state discourse, represented the people as active participants in state-



13 For competing groups, unions, and parties, see, Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, p. 173.
14 See chapter 5.









building, nation-imaginings, and decision-making in foreign relations. Constructing an official

approved society was an inversion of the relational logic between the people and the state, and

the state was compelled to follow this logic by discursively changing it. In this inversion, the

state became the object of the people's desire for sovereignty, development, law, justice, and

enforcing social norms rather than the people being represented as the passive subjects of the

state. After the coup in 1953, this mode of rationality continued, and the state continue its

repressive policies, but always in the name of "the people."

From the perspective of this relational logic, the state represented itself as a modem

democratic Persian-monarchy backed by a series of civil society organizations, comprised of

loyal citizens to the shah and thus to the state. This representation practice created a paradox for

the state. On the one hand, the state "felt compelled" to construct an active, supportive civil

society. On the other hand, the state "felt compelled" to make sure that the civil society remained

loyal to the state and thus loyal to Mohamad Reza Shah. For example, Mohamad Reza Shah

wrote, "As we Persians see it, the human values inherent in true political democracy merit

whatever price we have to pay for it." He stated, "In free countries everywhere, parties must be

created by leaders who enjoy support." 15 He then rejected those who criticized the state for

forming parties:

[As being] from the top rather than rising from the rank and file of the people. Some
cynics even claim that the parties are mere puppets of the Government or the Crown.
That of course misses the whole point about how you can foster parties in a newly
developing country such as Iran.15

This rhetorical relation between the people and the state meant that the raison d'etre for

the state was supposed to be a mandate by the people, but guided by the state, which was

Mohamad Reza Shah. In contrast, during Reza Shah's era, the state raison d'etre was

15 Bashiriyeh, Mavanea Tosa'yea Syasi Dar Iran (Obstacles to Political Development in Iran), p. 72.









represented as historically determined, not mandated from the people. In fact, mandates from the

people was represented as illogical. For example, Ali Akbar Davar, the Minister of Justice during

Reza Shah's reign, suggested." "As logic dictates, a strong-willed and competent leader must

lead this nation to its desired destiny [development]. The leader [Reza Shah] must impose upon

the nation what is good for them, and must do what is necessary even if he has to use the force of

whips."16

Unlike Reza Shah, who muted the 1921 British-backed coup, his son felt compelled to

flaunt the 1953 coup as "the resurrection of the people.""17 For example, on August 24, 1953, the

Society of August 19 Resurrection, a previously unknown group and perhaps associated with one

of the CIA organized mobs, widely distributed and published its first declaration, which followed

the same argumentation as those of Mohamad Reza Shah and Zahedi's addresses, but with "the

voice of the people:"

Our dear compatriots, the August 19 Resurrection succeeded because Muslim

toilers ... and citizen patriots sacrificed their lives ... and freed themselves from the
terror of Mussadiq's government, which had become the horrific house offoreigners and
Bolsheviks ... a government that spoke of democratic nationalism but wanted to depose
our innocent and beloved shah. People must now be aware that the Justice, Education,
and Labor Departments are still under the control of foreigners. People must not take
their silences for their submissions. These hired hands of foreigners are like poisonous
snakes lying in their hidden dens and ready to strike our country and contaminate our
environment .... [Therefore] it is not enough that our national hero, General Zahedi, has
saved the nation from their fangs. We have now the obligation to obey the decrees
issued by of our innocent and beloved shah and follow his vision in his purpose to secure
us from the internal and external threats ... [so that the shah] can improve our security,
wealth, and fortunes. 18



16 "The First Declaration of the Society of August 19 Resurrection" Ettelaat 1953.

17 Despite the weight of evidence detailing all aspects of the 1953 coup, the shah's loyal supporters still refer to the
1953 coup as "the day of national uprising (rouz-e qyam-e mardom or mellat).
18 "The Daily Current Ettellaat 1953, Sep. 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9 Emphasis added.









This text, although blatantly frank, was a typical representation of how the state tried to construct

a performative and officially approved civil society, which represented the unity of the shah,

state, people, and Islam. In this text, Mohamad Reza Shah is represented as an absolute

sovereign intent to secure Iran and develop his nation. The text makes no conceptual distinction

between the shah and concepts such as sovereignty, development, nation, law, and national

interest or norms. In other words, the shah embodies all those concepts as Self, and what he

opposes is the embodiment of Others-the foreigners. The people are represented as a

homogenous singular body of Iranian citizen-subjects obligated to follow the shah's command as

the natural law of the nation-a nation whose security and fortune depended upon the shah's

success to secure and develop it.

In this text, besides representing Mohamad Reza Shah as a modern Iranian monarch linked

to ancient Persian kings and thus Iranian-Aryan nationalism-a construction that had become

prominent during Reza Shah's era, he is also represented as a Shi'i Sultan. By referring to

Mohamad Reza Shah as an innocent and beloved Muslim leader, the text invoked the traditional

logic of the divine sovereignty of Sultanate embedded in pre-modern texts. In other words,

Mohamad Reza Shah is represented as the legitimate ruler of the "nation of Islam" and for

Shi'ites until the return of the innocent, infallible, and the ultimate terrestrial sovereign of all

Muslims, Imam Mahdi. While the text tries to gloss over Mohamad Reza Shah with shades of

divine Islamic and Shi'i sovereignty, it bestows upon him a mandate issued by Iranian citizens

and Muslim toilers of Iran. This seemingly paradoxical practice, which now plays a prominent

role in the practices of the Islamic Republic, continued until 1979.19




19 This is paradoxical because the regime tries to exercise the right of citizenship through the concept of divine
sovereignty, but, at the same time, it recognizes the right of citizenship and political participation.









In accordance with this logic, civil society organizations, such as the media, academia,

unions, parties, and individuals, reproduced a particular language that was easily recognized as

the official state language. This language had a monotonous theme and tone used immediately

after the coup, and it continued throughout the regime.

For example, Ettellaat began publishing a series of front-page editorial pieces. These

editorials, which ran for a few months, were samples of how the officially approved civil society

reproduced the language of the state. For instance, in its September 3, 1953, issue, the editorial

entitled, "The Government's First Step" argued the importance of settling disputes with Britain

and reestablishing a strong and secured alliance with the West. In its September 4 issue, the

editorial entitled, "The Economy after Establishing Security" represented Mohamad Reza Shah

as the provider of security without whom the economic life of the nation would suffer. Again, in

the September 5 and 6 issues the titles read, "America's Immediate Aid to Iran" and "Economic

Reform: A Step by Step Process." These two pieces explained that the economic restructuring

was possible only if the United States invested in, and backed, Iran in its economic recovery.

While September 8 editorial titled "Respect for Law" represented law as the foundation for the

building of an orderly and just society. It argued for a strong leader to enforce the law. The

starting point for the September 9 editorial tilted "Economic Equality for All" was the

government's intention to improve the economy. The September 18 editorial titled, "This Year's

Quiet and Orderly Commemoration of Imam Hussein" argued that "true" Islamic rituals are

peaceful and respectful of law and order.20 Other revealing titles included: "Foreign

Investments," "Twelve Years of Monarchic Rule," "How to Understand Iran," "Cleansing the




20 Mustafa Zamani, JalalAl-EAhmad's Culture (Tehran: Nashr-e Muaser 1982/1362), p. 158.









Culture," "Fighting Corruption," and "Equality under Law."21 In short, the theme of this

particular newspaper, which had the highest circulation, continued to reflect the official language

of the state. Meanwhile state censorship muted voices of the opposition. Jalal Al-e Ahmad, a

famous Iranian essayist, political activist, and literary critic, observed:

From 1953 onward, we have had many colorful papers that appeal to, and aroused the best
of our animal instincts, but they are all vacant of any spirituality, virtuosity, and
righteousness. Meanwhile, none of them speaks of any serious problem. Worse than
anything else, they all \,pk n, i/th one language. A language that is vacant of any identity
and value [referring to the main newspapers in Iran], you can read the page 38 of one paper
and then begin reading the page 39 of another paper without ever losing track of their
content.22

This oppressive monotony in the official language of the state began to become the only

language that could be expressed freely. The Majlis and cabinets lost their previous legislative

autonomies and began to speak in the official language of the state. The two legal political

parties, the Melioon Party and Party of Mardum (National and Peoples parties), became what

Mohamad Reza Shah called the "loyal" and the "loyal opposition" parties.23 And except for their

differences in jockeying for posts by adulating Mohamad Reza Shah, no substantive differences

existed between the two parties.24 The state gradually began to ban all unions and associations

and formed state-sponsored ones. Moreover, the state banned street protests, mass rallies, and

strictly monitored and regulated religious rituals, a practice that began to alienate clerics who

were otherwise supportive of the regime. Meanwhile, the state began to organize mass rallies on

various state-sponsored anniversaries or when Mohamad Reza Shah attended grand openings or


21 See Ettelaat from August 20 to the end of the 1953 year.

22 Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, p. 172. Emphasis added.

23 Also see, Habib Ladjevardi, ed., Memoris ofJafar Sharif-Emami; Prime Minister of Iran (1960-61 & 1978),
(Iranian Oral History Project, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, 1999), p. 188.
24 For competition to get closer to the shah, see General Zahedi, "Premier Zahedi Radio Message," Ettelaat, August
23, 1953.









visited different locations. Occasionally, school principals felt compelled to cancel classes and

accompany their students to these rallies. To make certain that students would not skip these

rallies, class attendance was taken at these officially-approved rallies. In short, during the

restoration period (1953-1961), the state tried to represent the people as active participants in

loyal civil society organizations.

Security as a Disciplinary Practice: The Language of Repression

With the restoration of Mohammad Reza Shah to power, the state language of repression

began to become a part of the official state language and remained as such until a year before its

fall. On August 24, 1953, for example, after Mohamad Reza Shah's address to the nation,

General Fazlulah Zahedi, the new CIA-appointed prime minister, addressed the nation:

My dear compatriots, as drinking water can satiate thirst, I hope that his majesty's words
satiated your thirst for healing this thirty-month old injury [referring to Mussadiq's
government], which was caused by a few who neglected our national interests and
misunderstood their patriotic obligations. However, considering the current dangers and
threats to our country, I, who strictly follow his majesty's command and am now in charge
of our national interests, first and foremost I demand the people's cooperation and then
expect their endurance in years to come.25

In this text, General Zahedi set a repressive tone, a tone that demanded obedience of the people

to the absolute command of Mohamad Reza Shah. Zahedi represented the act of obedience to

Mohamad Reza Shah's command as the national obligation and moral duty of everyone. He also

expected quiet obedience if possible, and implied enforcement of obedience if necessary. In this

representation, the difference between Self and Other is the difference between quiescent

obedience and resistance to the command of the shah and thus the command of the state. In this

typical representation of the state, the CIA installed General Prime Minister labeled Mussadiq's

government as injurious and negligent of Iran's national interests. Zahedi argued that Mussadiq

25 Ibid.

Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979, p. 196.









was the violator of his national obligation because of his disobedience to Mohamad Reza Shah's

command. The repressive tone of othering continued to appear in various forms. Ironically,

Zahedi also became the victim of the same repressive tone. In 1954, because of his disagreement

with Mohamad Reza Shah, he was forced to resign his post and leave the country. As Zahedi was

being escorted out of the country, he turned to his friends and said, "Poor Dr. Mussadiq was right

after all!" 26

A form of repression was how the state built the National Intelligence and Security

Organization (SAVAK), which was equipped with highly advanced intelligence gathering

mechanisms and training techniques provided by the United States.27 This organization acted as

"the eyes and ears" of the shah, which was traditionally a well-understood concept in the

language, but never to the extent of trying to classify people into loyal citizens and disloyal

foreigners. William Sullivan, the last U.S. ambassador to Iran, argued, "After considerable

organizational effort by the CIA, the United States government devised for shah a framework of

a modern intelligence system and helped him establish it."28

Accordingly, the state's secret police was structured to operate as most Western

intelligence organizations do, that is, collecting intelligence on other countries, but it operated

according to a different mode of rationality. Its main task was to investigate disloyalty to the

shah-centered state by acting as Mohamad Reza Shah's private eyes, ears, and swords in charge

of monitoring, regulating, and disciplining the loyal civil society organizations and punishing

and terrorizing the disloyal ones. The power of SAVAK grew as the resources increased.

26 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979, p. 196. For
example, see William H. Sullivan, Mission to Iran, 1st ed. (New York: Norton, 1981), p. 96.
27 James A. Bill, The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy ofAmerican-Iranian Relations (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1988), p. 9.
28 Sullivan, Mission to Iran, pp. 95-96.









SAVAK agents were embedded in places ranging from factories to student organizations to

government agencies, the military, the press, political parties, and so forth. In monthly, quarterly,

and annual reports, SAVAK would report the details of political activities. It also speculated

about the extent of threats and loyalty to the regime.29 In a SAVAK document on the file it kept

on members of Iran's Party (Mussadiq's defunct party), the officer in charge of the operation

wants to know about the intention of the leaders of the Party of Iran. The officer poses two

questions to the embedded agent: "Why do the leaders of the Iran Party seem to agree with

Mohamad Reza Shah's proposal? Do they have some sinister intention of showing that they are

close to the government?"30

Reflecting Mohamad Reza Shah's obsessive preoccupation with internal threats from

disloyal enemies of the state, SAVAK terrorized the people. William Sullivan wrote:

There was a sort of reign of terror in Iran. Most prominent politicians, many westernized
families, and persons from all over the realm were affected by it. There were many
mysterious murders generalized use of torture in the prisons .... The quality of intelligence
we [U.S.] received from our relations with [SAVAK] was [poor] Washington analysts
usually considered it of the Chicken Little variety. A Communist sky was always falling on
our joint interests.31

However, for a great majority of the people, the perception of SAVAK's sinister eyes and ears

everywhere created a political space in which the people knew what the government expected of

them to do or to say. They knew what was considered as cooperative or interruptive (Ekhlaal

Gar) behavior-political correctness or incorrectness. A scant review of speeches, editorials,

essays, official and non-official proclamations published in major newspapers or broadcast over

the national radio at the time finds a monotonous theme and tone in these texts. In this oppressive

29 For example, see SAVAK documents in the Center for Islamic Revolution Documents.

30 Siavash Yari, The Iran Party According to the Documents (Tehran: Center for Islamic Revolution Documents
2005), p. 199, document No. 159.

31 Sullivan, Mission to Iran, pp. 97-99.









monotony of political correctness, the heterogeneous voices of contending discourses are

completely absent. Instead, these voices began to speak in a different genre that became as

distinctly recognizable as that of the official language of the state.

In contrast to the state official language, which was brutally straightforward, this

contentious language of the opposition was, however, indirect, abstract, suggestive, and

extremely subversive. Nevertheless, the opposition had the ability of communicating the

message it intended. That language was the language of discontent expressed by public

intellectuals such as Ahmad Shamlo, Hushang Golsheery, Jalal Ale-Ahmad, Samad Behrangi,

Ali Shariati, Ayatollah Mutahri, Ayatollah Taleqani, and hundreds of other public intellectuals.

This era was the beginning of a literary genre called "the committed literature."32 Later on, this

language began to permeate into music, films, and short stories. In the next section, I discuss the

construction of this language from the perspective of modem Islamists.

Economic Development

In this era, the knowledge embedded in U.S. economic discourse of liberalism permeated

the official language, policies, and practices of the state, not in its original liberal form, but as

shah-centered policies. Preaching liberalism but acting despotic meant that while Mohamad Reza

Shah preached economic liberalism, the state practiced it according to the official state discourse,

which could only imagine a shah-centered economic planning and development approach.

During the 1950s, the epistemic knowledge for the state's theory of economic development

was based on liberal economic theories, which advocated separating economics from politics.

The liberal policies promoted by the United States encouraged privately owned and operated


32 See Hamid Dabashi and NetLibrary Inc., Theology ofDiscontent: The Ideological Foundations of the Islamic
Revolution in Iran (New York: New York University Press, 1993). Also, Mohmad Mukhtari, .,.. ii.. i Tolerance
(Tehran: Entesharat Vistar, 1377/1998). Also, Aliquli Alikhani, ed., The Complete Notes ofAssaddollah Alam (Yad
Dasht-Haay-EAlam), 5 vols. (Tehran: Maziar, 1385).









developmental projects and devalued state-owned and state-operated industries. The assumption

of this body knowledge was that by liberalizing the market, the political system would

automatically liberalize politics. In other words, the logic of the liberal economic discourse was

based on the relational opposition between the concepts of the state and economic development.

The logic of monarchic modernism, however, was based on the relational equivalence between

the concept of the state and economic development. The differences in the relational logic

between these two discourses resulted in disappointing the advocators of economic liberalism in

three different ways.

First, liberal economic models did not liberalize the economy. Second, these models did

not change the shah-centered policy of Iran. Third, they did not improve the lives of the people;

instead, they widened the economic, political, and social divide between the state and society. In

other words, rather than articulaiting the political from the economic, as economic liberalism

does, the state politicized the economy to a greater extent than previous eras.

The state became the primary holder of the means of production, distribution, and

investment. But, most importantly, the state also became the arena in which political and

economic actors competed. In this shah-centered polity, various personalities in the court,

cabinets, and ministries competed for gaining or maintaining the trust of Mohamad Reza Shah.

This competition constructed a different relational logic from those of liberal economic theories.

In this relational logic, developmental projects, policies, and practices were valued in terms of

how they glorified the shah-centered state. Therefore, the state-elites competed for gaining and

maintaining Mohamad Reza Shah's trust and attention. This arena of competition produced

losers and winners according to its own internal logic. Unlike an ideal liberal economic model in

which the productivity of a given project indicates its success or failure, in the shah-centered









economic model, the measure of success or failure was how a given project would please

Mohamad Reza Shah. The state-elites intensely competed against each other, not for productive

efficiency, but for pleasing Mohamad Reza Shah.33 In other words, although the liberal

economic theories of modernization had permeated various contending discourses in Iran, they

were interpreted, understood, and practiced in accordance to the internal logic of the official state

discourse-monarchic modernism. The next three sections explain this relational logic.

Representation of Nationalization

After the coup in 1953, while the state continued to value its own version of

nationalization, it represented Mussadiq's dispute with Britain in a different relational logic. The

state represented Iran's oil dispute with Britain as the betrayal of the country's national interest

because it damaged Iran's alliance with the West. The strategy to improve the public images of

Britain in Iran, the state represented Britain as a part of the Western alliance and thus an ally of

Iran, not the owner and operator of Iran's oil industry or a power that had attempted to colonize

Iran. Moreover, Britain was represented in terms of its people and not its government. For

example, Mohamad Reza Shah wrote:

The free Western peoples have shown a willingness to extend to us much economic and
technical aid, and at the same time, they have in recent years rarely meddled in our affairs.
For example, in proportion to her population, Britain now provides more assistance than
any other country in the world, and we are happy to be among the recipients. 34

In this text, Britain is represented as a part of the Western world, but not as a colonizing state.

The British are represented as respectful of Iran's sovereignty, and, most importantly, they now

help the people of the world, including Iran. By transformation the image of Britain from a

colonizing state to aiding Iranians, the negotiation over the oil dispute became possible and even


33 Alikhani, ed., The Complete Notes ofAssaddollah Alam (Yad Dasht-Haay-EAlam), v.2, p. 83
34 See Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, p. 298.









desirable. In practical terms, the negotiation resulted in recognizing the sovereign right of Iran

over its oil resources. Meanwhile, Iran accepted a 50-50 profit sharing scheme, and it agreed to

compensate the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) 25 million for its losses. Additionally, the

state agreed to the formation of a consortium of oil companies, which paid more than $600

million to British Petroleum (BP) for 60% of its share. In short, the result of the coup

transformed not only Iran-U.S. relations by bringing about an economic bonanza for eight

American oil companies that ended up owning 40% of the former AIOC, but it also guaranteed

oil supplies for Britain. Meanwhile, Iran maintained its performative control over its oil

resources, which the regime represented as a national victory and the contending discourses

depicted as a national defeat. 35

Although the image of Britain was being reconstructed, the state could not avoid values

attached to the concept of nationalization, which had become a national value during Mussadiq's

government. Therefore, the state valued nationalization while it discursively subverted the

meaning of nationalizing. Ali Amini, Iran's chief negotiator in the settlement of the oil disputes

in 1954, referred to this national value, that is, nationalization, as an unavoidable "national

disease" that everyone had to adhere to.36 The "national disease" that Amini refers was a trace

from the past. Anything labeled foreign-owned or foreign-operated was understood as being

against the Iranian national interest.

Accordingly, Mohamad Reza Shah adopted Mussadiq's language of nationalization. He

not only began to take credit for the nationalization of oil industries, which he had once opposed,

but he started a new round of nationalization. During his land reform in 1963, he ordered the


35 Keddie and Richard, Modern Iran: Roots and Results ofRevolution, pp. 136-137.
36 Habib Ladjevardi, ed., Memoirs ofAli Amini: Prime Minister oflran (1961-62), (Iranian Oral History Project,
Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, 1999), p. 85.









nationalization of Iran's water resources, natural fisheries, forest, communal, and pastoral lands.

However, in contrast to Mussadiq's nationalization plan, these resources were already communal

properties and neither foreigners nor any individuals claimed them. Nevertheless, because the

concept of "nationalization" had entered the language as the patriotic value of disowning

foreigners of Iranian-owned properties, Mohamad Reza Shah used that language to transfer the

previously understood communal properties into the state-owned national property.37 In other

words, the conceptual value, which was previously constructed in Mussadiq's era, made it

possible, desirable, and imaginable for Mohamad Reza Shah to label his monopolization of

communal properties as "nationalization." The opposition, however, did not see these practices

as "true" nationalization.

Official Representation of Economic "Liberalism"

After the 1953 coup, the United States produced the knowledge for Iran's economic

development, but Iran practiced economic liberalism according to logic different from that of

U.S. economic liberalism. Although the Iranian state-elites represented economic liberalism as

the solution for all of Iran's problems, they violated the tenets of liberal economics.38

In this era, the epistemic community associated with liberal international institutions, such

as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as American institutions

such as the Ford Foundation, Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration, Massachusetts

Institute of Technology, and at least 30 American consulting firms, began to advise Iran on how

to develop the economy.39 The primary concern of this body of knowledge was to take politics


37 Mohammed Reza, White Revolution.

38 Habib Ladjvardi, "Abolhassan Ebtehaj," in Iranian Oral History Project Harvard University Center for Middle
Eastern Studies (Iranian Oral History Project I Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 1960).
39 Based on Khordad Farmanfarmaian interview at http://www.fas.harvard.edu/-iohp/firouz.html, The Iranian Oral
History Project at Harvard University. Also quoted in Baldwin, Planning and Development in Iran, pp.22-40.









out of economics by designing an autonomous political institution that was mainly run by

economists, bankers, project managers, engineers, and field specialists. From this perspective,

the defunct Plan Organization (PO) at the end of Mussadiq's era was reformed and re-staffed

with Americans or American-educated staff. In 1954, Abdul Hassan Ebtehaj, a respected

economist and a British-trained banker, who had been closely involved with the Overseas

Consultants Incorporated (OCI) before Mussadiq's cabinet, left his post as the director of the

IMF's Middle East Department to head the Plan Organization. 40 The very design of the PO was

to depoliticize economic development because politics was too corrupt and personalistic, and the

society was disabled, discontent, and poor.

According to George Baldwin, one of the seven original members of the Harvard Advisory

Group, most of the educated and younger generation expected the imminent fall of the regime

because the Tehran-centered government was overburdened with inefficiency, corruption, and

low morale. He gave a bleak but realistic assessment of the situation:

[While the government plays] a sort of perpetual musical chairs of personal politics ...
there is no strongly felt social ethic, no ideological yeast at work in society. Public
policies, administrative decisions, and national development plans all have to be made with
... unreliable information ... [or] sources of information ... [such as] libraries and files,
annual reports or professional societies and journals.41

Baldwin reasoned that U.S. experts designed the Plan Organization to immunize developmental

projects from the corrupt and personalistic politics in Iran. Notwithstanding the irony that the

U.S. government had overthrown Mussadiq's regime to bring the personalistic rule of Mohamad

Reza Shah to power, the experts succeeded in organizing the PO to be functionally and

financially a government within a government. However, they failed to depoliticize it from


40 See Bostock and Jones, Planning and Power in Iran: Ebtehaj and Economic Development under the Shah, pp.
111-122. Ladjvardi, "Abolhassan Ebtehaj."
41 Baldwin, Planning and Development in Iran, p. 4.









Mohamad Reza Shah, who appointed Ebtehaj as the head of the PO with the consent of the

United States. But Mohamad Reza Shah kept Ebtehaj in his post as long as Ebtehaj went along

with the Shah's insistence on increasing the military budget even during economic crisis.42

During the 1950s, Ebtehaj, was deeply influenced by Walt Rostow's concept of staged

development. Rostow believed that economic growth, vis-a-vis various developmental projects,

would automatically lead to a higher living standard and change the sociopolitical consciousness

of the people. According to Dr. Khodadad Farmanfarmaian, a close associate of Ebtehaj and the

head of the Harvard Advisory Group, Ebtehaj believed:

Once you raise the standard of living of people through deliberate economic development,
all these political problems-corruptions, inefficiency, jealousies, etcetera will be
wiped out from their awareness, from their conscious, from their character if you will. And
as the standard of living went up, people would become more straightforward, more
cooperative, and that you would get true social, political change from the development of
the development of the country.43

Ebtehaj's liberal prescription for economic development was a typical representation of

what Foucault called "a regime of truth," which the U.S. epistemic community represented as a

universal developmental model for everywhere. Its basic tenets were simple: (a) increase private

consumption and expenditure, (b) decrease tariffs on imports, (c) export products that are

comparatively profitable, and (d) encourage investment by increasing capital security and

profitability. From 1952 to 1962, Iran received more than $1.135 billion from the United States

out of which $225 million was in loans, $504 million was for military assistance, and the






42 Bostock and Jones, Planning and Power in Iran: Ebtehaj and Economic Development under the Shah, pp. 151-
154.

43Ibid., p. 92. Habib Ladjvardi, "Interview with Khordad Farmanfamaian" in Iranian Oral History Project
Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies (Iranian Oral History Project I Harvard University Center for
Middle Eastern Studies, 1982 ), tape 3.









remainder was for various economic programs. This aid, combined with increasing oil revenues

and other income, produced a sum of $3.407 billion from 1955 to 1962. 44

With this impressive amount to spend on private and public expenditures, and combined

with lowering tariffs, which Prime Minister Munucheher Iqbal (1956-1960) called the "Open

Door Policy," the country was flooded with consumer goods.

Ali Ansari quoted Elwell-Sutton's description of Iran in 1957:

Financially, Persia is heavily and irrevocably indebted to the United States. Large
American missions of officers and men advise the Armed Forces and the police. American
advisers are attached to every ministry and American World bank officials watch carefully
over the activities of the Plan Organization. All the international agencies are at work, and
semi-official concerns like the Near East Foundation add their quota. More than 100
American officials work in the huge new Point-Four building in Tehran. Americans
have reorganized the educational system. American cars, cosmetics and refrigerators fill
the shops. Even the Seventh Day Adventists have opened a large church in a
fashionable quarter of Tehran.45

By 1960, this so-called "Open Door Policy" drastically increased cheap imports and

decreased non-oil exports as expected, but the policy also destroyed the local economy that

provided subsistence living for the largest portion of the population. This portion of the economy

was not taken into account. As a result, while the open market policy caused a severe shortage of

balance-of-trade and balance-of-payment, it also created unemployment and under-employment

out of a portion of the self-sufficient portion of the population.46 These policies were in sharp

contrast to Mussadiq's era when the country had achieved a balance of payment with a non-oil

economy. A serious attempt was made to improve the efficiency of the traditional economy

without destroying it.



44 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979, pp. 204-211.
45 Ali M. Ansari, C..,,';. ,i,,- Iran: The Failure ofAmerican Foreign Policy and the Next Great Crisis in the Middle
East (New York: Basic Books, 2006), p. 41.
46 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979, p. 201.









While the traditional economy was on the verge of collapse, the "landed property became

even stronger than it had ever been since 1921."47 In 1955, Mussadiq's 1953 land tax reform,

which had imposed a 20% tax on absentee landholders, half of which to be allocated as income

subsidized for peasants and the other half for rural development, was reduced to 7.5%.48 With

Mussadiq out of the way, as Mohamad Reza Shah rescinded land-tax, he began to sell some of

his own land his father had coercively acquired. Mussadiq had charged that stolen property could

not be sold legally, and worse yet, be represented as a cheap land reform.49 Nevertheless,

Mohamad Reza Shah did both-rescinded the land tax and sold his own property to cultivating

farmers. In short, the pursuit of open door policies did not liberalize the economy or politics

because of the shah-centered political rationality in Iran.

Representing Shah-centered Development

In contrast to the presupposition of liberal economic models of the 1950s, which assumed

free competition among multiple actors, the state official discourse represented development as a

shah-centered state model. Accordingly, Mohamad Reza Shah was valued as the necessary

strongman needed to act as the guide, the arbiter, and the interpreter for economic development.

The state-elites reproduced this image of Mohamad Reza Shah as each went along with this

narrative of the necessary evil of a strongman.50 In a revealing description of how Mohamad





47 Ibid.
48 Keddie and Richard, Modern Iran: Roots andResults ofRevolution, p. 139, foot note 134

49 Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, pp. 323-324.
50 Notwithstanding their differences, the common theme among personalities involved with Mohammad Reza
Shah's regime is their consensus on the centrality of the role of the shah in all aspects of decision-making. See
Iranian Oral History at Harvard University @ http://ted.lib.harvard.edu/ted/deliver/home. The exemplary case of
how the state-elites in Iran believed in a shah-centered state is Assadollah Alam's memoir, see Alikhani, ed., The
Complete Notes ofAssaddollah Alam (Yad Dasht-Haay-E Alam).









Reza Shah found himself as the source of guidance, he described how he chaired the Council of

Ministers in three successive occasions:

I never use gavel, but control things merely by the look in my eyes and by my facial
expression and tone and voice. ... I explained the great importance of a documentary film
for informing the people of the progress on our developmental programme. ... I expressed
the guiding consideration for the allocation of oil revenues for our developmental
programme. ... I gave instructions on guiding the production of tea and sugar.51

In describing his duty in these three meetings, he used the word "I" 27 times to refer to

himself as the direct or indirect source of authority. In other words, although the state adopted

liberal economic models, it practiced them according to a shah-centered political rationality in

which Mohamad Reza Shah commanded the macro-economic policies and his trustees executed

his directives.

This shah-guided economic rationality was neither a liberal concept nor a concept

previously constructed in the discourse of modern absolutism by Reza Shah. The policies were a

blend of both. This economic rationality was liberal because it opened up the domestic market to

foreign imports and investment, it deregulated currency exchange, and it maintained a relatively

high currency value. It was illiberal because the state extracted and spent most of the available

resources and ended up possessing the largest portion of the means of production and

distribution.

This illiberal liberalism was in contrast to Reza Shah's economic planning when the state

strictly regulated import, export, and currency exchange through numerous state monopolies.

These monopolies included primary agricultural products, such as wheat and barley, the main

food staple at the time. In other words, Reza Shah had followed a protectionist policy, which

essentially subsidized the industrialization-on the backs of the peasants-of Tehran and a few


51 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979, pp. 75-137.









major cities where most state-owned factories were located.52 In contrast, Mohamad Reza Shah,

the son, opened up domestic and local industry. Nevertheless, both the father and son pushed a

state-centered economic development. For example, Mohammad Reza Shah wrote: "In

modernizing a nation, just as in conducting a military campaign, you need a plan of action,"

which meant a plan of action by Mohamad Reza Shah.53 This representation of economic

development was contrary to the liberal view of American economists on the state payroll.

Alluding to economists who disfavored Mohamad Reza Shah-centered developmental policies,

Mohamad Reza Shah retorted:

Some American and European economists and engineers have peculiar ideas on how we
should go about Westernizing an economically less-developed country [Iran]. ... I
profoundly disagree. Because of the shortage of technicians and managers and because
private investors were timid about entering the industrial field, the Government had to do
much of the pioneering. This was true in my father's time, and in some fields, it is still the
case today. The Government owns and operates industrial enterprises in many parts of
the country now.54

Mohamad Reza Shah, however, was not alone in his resentment of economists because the

state paid to receive their advice. For example, Ebtehaj's resentment of American and European

economists was similar to that of Mohamad Reza Shah. In response to warning issued by

economists at the World Bank, Ebtehaj said:

The way to develop a country is not to listen to economists, who always say, "No, don't do
this, don't do anything." If America in her early years had economists she would never
have developed. ... If a patient will surely die unless he has a serious operation, and he
might not survive the operation, is there any sensible person who would say: "Don't
operate"? That is Iran's position.5




52 Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, p. 138.

53 Ibid., pp. 133-155.
54 Bostock and Jones, Planning and Power in Iran: Ebtehaj and Economic Development under the Shah, p. 115.

55 Ibid., pp. 153-160.









In other words, the state-elites valued a shah-centered state political economy, which had

its own rule of measuring economic development. The logic of these rules, however, was based

on the official state discourse That is why economic policies were liberal in some sense and

illiberal in others.

Measuring Economic Development

As in any political economy, the metrics for measuring economic gains and losses are

embedded in the political discourse that constitutes not only what is considered "interests" or

"goals" of the game, but also the rules by which those goals or interests are measured. In this

shah-centered political economy, the metrics for measuring what was considered developmental

goals and how the players interacted to achieve them rested, on the one hand, the relationship

between Mohamad Reza Shah and the state, and on the other hand, the relationship between the

shah-centered state and the elites. In other words, the mode of rationality between the state and

the state-elites followed a particular logic that was inherent in the particularity of their relations,

a logic by which the state-elites understood their developmental goals and competed with one

another to achieve them.

In this relational logic, since the state and Mohamad Reza Shah had become one and the

same as the sha set the rules of the game in which state-elites competed and picked the losers and

winners. For example, Ebtehaj believed that oil revenues should be appropriated only to

developmental projects and be maintained under the control of the Plan Organization (PO), a

position that liberal international institutions supported. But various ministries competed to keep

oil revenues in the general budget. Meanwhile, Mohamad Reza Shah prioritized military

spending over other developmental projects. In this competition for resources, Mohamad Reza

Shah's priority set the goals among the state-elites. In 1959, when Ebtehaj requested to have

budgetary autonomy for the PO, as it was originally designed, he also expressed his displeasure









with increasing military spending at a time of worsening economic crisis. Mohamad Reza Shah

had him arrested, and had it not been for Ebtehaj's support by the U.S. government, perhaps his

stay in prison would have been longer than a few weeks.56 If one were to believe Mohamad Reza

Shah's own rhetoric of balancing the state's security needs with the developmental needs, then

he should have followed Ebtehaj's suggestion.57 However, Mohamad Reza Shah made up his

own rules, and the state-elites rushed to glorify whatever decision he made-good or bad.

Moreover, the logic of this game dictated the behavior of the state-elites. As such, the

state-elites competed to please and glorify Mohamad Reza Shah, and developmental projects

were means to achieve their goals. Based on this relational logic, while the state-elites valued

projects that looked impressive, required big investment, and produced fast results, they ignored

projects that brought no glory to Mohamad Reza Shah and thus to them. As a result, grand and

showy projects were valued, but badly needed downstream factories and numerous

infrastructural missing links, which required many small investments and could have produced

sustainable development, had no advocate.58 For example, in regard to improving water

resources, Nikki R. Keddie, a respected historian of Iran, first alluded to Mohamad Reza Shah

egomania and the corruptive competition among elites. She argued:

Most dams have been poorly planned and wastefully expensive; more seriously, the stress
has been overwhelmingly on the dams themselves, which are showy and spectacular, and
on power generation. Often the subordinate local irrigation systems, without which the
dams serve no agricultural purpose, were not built for years, if ever, nor have the areas

56 Ibid., p. 153.
57 For examples of liberal rhetoric professed by Mohamad Reza Shah, see his writings previously cited. For
information on Ebtehaj's assessment of the situation, see Amjad, Iran: From Royal Dictatorship to Theocracy, p.
66. Ladjevardi, ed., Memoris ofJafar Sharif-Emami; Prime Minister of Iran (1960-61 & 1978). For an example of
how various ministers tried to convince Mohamad Reza Shah, see Keddie and Richard, Modern Iran: Roots and
Results ofRevolution, p. 128.
58 The literature on Iran, in most part, refers to Mohamad Rezs Shah's focus on grand projects as a case of
egomania, and invidious competition among the state-elites as a case of political corruption, but the logic of these
behaviors is constitutive of the shah-centered political discourse of monarchic modernism.









been adequately studied to see if the planned types of irrigation and field allotment are
suitable to the region.59

In the same vein, George Baldwin, who was a part of the economic advisory committee in

the PO, pointed out that the state's pitfalls in designing a steel and petrochemical company were

that the state invested money for industry, which had a narrow market limited to Iran-but they

were showy. Even in education, Baldwin argued that the state's large investment in educational

system, which produced mostly diplomas or certificates while ignoring the practical needs of the

economy, was essentially showy and useless.60

While water dams, industrial projects, and educational systems were grand, showy, and

unproductive, urban planning or lack thereof destroyed the traditional means of production,

distribution, and lifestyle. Urban development, which is a misnomer for what happened in Iran,

valued the showy cases, for example, of building five-star hotels or a modern airport, but ignored

the basic infrastructural needs of its rapid unplanned urbanization. In major cities, urban

industrialization destroyed surrounding farms and gardens that traditionally had supplied

seasonal vegetables and fruits for their respective urban populations. The conversion of suburbia

into industrial zones was done to build industrial parks-but without adequate roads and other

infrastructural supports. These policies changed the once beautiful suburbia of major cities into

barren, over-populated, and polluted places where millions of rural migrants came to build and

live. The unplanned migration to industrial zones turned into industrial parks into mixed

commercial and residential zones. Even in today's Tehran, one routinely sees a polluting factory

near homes, offices, schools, and hospitals. To make the situation worse, on the periphery of

these "industrial zones," even poorer migrant workers built shantytowns. Tehran became a

59 Baldwin, Planning and Development in Iran.
60 Sayed Mohsen Habibi, Intellectual Trends in the Contemporary Iranian Architecture and Urbanism (1979-2003)
(Tehran: Cultural Research Bureau 2005/1384), pp. 9-19.









showcase of this ugly, inefficient, and unhealthy urbanization. In response to this urbanization,

the Ministry of Urban and Housing Development was formed. However, the ministry was also

embedded in the same relational logic which promoted grand and showy projects-but ignored

the basic needs of the city. In brief, Tehran, which was the focal point of economic development,

represented a model case of a grand and showy developmental project with unintended

consequences that continue to make the city an exemplary case of planning or lack of planning.61

Ironically, Mohamad Reza Shah romanticized this unplanned planning. He represented a

lingering beauty of the past mixed with the progressive move toward the future, a future that has

not yet arrived in Tehran. In 1960, he wrote:

Today my country is a show window for the blend of ancient and modern. Just outside
of Tehran, you can still see camel caravans go by, bringing goods from afar into the city.
(Lucky is he who can see a caravan and hear its camel bells, as it passes under a full
moon). ... [In contrast,] as you go to meet a friend at Tehran's big new jet-age
international airport, you pass along broad boulevards lined with modern shops, and ablaze
with neon lights, where some of the women will be wearing the most daring Paris fashions,
and others still be veiled.62

The shah's romanticization of these visibly sharp contrasts in Tehran was, however, an

interpretation that could have possibly amused a foreign tourist of Iran, and not an Iranian living

in it. At the time, socialists, nationalists, and Islamists were particularly not amused by these

contrasts. They respectively represented these contrasts as class inequality between those who

lived in northern Tehran and those who lived in shantytowns. Nationalists represented these

contrasts as the sign of foreign domination and exploitation of Iranian dignity. Islamists

represented these contrasts as the promotion of un-Islamic mores by the state. Most of these




61 For an example of how the discourse of modernization affected the planning or lack of planning major cities in
Iran, see Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, p. 28.
62 Zamani, JalalAl-EAhmad's Culture p. 70









discontents expressed themselves in literary works, poems, essays, parodies, and short stories.

For example, Jalal Al-e Ahmad, a famous essayist, wrote:

In the past, our architects worked with ... local materials that they knew well and shaped
according to the existing human conditions and needs of the time. With those materials,
they made, shaped, and built inspiring structures that exceeded anyone's individual ability
but reflected our human conditions in its continuity.

Centuries later, the magnificence of these standing structures in cities such as ... still
inspire us, because they embody our spirits in time. In them, we see the genesis of our
presence and the significance of our eternity. They are the embodiment of our souls, and
that is their significance.

Nowadays however, the imported materials shape the inferior stricken minds of our
architects and engineers. They build apartments similar to chambers of a beehive; these
holes confine the body, but more importantly dominate the human soul. The same goes
for our dams and high-rises. These structures are designed to dominate the human soul and
break our continuity with the past, and that is their significance [domination of the West].63

Because SAVAK focused on censoring texts that directly criticized Mohamad Reza Shah,

it did not comprehend the subversive nature of Al-e Ahmad's rejection of modernity equated

with Westernization and modernization. Al-e Ahmad represented Western modernity as a plague

striking the soul and minds of Iranians. This was a transformative shift in the language.

In sum, after the coup in 1953, the state seemingly adopted American produced knowledge

of economic development, but the state understood and practiced that body of knowledge in

accordance with the relational logic that constituted the behavior of Mohamad Reza Shah as the

embodiment of the state. Moreover, the state's developmental interests and how the state-elites

competed to achieve them were constitutive of the state official discourse.

Foreign Relations

Representing Relations with Others: Constitutive of the discourse of monarchic

modernism was how friends and foes were classified into a dichotomous world of good versus



63 Jalal Al-e Ahmad, "Karnameh-e Seh Salekh" pp. 29-30, Also quoted in, Mohammed Reza, Answer to History.









evil, a practice that continued until the fall of the regime when foes and friends juxtaposed their

positions. In this discourse, while the West in general, and the United States in particular were

represented as trustworthy allies, the Soviet Union was represented as the primary foe.

In this representation, unlike Reza Shah's raced-based rationale, which equated Iranian

with Aryans and Germans, Mohammad Reza Shah's logics for his alliance with the United States

and his opposition the Soviet Union were based on security. Accordingly, U.S. policies and

practices were split into two categories. The "good" part of America included its conservative

people, realists, and security-conscious elites. The "bad" part of America consisted of liberal

elites whom Mohamad Reza Shah represented as naive, dangerous, and an uninformed minority.

In this representation, Mohamad Reza Shah referred to Eisenhower, Nixon, Kissinger, and

Johnson as "his old friends." But he implied that Kennedy, Carter, and the other Americans who

criticized Iran were misinformed about the reality of Iran and the special bond that existed

between the shah and the people. He blamed the liberal-oriented journalists for misinforming

Americans. He argued that American liberals inadvertently promoted the cause of international

communism by criticizing the security-conscious policy of Mohamad Reza Shah and his

conservative allies in the United States.64 Based on this relational logic in the discourse, the

conservative America was to be trusted, and the liberal America was to be suspected with

ambiguous motives.65

In the discourse, the Soviet Union was also dichotomized-good and bad. The "good" part

of the Soviet Union was its Russian people, and its "bad" part was its state. Iran represented the

Soviet state as an evil entity that threatened the lives and freedom of the Russians as well as the



64 For example, see Ibid.
65 Mission for My Country, p. 306.









Iranians. Mohamad Reza Shah repeatedly represented Russians in an oppositional relation with

their own state. He wrote:

I have the kindest regard for the Russian people as whole. The ordinary citizens of Russia
realize better than do their leaders that no freedom-loving country [referring to Iranian
people] can accept aid from a regime that shows clear signs of wanting to dictate its
neighbors' foreign policy.66

In other words, the people of Iran and Russia naturally shared a certain value, but the

Soviet state violated that value. Based on this relational logic in the discourse, Mohamad Reza

Shah represented the Soviet state as a threat to freedom of people in not only Iran, but also the

West. In other words, discursively, Mohamad Reza Shah had become the defender of the

Western freedom and democracy, although his own polity was not similar to any Western

democracy.

Accordingly, in 1955, the state enthusiastically entered into a U.S.-British-backed security

agreement named the Baghdad Pact, which had a similar logic with that of the North Atlantic

Treaty Organization (NATO). The Baghdad Pact was a security pact among Pakistan, Turkey,

Iran, and Iraq against the Soviet Union. However, Mohamad Reza Shah tried to maintain a

cordial relation with the Soviet Union. In 1956, following this policy, the shah visited Moscow

and began to negotiate a non-aggression pact between Iran and the Soviet Union. However, the

1958 military coup in Iraq, which dethroned the British-backed king Abul-lah, along with a

foiled military coup in Iran, provoked the shah to enter into a mutual defense pact agreement

with the United States. The Baghdad Pact was revised (a) to first reflect the absence of Iraq and

(b) to strengthen the shah's regime. The Baghdad Pact was, therefore, renamed the Central

Treaty Organization (CENTO). With CENTO in full force. Mohamad Reza Shah's regime and



66 Habib Ladjevardi, "Shahpour Bakhtiyar," (Iranian Oral History Project, Harvard University Center for Middle
Eastern Studies, 1984).









its conduct became even more entangled with U.S. policies. For contending discourses, however,

entering a security agreement with the United States was interpreted as the relinquishing of

Iran's sovereignty to the United States.67

However, in the official discourse, the state represented and understood itself as an equal

partner with the West, receiving economic aid, loans, grants, and advice from the United States,

all of which were represented as economic interdependence in contrast to Mussadiq's policy of

economic isolation. Moreover, Iran's security pact with the United States was represented as

exercising balance of power against the threat of the Soviet Union, as opposed to Mussadiq's

policy of non-alignment, which supposedly prepared the way for a communist takeover.

According to this relational logic, Mussadiq's policy was labeled as "negative nationalism"

in contrast to what Mohamad Reza Shah labeled as "positive nationalism." Mohamad Reza Shah

wrote:

When Mossadegh and his followers cried like women and indulged in hysterical tirades
against the British, I tried to think of the larger national interest. Mossadeqh's
negative nationalism not only provided the Communists with their ideal opportunity but,
paradoxically, allowed the British more influence over Iran's national policies than ever
before .... Mossadegh's policy was of course one of negativism, not nationalism in any
valid sense; nevertheless, the term positive nationalism I think helps distinguish between
his conduct and that of the true patriot.68

In this text, the state official nationalism is represented as positive, logical, anti-

communist, and patriotic. In contrast, Mussadiq's nationalism is represented as the opposite.

Simultaneously, Mohamad Reza Shah argued that "British imperialism has ceased in Iran ...

and outmoded capitalistic imperialist exploitation ... is giving way to new co-operative

relationships."69 Based on this relational logic, Mohamad Reza Shah argued:


67 For example, see Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, p. 126. The difference in spelling in the original.

68 Ibid., p. 130.

69 Ibid., p. 131.









Just as a man has some friends upon whom he would especially rely on in any crisis, so too
have we. We remain always ready to enlarge the circle of those most entrusted; at the same
time we remain vigilant to join with our friends in resisting any form of imperialism.70

In other words, while the state constructed friends out of the conservative America, it

made foes out of the Soviet Union. In this relational logic, the state represented U.S. economic

and security dependence as a natural outcome of an alliance among friends and against their

common foes. Meanwhile, contending discourses represented U.S.-Iran relations as a loss of

Iran's sovereignty. In other words, in the context of contending discourses in Iran, U.S.-Iran

relations became attached to a different narrative that was associated with the 1953 coup, British

colonialism, and then U.S. imperialism. But for Mohamad Reza Shah, both the United States and

Britain were associated with words such as "trust," "friendship," "alliance," and "cooperation."

However, Mohamad Reza Shah's representation of the United States as a friendly ally began to

change during Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1960.

Part II: Crisis and Reform (1960-1964)

Representing Economic Underdevelopment as Security

In 1961, as power shifted in Washington under the rubric of the "Progress for Alliance,"

the Kennedy administration shifted its foreign policy focus from military assistance to economic

development. Kennedy argued that underdevelopment provides conditions conducive for a

revolution. Peaceful economic and political development was, therefore, necessary to secure

freedom and stop communism. Kennedy warned, "Those who make peaceful revolution

impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."71 As such, revolutions were classified into

"peaceful" or "good" ones and "violent" or "bad" ones. While liberal revolutions were


70 Joseph Grunwald, "The Alliance for Progress," Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science: Economic and
Political Trends in Latin America 27, no. 4 (1964).

1 Bill, The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy ofAmerican-Iranian Relations.









represented as good, peaceful, and democratic, communist revolutions were represented as the

opposite. This was, however, a shift in the logic of security from the Eisenhower era to the

Kennedy era. Following the policy of containment in Iran, Eisenhower emphasized building

Mohamad Reza Shah's military as the bulwark against communism, but Kennedy focused on

economic development and political reform as the way to contain the spread of communism.

As expected, when Kennedy became president in January 1961, a shift occurred in U.S.

policy in Iran. Phillip Talbot, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, suggested

the following U.S. plan: (a) push for a land reform, (b) decrease its military assistance, (3)

increase economic assistance, and (d) push for political reform without endangering Mohamad

Reza Shah's system.72 Finally, Talbot recommended Ali Amini, the then-Iranian Ambassador to

the United States, to head a reformist government.

Despite his initial resistance, Mohamad Reza Shah appointed Amini as a "reformist

premier." Once in power, Amini set out to reform the system along the lines that Talbot had

outlined. Notwithstanding differences in nuance with Mohamad Reza Shah, Amini identified

with the official state discourse rather than contending discourses. For socialists, nationalists, and

Islamists, Amini was an American stooge who had negotiated the Iran-Britain oil dispute on

behalf of the coup makers.73 In Amini's view, the leaders of the opposition were not "realistic."

Thus, Amini did not, in any measurable way, try to co-opt the opposition into the government.

Amini's reform was, however, more focused on economic and political reform, but not

fundamental changes. Amini's policies were, however, compatible with the Kennedy's foreign

policy articulated in the Alliance for Progress, which showcased economic and political reform


72 Keddie and Richard, Modern Iran: Roots and Results ofRevolution, pp. 143-144.

3 For the dispute settlement, see Ladjevardi, "Shahpour Bakhtiyar." For an example of how Amini Nationalists
depicted Amini, see, Ladjevardi, ed., Memoirs ofAli Amini: Prime Minister of Iran (1961-62).









as a way of preventing the spread of communism. In other words, with the aim of securing Iran

from the "threat" of is own people, Amini went to work to implement Kennedy's plan of making

economic and political reform as the gateway for improving the conditions of life and thus

preventing the spread of communism. Amini did not, however, aim to fundamentally reform the

system by co-opting the opposition. He like other state-elites, considered the opposition as

dangerous to the system. He, therefore, started a technocratic approach to economic and political

reform.

Amini tried to restore the power of the premiership by shifting power away from the court

to the cabinet, a move that frightened Mohamad Reza Shah. He removed many of Mohamad

Reza Shah's sycophants from their posts, including dismissing the pro-shah Majlis. Instead, he

appointed liberal, reformist-minded technocrats to govern. For example, he appointed Hassan

Arsanjani, a former Tudeh sympathizer, as the Minister of Agriculture. Arsanjani proposed a

land reform strategy that could have potentially broken the power of tribal, aristocratic, military,

and clerical landholders. His cabinet also included another former member of the Tudeh Party

and National Front as the ministers of Justice and Education. As a trained economist, Amini

agreed with the IMF-proposed stabilization plan, which the previous government had agreed to

but had failed to implement. The refusal to implement the IMF's recommendations had resulted

in its retaliatory by freezing a badly needed $35 million in emergency credit. With Amini in

power, IMF released the $35 million emergency credit. Also, the United States issued an $85

million cash grant to help his government avert default on its foreign payment.74 As expected,

the IMF stabilization plan included recommendations for reducing government expenditure and



74 Ladjevardi, ed., Memoirs ofAli Amini: Prime Minister oflran (1961-62), pp. 125-128. In the language, the people
refer to nepotism as having a party, which means having a "connection" with an authority in the government. This
practice has a legacy of the traditional form of governance that was familial, local, and consensual for the most part.









fighting corruption. Subsequently, Amini cut 15% of the budget for various ministries, but he

could not cut the military budget, which made up the largest portion of the budget. 7

Amini's reform plan also called for fighting bureaucratic and commercial corruption. To

deal with bureaucratic corruption, he enforced a tough disciplinary regime on mid-level

bureaucrats and attempted to stop the rampant nepotism, which was a normal way of doing

business in Iran.76

This policy further alienated the state-elites who treated governmental institutions as their

private property. To deal with high prices, he blamed the traditional merchants (Bazaaris) for

hoarding goods and he prosecuted some of them. However, these policies alienated the court, the

landed elites, the bureaucracy, the Bazaaris, and the conservative clergy.

Meanwhile, the rhetoric of democratic reform heard from both the United States and Amini

energized the opposition to regroup and call for democratizing the existing system. Mussadiq's

secular loyalists, who had maintained their support among the general population, including

university students, began to reactivate the Second National Front (SNF). On the other hand,

Mussadiq's religious sector formed the "National Freedom Movement." Moreover, the Third

Force, which had social democratic tendencies with a strong support among intellectuals-along

with a new generation of the Tudeh Party, began to campaign for democratic reform. Confident

of their popularity, the opposition was called for a new election, but Amini refused to hold one.

He was confident that a new election would bring the Second National Front to power, and this

appeared intolerable for Amini as well as Mohamad Reza Shah. In his interview with Habib

Ladjervarid, Amini contended:


75 Helmut Richards, "America's Shah Shahanshah's Iran," Middle East Research and Information Project 40, no.
Sep. (1975): p. 16.
76 Ladjevardi, ed., Memoirs ofAliAmini: Prime Minister of ran (1961-62), pp. 123-124.









The people still do not understand the very meaning of freedom or its limitation. This
cannot continue. We must first tell the people you are only free to do things within a
certain boundary; gradually, we can expand that boundary .... Beyond that boundary, they
must censor themselves. This means that journalists could ask about foreign policy ...
but before they write they must also ask us, should we write this or not, is this in our
national interest or not, after all, this is how it is in every free country in the world. And
this is the only way to manage the country. You ask about election! But everyone
knows that as soon as I begin one, every province will be in chaos. ... At this point in
time, our priority is economic conditions.7

In this text, Amini sounds just like the shah. Additionally, discursively, the relationship between

the state and the people is very clear. The state is responsible for demarcating and teaching

freedom; the people have the duty to follow it. Moreover, the relational linkage between

economic and political development is also clear. Similar to the official state discourse, Amini

favors economic over political development. In this interview, Amini blamed Mohamad Reza

Shah for not allowing a free election, but a comparative analysis of Amini's text at the time

reveals that more often than not he sided with the Shah. Thus, his quarrel with the Shah was over

the differences of style, personalities, and positions in the state, but not in their embeddedness in

the official state discourse. For example, similar to the state's "official civil society," which

consisted of paid hooligans participating in pro-state demonstration or attacking anti-state

protests, he states that the National Front leaders were too inexperienced to realize that our

people and SAVAK agents constituted a large portion of their protesters. Regardless of the

trustworthiness of this statement, the utterances of such statements, which occurred often, meant

that the state not only demarcated the meaning of freedom, but also the meaning of the people,

civil society, and political participation. For Amini, the people meant those who worked for the

state, and their people meant the rest of Iranians.





7 Yari, The Iran Party According to the Documents.









Obviously, Amini's words were not able to permeate the values, concepts, and images

embedded in the language of contending discourses, and they were not able to attach a new

narrative to the people's existential economic and political experiences. Although the Amini-

Kennedy rhetoric of reform provided a breathing pause of hope, they failed to reconstitute their

reality in any measurable way. In other words, as Amini alienated some of the state-elites, he

pushed the opposition even further away. His policies ended up helping the shah's consolidation

of power as SAVAK agents actively pursued discrediting Amini's government between both

state-elites and before the opposition.78

By 1962, the clerical establishment led by Ayatollah Khomeini considered Amini's

reforms as another American-Western conspiracy "to enslave Iran."79 The merchant class did not

like Amini for his anti-corruption campaign, which unfairly targeted the Bazaaris.80 The

opposition did not like Amini because he actually repressed their leader more than previous

governments did. For example, Amini's government lasted fifteen months, and Shahpour

Bakhtiyar, the leader of the Second National Front spent eleven months of that time period under

arrest. Nevertheless, the most potent threat to Amini's government was the combination of the

shah, the military elites, and the SAVAK.

On January 21, 1962, in a peaceful demonstration, students at the University of Teheran

demanded free parliamentary election, which was the main slogan of the National Front. Despite

the repeated call for leadership, students began to chant, "Long live Mussadiq, death to Amini,





8 Ali M. Ansari, Modern Iran since 1921: The Pahlavis andAfter (London; New York: Longman, 2003), pp. 153-
155.
79 Ladjevardi, ed., Memoirs ofAli Amini: Prime Minister oflran (1961-62).
80 See, Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 423.









and death to the shah."81 The protest provided an ideal opportunity for Mohamad Reza Shah to

discredit Amini, raise the threat of a communist revolution, and push back Kennedy's reform.

The next day the military brutally attacked the university. Ahmad Farhad, the university

chancellor, resigned in protest. In his letter of resignation to Amini, Dr. Farhad wrote:

Many of the students have been beaten to the point of death. I have never seen or heard of
so much cruelty, sadism, atrocity, and vandalism on the part of Government forces. Some
of the girls of the University were criminally attacked in the classrooms by the soldiers ....
Not even the University Hospital was out of bounds to the soldiers. Many of the nurses and
patients were either beaten or wounded.82

Turning a peaceful demonstration into a bloody war on students achieved its purpose. The

military closed the university and began a massive round of arrests. The SAVAK arrested and

charged leaders of the opposition with the usual charge of disturbing the peace and threatening

the state's security.83 Meanwhile, Amini was stuck in a budget crisis, which needed more help

from the United States or a cut in the military expenditure, neither one of which was

forthcoming. In June 1962, Amini turned in his resignation and the shah appointed Assadullah

Alam, one of his most loyal sycophants, as the new prime minister.

In short, in the battle to break the shah-centered state, the Kennedy-Amini alliance lost to

Mohamad Reza Shah. Both Kennedy and Amini returned to their default positions, which was

supporting the shah rather than jeopardizing the system. In his offer of resignation, Amini said to

the shah:






81 Richards, "America's Shah Shahanshah's Iran," p. 16.
82 Ibid.

83 It is argued that the head of SAVAK, Timour Bakhtiyar, who wished to replace Amini as the prime minister,
instigated the attack on the University of Tehran. For example, see Ladjevardi, ed., Memoirs ofAli Amini: Prime
Minister of Iran (1961-62), p. 123.









I want to leave before you kick me out. Unfortunately, this is the reality of this country, the
shah is the center of stability. Governments can come and go, but the people always want
to rely on a center of stability."84

Hence, he did not want to rock the boat, and in a Machiavellian approach, Amini insisted:

The shah must remain above politics to maintain an air of divinity. After all, it is
understood that the shah is indeed the shadow of God, to maintain this idea, one should
treat the shah with ceremonial protocol instead of treating him as disposable napkins ...
rather than him being everywhere and used for anything."85

Put differently, Amini's differences with the shah were not about meaningful political reform.

They were about how to stabilize the system to prevent the possibility of a communist

revolution. Kennedy concurred and the shah remained the default player in the U.S. policy on

Iran. With Amini unable to break the monopoly of the shah's power, Kennedy tried to push his

"reform" by the shah, a policy that consolidated the power of the shah instead of reforming it.

Representing a Shah-centered Reform and Revolution

Although the Kennedy-Amini reform failed to achieve its goals, the rhetoric of peaceful

revolution, economic reform, and political development permeated the discourse of monarchic

modernism. The shah began to re-articulate the same representation by re-labeling Kennedy's

rhetoric of peaceful revolution as the "White Revolution," that was supposed to restructure the

economy and reform the political system. In a rigged referendum, the shah helped pass a six-

point reform bill with 99.8% of the people supposedly voting for it. The shah referred to this

performative act of reform as "the revolution of the shah and the people."86 From then on, the

state represented itself as a revolutionary and reformist government.




84 Ibid., p. 126.

85 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, p. 424.

86 For voting percentages, see Mohammed Reza, Answer to History, pp. 101-129, Ansari, Modern Iran since 1921:
The Pahlavis and After. For democracy as the shah saw it, see, Richards, "America's Shah Shahanshah's Iran," p. 22.









The word "revolution," which the shah had previously devalued and detested, was

suddenly valued. Previously, socialists and democratic nationalists had represented the shah as

an anti-revolutionary force and a vestige of a dying feudal system. In contrast, the shah had

represented communists as revolutionary forces out to destroy Iran's heritage of monarchism that

had supposedly helped the nation survive its historical ordeals. In other words, in the official

state discourse, revolution was devalued as the language of Others, and when Kennedy had

referred to the "Alliance for Progress" as a revolution, it had disturbed Mohamad Reza Shah.

In a 1962 interview with Mohamad Reza Shah, David Lilienthal wrote:

The Shah reiterated his bewilderment at some of the campaign speeches about "furthering
revolution" and "such things." [In that interview, the shah said], "I was concerned that the
President [Kennedy] was surrounded by some men who were professors and might not be
realistic about what revolution means out here, about how evil subversion by the Soviets
can be."87

To which Lilienthal responded, "These expressions about 'revolution' did not mean in America

what they might mean when used in Iran."88 In another section of the interview, Lilienthal

assured the shah that Kennedy's use of the word "revolution" had actually meant "social

revolution toward higher living standards."89 Additionally, Julius C. Holmes, Kennedy's

Ambassador to Iran (1961-1965) recalled that he had to assure Mohamad Reza Shah that

Kennedy's references to "revolutions" in his speeches meant only "social revolutions."90

In the shah's language, the word "revolution" was considered as the language of the

Others. Moreover, in the official state language, words such as "feudalism," "land reform,"

"class justice," "workers' rights," "women's rights," "profit sharing," "health rights,"


87 Richards, "America's Shah Shahanshah's Iran."
88 Ibid.

89 Ibid.

90 Mohammed Reza, Answer to History.









"education's rights," and "Islamic nationalism" were assumed as the inflammatory language of

contending discourses. Suddenly, however, the Shah began to incorporate the same words as if

he had invented them.

In 1963, the shah introduced a bill focused on six points: (a) land reform, (b)

nationalization of forests and pasturelands, (c) workers' profit sharing in privately owned

factories, (d) privatization of state factories, (e) women's suffrage, and (f) rural education by

conscripted Literacy Corps. This bill had hitherto been a part of the articulatory practices and

social demands of various contending discourses. However, the shah began to represent these

ideas in by incorporating signifiers, which had become meaningful in the contending discourses

against the shah-centered state-people, class-equality, Islam.

First, the state held a referendum which was represented a democratic way of the people to

revolt against their oppressors and remain in support of their protector-Mohamad Reza Shah.

Previously, the Shah had either rigged elections or refrained from holding them, so this was

another shift in representing a shah-led referendum as democratic participation. However, the

language of the referendum had belonged to Mussadiq's discourse of democratic nationalism.

Second, the state represented land reform as a shah-led modernization plan. However, the

language of land reform, profit sharing, universal education, universal suffrage, and

nationalization were values constructed in the discourse of socialists. For example, since the

1940s, the communist Tudeh Party had promoted peasant rights to profit from the land they

worked on, workers' rights to own the surplus value (profit) they produced in privately owned

factories, people's rights to universal education, and women's right to vote. But while socialists

articulated these rights in terms of a historical struggle for a revolutionary overthrowing of the









state, Mohamad Reza Shah rearticulated them as the new raison d'etre for a divine mission

bestowed upon him.

Third, by appealing to Qur 'anic texts, Mohamad Reza Shah was representing land reform,

a profit sharing plan, and nationalization as if they were sanctioned by Islamic texts.91 In the

manifesto for the White Revolution, which became a part of the high school curriculum,

Mohamad Reza Shah wrote:

It is obvious that I have enjoyed God's merciful blessing in this endeavor because this was
a revolution that was based on the principles ofjustice and human equality in accordance
with the most virtuous Islamic teaching. Naturally, in this endeavor, I had God's divine
approval, and certainly this revolution has been in accordance with ... principles and
ideals inherent in the Iranian civilization for many millennia.92

In this text, Mohammed Reza Shah invoked the Islamic-monarchic language of divine

sovereignty to re-represent "the principle of justice and human equality," although with a

different interpretation from pre-modern texts.93 For centuries, in the Islamic-monarchic

discourse, the concept of divine sovereignty had been linked to providing physical security and

thus establishing peace and justice, but the concept of human equality was linked to equality

before God. Justice was about providing physical security, and equality among men or by men

did not exist in the discourse. In Mohammed Reza Shah's manifesto, however, the repeated

references to the principle of justice and human equality were the borrowed language of

socialists and nationalists that were retrofitted into the official state language-monarchic

modernism. In this representation, Mohammed Reza Shah began to borrow class-justice, human

equality, and divine sovereignty and mixed these terms with the language of Islamic and Persian

nationalism.


91 White Revolution, pp. 3-4.
92 Ibid. Emphasis is added.

93 Ibid., pp. 6-7.









Values and concepts previously constructed in different discourses were now being linked

to new and different series of relational linkages, differences, and opposition. For example,

Reza Shah's raced-based Persian Nationalism, which had been constructed in oppositional

relation with the Shi'i concept of divine sovereignty, was now being linked to it. This linkage

would have been improbable during Reza Shah's reign. Nevertheless, Mohammed Reza Shah

represented them as mutually inclusive concepts.94

Fourth, by borrowing the intertextual language of Irani-Khareji, which had become a

prominent value in the language of democratic nationalists during Mussadiq's oil nationalization

struggle, Mohammed Reza Shah classifies his dynasty as the manifestation of a "true" Iranian

nationalism in an oppositional relation with foreigners. He declared:

Although Reza Shah had secured the country by establishing a disciplined military,
building roads .. unveiling women, codifying uniform clothing for men, and doing many
other important things in the shortest possible time, he never had the opportunity to
modernize the social foundation of Iran ... or uprooting puppets of foreign powers.95

Relying on the premise that his father had fought foreigners, Mohmad Reza Shah

represents his dynasty as a bulwark against foreigners and his opposition as the puppets of

foreigners. Referring to Mussadiq and the Tudeh Party as "foreigners" and "foreign agents," the

shah wrote:

Those who pretended to be anti-foreigners were, in fact, according to credible documents
and reasons, used to take direct orders from foreigners. [And] the only thing they all
shared was their opposition to the Pahlavi's monarchic power ... [and] they did that by
promoting pessimism and suspicion in the nation.96



94 As was explained in Chapter 5, the official state discourse of modern monarchism created a boundary between
"good" and "bad" Muslims. "Good" Muslims were represented as Persian nationalists, but "bad" Muslims were
represented as anti-shah, anti-Iran, and fanatics who not only opposed the modernization of Iran, but also
misunderstood the "true" teaching of Islam.
95 Mohammed Reza, White Revolution, pp. 8-10.
96 Jalal Al-e Ahmad, The Curse of the Land (Nefrin-E Zamin), 2 ed. (Tehran: Ravaq, 1357/1978), p. 278.









In this text, Mohamad Reza Shah tried to invert Mussadiq's anti-foreign position. However, the

fact that the shah felt compelled to do so is the constructed value of Irani versus Khareji, which

is intertextually understood as a universal truth. In all contending discourses, foreigners and their

agents were a part of the political language, even for a regime like that of Mohammed Reza

Shah, which argued against Mussadiq's brand of nationalism for being negative toward

foreigners.

According to this relational logic, the state-elites repeated the rhetoric of a shah-centered

revolution of the people against foreigners. The official state radio, television, newspapers, and

even celebratory state-sponsored functions spread similar messages.97 Although the state used

the language of "Iranians versus foreigners" ad nauseam, it did not consider it possible that the

people might perceive the increasing presence of Americans in every level of the government as

the presence of foreign powers.

Fifth, Mohamad Reza Shah borrowed not only Kennedy's language of social, democratic,

and peaceful revolution in his representation of the White Revolution, but also Kennedy's idea of

the Peace Corps initiative. The shah's White Revolution included the formation of the Education,

Health, and Religion Corps. But there were fundamental differences between Mohamad Reza

Shah's corps and Kennedy's Peace Corps. Kennedy's Peace Corps mobilized, organized, and

energized idealistic young Americans to voluntarily commit to providing people-to-people

developmental, educational, and medical assistance for some of the poorest people in the world.

In contrast, the members of the shah's corps did not volunteer for providing their services and

most of them resented going to the countryside as much as most country people resented having

some strange, inexperienced city dwellers right out of high school telling them how to live their


97 For example, the pages of Ettellaat and Keyhan in this era are filled with references to the state-led reform.









lives. Because of the state-imposed censorship, these resentments were expressed only in

alternative media. An example of this resentment reflected in Jalal-e Al Ahmad's book titled The

Curse of the Land. In a fictional dialogue between an Educational Corps and a local wise man,

Al-e Ahmad wrote:

The young man constantly worried about people's lifestyle here. He asked, "Why do they
live in mud houses? Why don't they have towels? Why don't they press their clothes? Why
do they sleep on bare grounds? Why do they eat with their dirty hands?" I tried to
explain to him the ridiculousness of his inquiries. But he would not understand.98

Finally, Mohamad Reza Shah represented his revolution as a diplomatic achievement. He

boasted that Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon had praised him for his "social," "democratic," and

"peaceful" revolution.99 After Amini's reform failed, even Kennedy's administration gave up its

ambition to push for a democratic reform in Iran, and shortly after the transfer of power to

Lyndon Johnson, the United States reverted to a shah-centered state policy, a policy that

continued until months before the Shah's regime fell in 1979. According to Kenneth Pollack,

U.S. officials knew the inadequacy, inefficiencies, and contradictory tenets of the Shah's While

Revolution at the time. But after Amini's government proved ineffective, no one cared to push

for a substantive reform during the Johnson or Nixon administrations because the Shah was

considered a bulwark against the threat of communism.100 Hence, the United States acquiesced

to a shah-centered foreign policy.

As expected, the shah interpreted this acquiescence as having the full backing and trust of

the United States. He once bragged:





98 Mohammed Reza, Answer to History, pp. 8-10.
99 Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran andAmerica, p. 89.
100 See, Mohammed Reza, Answer to History, pp. 16-17.









My friendship with Richard Nixon dates back to 1953 ... and when he became president.
we both agreed that a nation must search for alliance with 'natural allies,' countries with
which it will remain allied by virtue of common and permanent interests. 101

In sum, in representing a shah-led revolution, the state borrowed the languages of its own

contending discourse, as well as Kennedy's language of social revolution, to communicate with

its society and the United States. However, the Shah's language, policies, and practices of reform

convinced successive U.S. administrations that a shah-centered policy was the most "realistic"

policy for Iran, but it failed to convince his opposition. 102

Consequences of the White Revolution

In the same way developmental projects were big, showy, and shah-centered, so was the

White Revolution. First, the most important component of the "revolution" was the land reform.

Its speedy implementation irreversibly changed the land-tenure rural property relations by

eliminating the vestiges of traditional governance at local levels and replacing them with the

omnipotent power of the state. 103 From then on, the state became the primary source of

distributing credit, land, water, seeds, fertilizer, equipment, and access to markets vis-a-vis

government-organized cooperatives. 104 According to Eric Hooglund, who is an authority on land

reform in Iran, the reason for land reform was a political decision by the shah to (a) extend the

state's power into rural areas, (b) please the Kennedy administration, and (c) expand his social

base. 105 Hooglund argued that while the shah succeeded in his first and second objectives, he


101 Richards, "America's Shah Shahanshah's Iran," p. 22.
102 Mohama Reza Shah spent a large amount of money in the U.S. media and lobbyists to create a positive image for
himself. See Helmut Afsaneh Najmabadi, Land Reform and Social ( I,,aig.. in Iran (Salt Lake City: University of
Utah Press, 1987), pp. 101-102.
103 Ibid.

104 Eric J. Hooglund, Land and Revolution in Iran, 1960-1980, 1st ed. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982), p.
50.
105 Richards, "America's Shah Shahanshah's Iran."









failed in the third objective. In other words, the shah lost the support of the landed elites without

expanding his social base. 106

The second controversial component of the White Revolution was the enfranchisement of

women, which was represented in terms of "Emancipation of Women" (Azady-e Zanan) the

same phrase that Reza Shah had used to force the unveiling of women back in 1934. This was

also a showy and performative act. In a country where the shah's secret police created fear to

manage discontent, or in a nation with no semblance of free and fair elections, enfranchising

women did not appear as a genuine reform to socialists or nationalists who otherwise would have

supported it. However, the act alienated the most conservative clerical elites who linked and

represented it as another attempt to revive Reza Shah's unveiling. 107 In his 1941 essay, Kashfal-

Asrar, Ayatollah Khomeini had devalued Reza Shah by writing that "they [the state-elites]

regard the civilization and advancement of the country as dependent upon women going naked in

the streets, or to quoting their own idiotic words, turning half of the population into workers by

unveiling them. 108 Khomeini's 1941 sentiment was again expressed in 1963. Islamists re-

represented the shah's "Emancipation of Women" in the same terms-an attempt to corrupt

them. Other components of Mohamad Reza Shah's White Revolution, such as the workers' right

to profit sharing or nationalization of water, forests, and grazing lands, were grand and showy

without any substantive research or surveys done on them. 109


106 For more information on the shah's land reform, see, Hooglund, Land and Revolution in Iran, 1960-1980. Also,
see Najmabadi, Land Reform and Social( hC I,,I.. in Iran, Nima Nattagh, Agriculture & Regional Development in
Iran (Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, England: Middle East & North African Studies Press, 1986). Baldwin, Planning
and Development in Iran, pp. 71-98.
107 Ruhollah Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: i ,',,,; and Declarations of Imam Khomeini (Berkeley, Calif.:
Mizan Press, 1980), pp. 171-172.
108 Baldwin, Planning and Development in Iran.

109 See Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran andAmerica, pp. 89-90.









In sum, the representation of policies and practices of the state-elites alienated socialists,

Islamists, and nationalists. While the state valued the U.S.-Iran relations as a natural alliance

between two sovereign states, contending discourses devalued the alliance as a master-slave

relationship. While the shah valued his reform as a revolutionary unity between the shah and the

people, contending discourse represented it as a U.S. design. In other words, the official state

language was widening the gap between state and society rather than communicating with the

society.

In a 1963 public opinion poll taken by a West German research group, 85% of Iranians

considered the White Revolution and American aid to Iran as an American design:

[T]o make the rich richer, and only 8 percent thought that it as 'improving the standard of
living of the many.' Half of those polled said that the United States is too much on the side
of having things remain as they are. Finally, 33 percent saw America as 'aggressive,'
compared to 19 percent who thought the same of the USSR.110

In a qualitative comparative analysis of literature written in that era, Ahmad Karim-Hakkak

analyzed the spirit of the time:

[As] the monarchical state and Iranians pursue fundamentally different visions and ideals,
many Iranian poets and writers began to articulate their impression of this difference in
their literary works in one form or another of opposite entities, positioning themselves with
increasing self-consciousness against the state power structure. As the state gradually
consolidated its sway over the society through the late 1950s and early 1960s, the
dominant mood vested in literary works turned from one of forceful resistance to one of
pessimistic despair. Such ideals as liberty, democracy, and social justice were portrayed as
precious pieces of an identity being cruelly trampled in an inevitable collision between the
people and the political power structure."1

In brief, the consequence of the White Revolution was the further consolidation of power

of the shah on the one hand, and the increasing alienation of his opposition on the other.


110 Ahmad Karimi-Hkkak, "Revolutionary Posturing: Iranian Writers and the Iranian Revolution of 1979,"
International Journal of Middle East Studies 23, no. 4 (1991): p. 508.
111 Ali Rahnema, An Islamic Utopian: A Political Biography ofAli Shari'ati (London; New York: I.B. Tauris, 1998),
p. 215.









Consequently, by 1964, policies and practices of the state were interpreted differently from those

intended or understood by the state.

Classifying the Other

In the official language of the state, a hierarchical construction occurred of the imagined

"enemies of the state." The state represented socialists and Mussadiq as the highest security

threats against the state. Accordingly, the state used its repressive means to first target

communists, then nationalists, and lastly Islamists-despite the rising power and prestige of

Islamists. Constitutive of this classification was the state's self-interpretation rather than some

tangible threat that socialists posed but nationalists or Islamists did not pose.

The state monitored, interrogated, and jailed-if not killed-those accused of being

communist, associating wiht communist, or reading communist's texts. The state, however,

allowed Islamic intellectuals to operate somewhat freely because SAVAK speculated that

Islamists are naturally anti-communist. The perception that Islamists were naturally anti-

communist was the case of how the state perceived Ali Shariati, who was one of the most

influential public intellectuals. He popularized a political Islam whose content combined

socialism, democratic nationalism, and Islam among thousands of his loyal followers. Ali

Shariati was indeed the symbol of the rise of a modem Islamic discourse.

In 1963, SAVAK arrested and then released Shariati for lecturing. Shariati 1963's letter of

confession is revealing. In this letter, Shariati argued that his lectures were against the

communist Tudeh Party and communism and did not target the shah whom he respected.112

Although this confessional letter was written by Shariati, it revealed what the state-elites in

general and SAVAK directors desired to hear. In the letter, Shariati praised SAVAK agents for


112 Ladjevardi, "Shahpour Bakhtiyar," pp. 212-215.









treating him well and thanked them for providing him a comfortable condition under which he

could freely speak his mind. Then he convincingly wrote that his Imperial Majesty, Mohamad

Reza Shah, had indeed introduced a "revolutionary" idea for the social transformation of Iran to

the extent that was possible. Shariati then theorized that the shah-centered state is a Bonapartist

state in which the shah "is a supra-class figure, free of all class attachments. Therefore, all

classes could conceivably benefit from fundamental transformations without resorting to

violence and engaging in revolutionary activity."113

Shariati was writing in the official language of the state and the senior officer in charge of

his case recommended his release under surveillance. While this game of arrest and release was

repeated for years, Shariati became one of the most influential public intellectuals whose

speeches at Husseini-e Ershah (The Center of Guidance for Hussein's Followers) attracted

thousands of young people. His books were reprinted many times and his speeches and lectures

were tape-recorded or transcribed and distributed. I attended a few of these meetings in the early

1970s. The atmosphere was electrified with revolutionary ideas, and middle class looking young

men and women, who wore fashionable clothes and hairstyles, attended. For most attendees, it

was inconceivable to hear Shariati and think of him as less of a threat to the state than

communists or nationalists, but SAVAK continued to rank him as such. For SAVAK, it was

inconceivable that Shariati was more of a threat to the state than communists. This condition of

conceivability prevented SAVAK from assessing or predicting the danger of Islamists to the

state until it was too late for the regime.114





113 Zonis, The Political Elite oflran, p. 315.
14 As it turned out, the CIA did not predict the rise of Islamists in Iran either.









The logic behind classifying Islamists as the least threat and communists as the most

threat to the state was embedded in the official state discourse. In its representation, the state

classified religion and religious ideologies as fanaticism and thus anti-progress and development.

A statistical survey conducted by Marvin Zonis at the time found that two-thirds of the high-

ranking state officials thought religious leaders were unprogressive and unhelpful in modernizing

the country.115 The logic behind this interpretation was based on another set of interpretation that

showed history as linear, progressive, and evolutionary. And the perception that the time for

religion as expired was a dominant representation at the time.

The very nature of proposing a linear, progressive history dictates its own logic. By

conceptualizing a linear history, what is placed in the past cannot belong to the future. And this

is how the state-elites categorized Islamists-belonging to the past. It was impossible for them to

imagine that an Islamic movement could have the potential to mobilize young, educated, urban,

and an increasing middle class population. Zonis's statistical survey did not even bother to ask

whether or not the state-elites perceived Islamists as a security threat. Based on this logic, the

state did not rank Islamists as a revolutionary threat. The assessment of continuing to rank

Islamists as less of a threat to the state than socialists was despite the fact that in this era

Islamists were calling for the overthrow of the regime, while socialists and nationalists were

advocating coexistence with the regime of Mohamad Reza Shah.

In the 1960s, for example, secular nationalists led by Shahpour Bakhtiyar, socialists

associated with the Tudeh Party, and democratic socialists connected with Khalil Maleki (the

Third Force) were all calling for the state to hold a free and fair election. This was the extent of

their demand. Their internal debates centered on how to force the government to adhere to the


115 Ladjevardi, "Shahpour Bakhtiyar."









existing constitution and allow them to participate in the government. Hence, the aim was not to

antagonize the regime. In other words, the secular opposition had agreed to tone down its anti-

American, anti-shah, and anti-Israel rhetoric in public so that the regime could co-op them. They

essentially advocated what Bakhtiyar described as a "minimalist demand" for holding "a semi-

free election."116 But the state would not allow nationalists or communists to participate in the

election because they were perceived as threats to the state.

The Discourse of Modern Islam: Political Islam and Return to Self

By 1960, Islamists had begun to represent a worldview that was both evolutionary and

revolutionary. It was "evolutionary" because it incorporated all the basic signifiers previously

constructed in both modern and traditional Iranian discourses. It was "revolutionary" because it

called for the overthrow of the regime as a symptom of Iranian Self-hate, alienation, and Western

domination. A revolutionary and evolutionary Islam was represented by de-linking development

from Westernization. In other words, Islamists began to represent development in terms of

returning to an Islamic-Iranian Self rather than emulating the Western models of development.

Most significantly, however, was how Islamists retrieved Islamic, Shi'i, and Sufi historical texts

to represent a supposedly "true Islamic ideology" for life both here and hereafter. Accordingly,

this modem Islamists constructed a new political ideology that represented traditional clerical

conservatism and quietism as "un-Islamic." Instead, they offered an alternative Islamic ideology.

In contrast to a compromising call on the part of socialists and nationalists, by 1960,

Islamists were demanding a systematic and revolutionary change. They called not only for a

violent and revolutionary overthrow of the regime, but also a modernizing vision of Islam that

devalued Islamic or Sufi quietism, religious conservatism, and any other compromises with the

116 Interview with Dabashi and NetLibrary Inc., Theology ofDiscontent: The Ideological Foundations of the Islamic
Revolution in Iran.









regime. For example, Mehdi Bazargan, who became the prime minister of the provisional

government after the fall of the regime, became very popular for representing Islam as a modern

and modernizing ideology that was represented as both divine and scientific. In the same vein,

Ayatollah Taleqani represented Islam as a socialistic religion concerned with class justice while

he criticized the Marxian interpretation of historical materialism and Soviet-style socialism.

Ayatollah Motahri represented Islam as both a rational philosophy and faithful theology. Ali

Shariati began to represent Islam as a modem, socialist, democratic, scientific, and revolutionary

ideology that appealed to young, educated, and urban people. Even Jalal Al-e Ahmad, who had

started his political writings as a socialist, began to advocate Islam as a cultural dimension of an

Iranian Self versus the Western Other, a dimension whose loss, he argued, had created all the

miseries Iranians had suffered since Iran had encountered the West. Ayatollah Khomeini, a

disciple of Ayatollah Bourujerdi who had advocated quietism, also began to call for the

overthrowing of the regime by advocating an Islamic state that was modern, modernizing,

Islamic, socialist, and democratic.117 Most importantly, modem Islamists were not necessary

from the clerical establishment. For example, although Mehdi Bazargan, Ali Shariati, and Jalal

Al-e Ahmad had a strong affinity for Islamic thought, all of them had a European education and

had done extensive traveling and living in the West, as well as having in-depth contacts with

well-known Western intellectuals. In other words, modem Islamists were familiar not only with

the Islamic school of thought, but also with the West and Western philosophy. For a brief

understanding of the modem Islamic thought, which became the main contender of the regime, I

will now review the interpretation of three important figures.




117 For example, Hamid Dabashi, Theology ofDiscontent: The Ideological Foundations of the Islamic Revolution in
Iran (New Brunswick Transaction Publishers 2006).









Mehdi Bazargan

In the 1930s, Mehdi Bazargan was among the first group of students whom Reza Shah had

sent to Europe for receiving education. Upon his return to Iran, he began to teach at the School of

Engineering at Tehran University in 1940. He was not, however, known for contributing to the

field of thermodynamics, which was his field of specialty. From an ideological perspective, he

was instead known for representing an Islamic ideology that denounced Sufi's quietism, Shi'i

ritualism, and the established clerical institutions. In various texts, he valued what he called a

progressive, modem, scientific, and revolutionary Islam. Bazargan scathingly criticized the

established Shi'i clergy for adhering to a ritualistic and irrational view of Islam. Interestingly,

Bazargan's criticism of the clergy was similar to those of Ahmad Kasravi's views, but from a

modernist perspective. Kasravi was assassinated for being anti-Islam, but Bazargan was praised

for promoting a "scientific" view of Islam. Bazargan called for an Islamic revolution to establish

an Islamic state based on an Islamic ideology.

By 1964, when the shah charged Bazargan with threatening the state's security, Bazargan's

vision of Islam had entered the language-it no longer belonged to his close circle of

intellectuals and political activists.118 Much like Khomeini, Taleqani, Motahari, Jalal Al-e

Ahmad, and Shariati, Bazargan showed "true" Islam as being "modem," "scientific," "lawful,"

"democratic," "just," and in accordance with "Islamic ethics," which was both evolutionary and

revolutionary.

Bazargan's articulatory logic was that of an Islamist who promoted class justice and made

class analysis in accord with socialism. He was a socialist who emphasized modernism, a

118 As a middle school student in the small city of Shiraz, I personally used to attend meetings that schoolteachers
used to organize for Qur'anic reading and interpretation. Many young people attended. The dominant theme in these
discussions was that Islam was a scientific theology, a rational philosophy, and a revolutionary political ideology
that could purify Self from the ever-increasing cultural contamination designed to maintain Western domination of
Iran.









modernist who advocated Mussadiq's brand of democratic nationalism, a nationalist who valued

constitutionalism. Above all, Bazargan was a man who envisioned an Islamic state based on a

progressive "Islamic ideology" that was familiar in Islamic law or ,\/,i i/t and Islamic Sufism or

Tariqat. 19

Similar to modernists, Bazargan believed in a progressive, determined, and evolutionary

view of history, but based on a different articulatory logic from those of modernists. While

modernists' logic of a progressive history was based on positing man's relation with nature,

Bazargan's logic of an evolutionary history was based on man's relation with God. While

modernists viewed the relationship between man and nature as primarily a physical or material

relation between man and nature, modem Islamists interpreted the relationship between man and

God as primarily a metaphysical relationship between man and God's consciousness. For

modernists, human history is a progressive path toward domination of man over nature. From a

different logic, Bazargan proposed that human history is a progressive path toward God as the

perfect universal consciousness. But Bazargan was not the only one with this interpretation of

historical progress. Notwithstanding their differences, Ali Shariati, Ayatollah Morteza Motahari,

Sayed Mohammad Taleqani, Allameh Hussein Tabatabai, and Ayatollah Khomeini shared

Bazargan's view of a progressive history, with which they all identified and signified by the

word Tohid. In Islamic traditional texts, Tohid meant the belief in monotheism, but in modem




119 Traditionally, Tariqat, which was highly apolitical, was represented in an oppositional relation with Shariat that
was highly political. Notwithstanding the differences among various Islamic schools of thought as to what
constitutes the content of Shariat and Tariqat, the methodological differences between the two schools had been
translated into Shariat as a political, prescriptive, formal, and reproduced through the clerical institution, and Tariqat
as apolitical, highly individualistic, intuitive, informal, and reproduced by devout followers on their own free will.
But the modernist Islamic discourse both have come together as though they have been an integral part of each
other. Ali Shariati was the best known articulator of this combination.









Islamic texts, while Tohid maintained its old meaning, it was also linked to the concept of a

progressive path toward unity with God as the only perfection of universal consciousness.120

However, Bazargan's reference to Tohid, as a progressive unity between man and God,

was a familiar concept of Vahadt (unity of consciousness), which was similar to the language of

Islamic mystics, such as Rumi, Hafez, and hundreds of other literary works. In other words,

Bazargan's articulation of Tohid had traces of Islamic mysticism, which had traditionally

interpreted and practiced Islam with a different methodological approach known as Tariqat

(methodological path). Tariqatists practiced an Islamic theology that was ascetic, anti-

establishment, anti-political, and interpretative. As such, it was extremely individualistic. For

Tariqatists, the progressive path to unity with God was one of personal love, commitment,

devotion, intuition, and interpretation and not necessarily text-based rituals, prayers, and clerical

prescriptions. This methodological difference had traditionally pitted Tariqatists (Sufis and

Arefs) against the Shi'i clergy (.l\,/i// irui orMullahs and Mujtaheds) whose methodology

focused on Sunna (tradition), which was text-based, prescriptive, and rationalistic. Its

interpretation was limited Maraj-e taqlid (the qualified sources of imitation or emulation). But

modern Islamists were bringing these two opposing traditions together as if they had always been

mutually inclusive.

Bazargan articulated his interpretation of progressive histories into two familiar Islamic

sub-discourses (.\h,/i ia and Tariga). This new interpretation was both Tariqatist and .\h, ,uii t

without being either one. The discourse had traces of both in it. On the one hand, Bazargan

articulated his arguments in the authoritative Qur'anic, Islamic, and Shi'i texts, myths, and



120 In addition to various writings, see Mehdi Bazargan, Pa Beh Pa-Ya Vahy (Step by Step with Revelation: An
Interpretation ofQur'an), 2 vols. (Tehran Daftar Nashr Farhang Islami, 1377/1978).









common laws of .\/hii ia to represent a political Islam that was prescriptive in its teaching. 121 On

the other hand, he was appealing to individualistic love, devotion, commitment, and asceticism

of Tariqatists to represent Islam as a path to progressive consciousness toward (Tohid) or the

unity of man with God. Discursively, this was a great interpretative shift.

Traditionally, Islamic-Iranian mystics followed a seven-step path (Tariqat) toward a

progressive move in the direction of unity with God (Vahdat). For reaching Vahdat, an

individual gathered his will, love, commitment, and gave up bodily needs or desires to achieve

that unity, which was deemed unreachable but progress toward it was possible. 122 Therefore, the

Tariqatist discourse was highly apolitical, anti-materialist, and individualist. However, modem

Islamists in general and Bazargan in particular were highly political, materialists, and

collectivists. They struggled against the unjust distribution of wealth in the society, as well as the

erosion of Islamic mores. Nevertheless, modern Islamists re-articulated the notion of a

progressive path to perfection. This path to perfection was seen in terms of the struggle of

individuals to improve their political, social, and material conditions by attaining an Islamic

collective consciousness. 123 This new way of thinking Islamic was represented as the struggle to

improve consciousness through understanding and practicing one's religious responsibility to

Self, the community, and God, which was supposed to be the path toward the unity with God.

The path to unity (Tohid) was no longer perceived as refraining from worldly affairs. It was


121 Zarin-kub, Dar Jeztejoya TasvofDar Iran (a Survey ofSufism in Iran)

122 Mahdi Bazargan, Bazgasht Beh Qur'an, Chap-i 1. ed. (Tehran: Bungah-i Tarjamah va Nashr-i Kitab, 1360),
Mahd Bazargan, Inqilab- Iran Dar Du Harakat, Chap-i. ed. (Tehran: s.n., 1964/1363), Mahdi Bazargan, Hukumat-
E Jahan-I Va Hid Navishtah-Ya Mahdi Bazargan, Chap-i 2 ed. (Tehran: Shirkat-i Sahami, 1965), Mehdi Bazargan,
Muslim: Social and Global (Musalman: Ejtema-I and Johan-I) (Tehran: Ershad, 1965/1344), Mahdi Bazargan,
Khanah-E Mardum (Tehran: Shirkat-e Sahami, 1967), Mahdi Bazargan, Bisat Va Idulugi (Tabriz,: Ilmiyah, 1968),
Mahdi Bazargan, Mahdi Bazargan Pamphlets (1976), Mahdi Bazargan and Muhammad Mahdi Jafari, Bad Va Baran
Dar Qur'an (Tehran: Shirkat-e Sahami-ye Intishar, 1974).
123 Bazargan and Jafari, Bad Va Baran Dar Qur'an.









rather about the worldly affairs of serving self and the community. Hence, while Bazargan

rejected quietism and pure spiritualism, he was promoting active participation along with

personal love, devotion, and commitment to God's work, all for achieving both material and

spiritual perfection for the individual, as well as collective material improvement and

improvement of consciousness.

Bazargan used the language of Tariqatist to represent a progressive history of collective

consciousness. He also valued materialism and activism. In fact, he quoted Marx to express that

the material conditions of life have historically corresponded with the progressive collective

consciousness of mankind. He stated that the manifestation of any collective consciousness in a

given time and space is different political ideologies, such as feudalism, capitalism, socialism,

and communism. In many ways, Bazargan's argument was utilizing a Marxian class and

dialectical analysis to represent its interpretation of progressive history, but by incorporating the

familiar languages of Tariqatists and .\lht ili \\ instead of the unfamiliar language of socialists

or nationalists. Bazargan idealized an Islamic state, which, he argued, would become possible

only if Iranian collective consciousness would progress to the point of attaining an "Islamic

ideology."

In this interpretation of Islam, the relationship between .\l/,i it and Tariqat became

complementary rather than opposing. As such, the previously considered personal and private

became political, religious, and public. The Tariqatist's interpretative and individualistic love,

commitment, and devotion to God became the public and political way of devotion to political

participation aimed at establishing Islamic rules, laws, and norms. Bazargan promoted an Islamic

ideology that viewed political participation in terms of acting: both rationally and spiritually, Self









governing politically and religiously, improving Self materially and spiritually, and viewing Self

as an individual and a collective.

Bazargan's "Islamic ideology" consisted of three components: .\lh, a Laws, Shi'i clerical

establishment, and personal-political-religious devotion. He argued that Sharia law, which can be

summed up as Islamic laws, norms, rules, customs, and consensus according to the holy Qur 'an

and traditional texts and practices during the reign of prophet Mohamad, was the only reliable

source of guidance. From this representation, consensus (ijma) of Shi 'i Mujtahedean (Islamic

scholars) was the most qualified source of interpreting divine laws according to the exigencies of

any given time and space. Bazargan argued that Shi'ites are obliged to follow the most learned

living mujtahed to progress with the changes and development in the world.124 He argued in

favor of academic, theological specialization so unity could occur between universities and

seminaries, a unity that would combine modern natural and social sciences, as well human and

divine laws. To achieve these goals, Bazargan argued in favor of "scientific interpretations" of

Qur 'an, which he contended would reveal the most advanced technological innovations. For

example, in one of his essays, "Wind and Rain," Bazargan argued that the science of

meteorology was already written in Qur 'an, but it had not been understood yet. However, it is

not clear whether Bazargan urged his readers to master interpretive skills to discover scientific

knowledge by a careful reading of the holy text, or his readers should first master a particular

discipline, as he did, and then try to find it in Qur 'anic verses. 125 Nevertheless, his texts are full

of analogies taken from his engineering field of thermodynamics, which gives credence to the

124 Dabashi, Theology ofDiscontent: The Ideological Foundations of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, pp. 340-345.

125 Bazargan, Bazgasht Beh Qur'an, Bazargan, Inqilab-IIran Dar Du Harakat, Bazargan, Hukumat-E Jahan-I Va
Hid Navishtah-Ya Mahdi Bazargan, Bazargan, Muslim: Social and Global (Musalman: Ejtema-I and Johan-I),
Bazargan, Khanah-E Mardum, Bazargan, Bisat Va Idulugi Bazargan, Mahdi Bazargan Pamphlets, Mehdi
Bazargan, Az Khoda Parsti Ta Khoda-Parasti (Huston: Book Distribution Center 1976/1355), Bazargan and Jafari,
Bad Va Baran Dar Qur'an.









notion that Islam, science, modernization, and development are not opposed to each other as the

regime had represented them to be.

Finally, Bazargan emphasized that the intended purpose for religious rituals, prayers, and

obligations is political, and religious leaders who advised their followers to abide by religious

rituals or prayers-just for the sake of being saved-did not understand religion or politics. One

of his examples was the ritual of going to Mecca. He argued that the purpose for this mandatory

pilgrimage-for those who could afford to make the long journey-is a political act to unify the

nation of Islam. His interpretation of the call for collective Friday Prayers, fasting, and other

Shi'i rituals was in the same vein. He argued that these religious responsibilities without political

purposes were mindless acts of irrationality and therefore a path away from progressing toward

the collective consciousness or getting close to God. Notwithstanding their differences, modern

Islamists had the same view of what they called "Islamic ideology," which was a shared

understanding or a new interpretation on which the 1979 revolution was constructed.126

Bazargan's ideal state did not differ in its basic signifiers from other contending

discourses. It was an ideal state that could provide security, human economic development,

freedom, equality, justice, and democracy. Accordingly, this ideal state must not discriminate

based on race, status, and knowledge. Women must be equal to men and have the right to

participate in the administration of the government. The state must educate all its people, and

through public education and Islamic ethics, the state must and will eradicate corruption. Finally,

he described an ideal Islamic nation as well. An ideal nation is an inclusive collectivity that

recognized the people's right to form group associations. But these ideas were not particularly



126 Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The Tormented Triumph ofNativism, 1st ed. (Syracuse,
N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1996).









Islamic. They were certainly values that were represented, understood, and constructed within

the Iranian contending discourses, albeit with different hierarchic formation.

In other words, values, which were expressed in Bazargan's discourse of modem political

Islam, incorporated the traditional basic signifiers, such as security, development, law, people,

and justice. They were expressed in terms of Islamic .\/iil i laws, Shi'i clerical interpretation,

and Sufi's individualistic devotion.

By 1963, while Bazargan's articulation of an ideal Islamic state remained somewhat

controversial among some in the clerical establishment and obviously among socialists and

nationalists, his revolutionary position against the state was highly valued among all contending

discourses that opposed the regime. At the time, any rhetorical representation, which devalued

the Mohamad Reza Shah, delegitimized the presence of the United States, demonized Israel,

equated capitalism to imperialism, and attributed the moral corruption of the country to Western

liberalism was a shared value among all Iranian contending discourses except the official state

discourse.127 These shared values were beginning to become the unifying signifiers under which

a hegemonic discourse was being constructed against the state. Bazargan wrote:

What the Iranian nation wants is just one word ... "Freedom." This word is not
Hebrew that for understanding it you [Mohamad Reza Shah] need to hire advisors from
Israel .... We say that the Shah does not have the right to establish law, to install [or]
dismiss government .. according to his views and will, and yet he be [considered] sinless,
unaccountable, with a sacred, even everlasting position. This is reactionary, this is
despotism, and this is dictatorship. 128

At this time, as the leaders of secular nationalists and socialists were wishing for the

regime to allow them to participate in a "semi free election," the Freedom Movement, led by

Bazargan, "openly called for the violent destruction of the Pahlavi regime: "Down with the

127 For example, see Boroujerdi examines the works of public intellectuals whose works inspired the growth of a
particular nativist view of perceiving Iran as a nation dominated by the West and desiring to be free from it.
128 Dabashi, Theology ofDiscontent: The Ideological Foundations of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, p. 336.









Shah's despicable regime. Death to Israel, the shah's monstrous master! Salutation to the blessed

spirit of the shroud-bloodied martyrs of the Iranian people!"129 These types of texts represented

the shah as a heretic who claimed divine sovereignty. While Bazargan muted a large part of Shi'i

and Sunni's legitimation of monarchic rules, he argued that the concept of divine monarchic

sovereignty was un-Islamic. Meanwhile, his reverence for Khomeini's leadership was no less

than viewing him as a divine political leader. For example, in June 1963, when the state arrested

Ayatollah Khomeini for one of his fiery speeches against the regime, Bazargan stated:

In Iranian history, this is the first time when exalted position of the supreme deputyship of
Imam Ali, peace be upon him, is insulted and the source of exemplary conduct, His
Highness Ayatollah Khomeini is kidnapped and imprisoned.130

In this text, representing Khomeini as the supreme deputy of Imam Ali has a constitutive logic

that represents Khomeini as the divine appointee of Imam Ali and the inheritor of Ali's political

leadership. Additionally, Bazargan maintained that the Shi'i clergy has always kept its

independence from monarchic rulers and resisted tyranny and despotic absolutism. But

Bazargan's representation of the role of Shi'is clergy was a new interpretation of history. At least

since the Safavid dynasty, the Shi'i clergy had cooperated with the monarchs. In short, the social

content of Bazargan's Islam was filled with values constructed in modernist, nationalist, and

socialist discourses, but articulated in the familiar language of Sharia, Tariqa, and Shi'i words,

images, myths, and narratives.

Jalal Al-e Ahmad

As Bazargan, Al-e Ahmad represented Mohamad Reza Shah's revolution as another U.S.

design to subjugate Iran. But Al-e Ahmad was an essayist rather than a political activist.


129 Ibid., 336-337.

130 Dabashi and NetLibrary Inc., Theology ofDiscontent: The Ideological Foundations of the Islamic Revolution in
Iran, p. 339. Also quoted in Ahmad, On the Intellectuals (Dar Khedmat and KhianatRoshanfekran), p. 330.









Nevertheless, his embedded values were similar to Bazargan's values, as well as other modern

Islamists. For example, on the shah's revolution, he wrote: "These days everything, including

revolution, is bureaucratic, performative, and showy."131 On the shah's referendum, he claimed

that in the old days landlords used to bus their subject-peasants to ballot boxes. These days,

however, it is the ballot boxes that have been moved in front of ministries for subject-bureaucrats

to cast their votes in exchange for their next month's salary.132 Regarding land reform, he

sarcastically wrote:

To avoid military coup organized by retired colonels, they [the regime] evicted Turcoman,
for example, and then gave those lands to military colonels to cultivate cotton, wheat, and
watermelons, and now one can certainly boast about all the cotton and watermelon crops
we enjoy! How good they are! 133

On a different occasion, he criticized the land reform for being too little too late:

"Converting landless peasants to small farmers could have been useful 200 years ago. Now we

should create large mechanized cooperatives instead."134 On the Education Corps, he wrote: "I

have worked with and taught some of these Corps conscripts, while some try to get along with

villagers, most want to 'educate' them not to have "bad" table manners, mud houses, and native

clothes."135 However, Al-e Ahmad's most subversive contention, which entered into the

language as a clear and concise concept, was his call for a return to an Iranian-Islamic Self, a

Self that was supposed to be purified from the contamination of Westerners and Western-like

modernizers.


131 Jalal Al-e Ahmad, GCa,, ,. i,,., (Westoxication) (Tehran Ravaq, 1344/1962), p. 172.
132 Ahmad, The Curse of the Land (Nefrin-E Zamin), p. 254.

133 -- Ci .,/',. .., (Westoxication), p. 162.
134 Jalal Al-e Ahmad, Three Year Accomplishment (Karnam-Eh S-Eh Saleh) 3ed. (Tehran Ravaq, 1357/1978), p.
169.
135 Bostock and Jones, Planning and Power in Iran: Ebtehaj and Economic Development under the Shah, p. 115.









Return to Self

During this era, the interpretation of the concept of Irani-Khareji (Iranian-foreigners)

began to shift from perceiving external or physical enemies to internal and metaphysical enemy-

foreigners. In the discourse, Kharejian (foreigners) were no longer merely linked to the physical

presence or domination of Americans, British, or Russians. They were instead represented as

Western-like others within.

Iran was represented as a sick body afflicted with a Western disease that was debilitating

the Iranian mind and body. This pathological analogy was similar to how modernists had

described Iran since the 1906 constitutional revolution a dying patient whose survival depended

upon adopting Westernization, which was equated to modernization in modernist discourses. In

contrast, by 1960, modern Islamists represented Iran as a dying patient whose survival depended

on rejecting Westernization but not modernization, which they equated with a return to Islamic-

Self. 136

For modern Islamists, the linkage between Westernization and modernization broke apart.

They began to devalue both capitalism and socialism as Western-style modernism, which had

enslaved Iran. Eventually, public intellectuals, such as Al-e Ahmad and Ali Shariati, began to

challenge the regime without directly confronting it. In much more confrontational ways,

however, modern Islamists directly challenged socialists and nationalists by devaluing them as

soulless, cultureless, and they alienated Iranians in their monkey-see-monkey-do attitude toward

the West. Meanwhile, they also blamed the established Shi'i clergy and their conservatism,





136 "If a patient will surely die unless he has a serious operation, and he might not survive the operation, is there any
sensible person who would say: don't operate? That is Iran's positions," said Ebtehaj. See Ahmad, (il .. i,.,
(Westoxication), Ahmad, On the Intellectuals (Dar Khedmat and Khianat Roshanfekran).









quietism, ritualism, and fanaticism as Iranian backwardness in relation to Western powers. 137 In

other words, modem Islamists began to challenge values previously represented and constructed

as Western modernism or Eastern traditionalism. Instead, they advocated a return to an Iranian-

Islamic Self. This conceptualization of Self was, however, much different from the Self projected

by nationalists, socialists, and the monarchic modernists.

For example, Al-e Ahmad argued that the West had not only taken Iran's wealth, but also

its pride, spirit, and traditional Islamic-local wisdom. The argument was that Iran had been

afflicted with the debilitating plague of modernism of which the monarchic regime was just one

of its symptoms. He named this disease garbzadegi, a compound term consisting of garb (West)

and zadgi (beaten, struck, afflicted, infatuated, or possessed). 38 This term invoked the idea that

Iran was afflicted with a disease like that of the black plague (taun-zadegi), struck by a natural

disaster like an earthquake (zelzeleh-zadegi), possessed by mythological devil-like creatures (jen-

zadegi), or mindlessly infatuated with the West (garb-zadegi).139 In other words, discursively,

the West was being linked to negative narratives, such as such plagues, natural disasters, evil

spirits, and mindlessness. When Jalal Al-e Ahmad coined the term garb-zadegi, which has been

translated into the English language as "Westoxication" or "West-struck," his audience could

immediately understand what he meant.140




137 Rahnema, An Islamic Utopian: A Political Biography ofAli Shari'ati. Boroujerdi, Iranian Intellectuals and the
West: The Tormented Triumph ofNativism, pp. 63-65.
138 Al-e Ahmad claimed that he first heard the term garb-zadegi from Ahmad Farid, who taught Western philosophy
at the University of Iran and was one of the original mentors for devaluing Western modernity. For more
information on Farid, see Darius Ashuri, Us and Modernity (Ma Va Moderniat), 3 ed. (Tehran: Mua'seseh Farhang-
ya Saraat 1384/1995).
139 In myths, Jens are human-like creatures who live in a parallel universe with the people and at times take over
their minds and bodies.
140 Words such as Farangi nema (Western look-alike), fokokli or a person who wore a bowtie, gigolo or its Farsi
version geegul, referred to a person wanting to look or act Western. In some Iranian movies, for example, Abrahim










Garbzadegi was the act of naming an existential and familiar concept embedded in the

sub-discourse of Irani-khareji, although the Khareji in this interpretation was no longer merely

external or physical; instead, it was internal and metaphysical. In this emerging interpretation,

the familiar concept of Iran-Khareji was being re-represented as Khareji taking over the mind of

an Iranian.

As a reminder, the West had been dichotomized-the West as a "foreign colonizer" and

the West as a "humanist ideal." The West-home to foreigners, colonizers, and their Iranian

agents-was linked to Britain, Russia, and, after the 1953 coup, America. The other West was a

conceptual ideal in which science, philosophy, and technology, democracy, civilization, and

industrialization flourished. This ideal West was supposed to be emulated. For modem Islamists,

this boundary between the West as "foreign colonizer" and the West as an ideal disappeared-

the West became a dark physical and metaphysical place. 141 Its physical presence was linked to

Britain, the Soviet Union, and America, and its metaphysical entity was linked to those Iranians

who admired its idealness. In this way, the familiar language of labeling opponents as "agents,"

"stooges," "spies," "hired hands," or "puppets" of foreign powers was extended to mean those

who simply valued Western modernity as progressive human achievement rather than means of

domination, alienation, and Self-hate. From this perspective, the new genre of "committed

literature" was created. 142 This literature, depicted the West (Garb), which literally means where

the sun sets, as a place where foreigners have always tried to invade the East (.\/Ii q). The East

Goes to New York, derided this stereotype. One of the oldest narrative of this stereotype is, however, Muhammad
Ali Jamal-zadeh's satirical short story, Farsi Is Sweet, which was written in the 1920s.
141 For the debate between Darius Ashuri, who advocated modernism but an opponent of the regime and modem
Islamists, such as Al-e Ahmad and others who posited the West in an oppositional relation with the East, see the
collection of Ashuri's essays, Ahmad, (l,, i. :,. ,, (Westoxication), pp. 149-150.
142 This genre included secular and Islamic literature. For example, people such as Ahmad Shamlu, Hushang
Gulsheri, and Khosru Golsurkhi became famous for writing in this genre. For further information, see Majid
Sharifi's non-published paper, The Discourse ofKharejian in the Committed Modern Iranian Literature.









literally means where the sun rises and life begins. In other words, the West-East dichotomy was

translated into a Manichean world of good and evil, and this was also a familiar concept in both

Islamic, Shi'i, and Persian myths. Thus, when this worldview was coined by Ale-Ahmad, it

appeared as if this foreignness within has been there since eternity. However, this worldview was

in sharp contrast to previous literary works. For example, during the rule of Reza Shah, the

dominant theme in unofficial literature portrayed the West as good and the East as evil,

backward, and primitive. 143

Al-e Ahmad wrote, "A West-struck person always obsessively and mindlessly pays

attention to Western voices and gestures."144 Ayatollah Khomeini repeated the same sentiments:

A West-struck person even knows himself from the perspective of Orientalists, who are
true expertise for promoting Colonialism, although in their deceptive and treacherous
ways, and by pretending their love and devotion for the knowledge of Islam and the East,
they have constructed a thick veil of ignorance in front of you, the young generation.
Behind this thick veil, they have hidden the "true" dimensions of Islam. Now, however,
all you who have been enlightened with the light of Islam must wake up those who have
been afflicted with this West-struckness.145

Similarly, Ali Shariati represented Iran in an oppositional relation with the West in the same

way:

When I say, "we," I mean "we the Easterners," "we the Muslims," "we the Iranians".
who have experienced terrifying events and witnessed how the treacherous conspiracies
perpetuated by our own Iranian "Left" and "Right" in cooperation with the brutal and
violent forces of foreign powers that together have tried to uproot all traces of our national
identity. As a terrified bird in captivity, we are captured by so many "isms," such as
anarchism, Marxism ... and modernism. The essence of these isms negate our heritage,
cause us to be the mindless emulators of the West, and encourage us to passively submit to




143 In Chapter 3, "Modernism in the Literature," I discuss how modernism was valued and traditionalism was
devalued.
144 Ayatollah Khomeini, Sahif-Eh Imam (Collection ofImam Khomeini) vol. 2 (Tehran: 1349/1970), p. 282.

145 Ali Shariati, Johan Beeni and Ideology (Ontology and Ideology), 5 ed. (Tehran: Enteshar, 1379/2000), pp. 147-
165.









imperialism whose smallest sin is the exploitation of the people and its greatest sin is the
destruction of our religion. 146

In other words, a shift occurred in the sub-discourse of Irani-khareji. The emphasis was

predominantly on returning to a purified Iranian-Islamic Self in an oppositional relation with the

West.

Ayatollah Khomeini

In response to Mohamad Reza Shah's referendum on 26 January 1963, seminary students

in Qum began to protest the shah's "revolution." In an attempt to prevent the movement from

spreading, the regime continued its terrorizing tactics. In a brutal attack, the military killed some

protesting seminary students. On the 40-day memorial of those killed, which turned out to be a

practice run for the 1978-1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini called for the overthrow of the

regime and establishing an Islamic state.

Referring to Third Shi'i Imam, Hussein Ibn Ali, whom Shi'ites believes stood up to the

usurpers of political power, Khomeini announced: "It is now the afternoon of Aushura and this

tyrannical regime [that] has no other purpose but to fundamentally oppose Islam and the

existence of the religious class."147 Then he equated the regime with the state of Israel, which

discursively is posited as opposed to Islam. He said, "As Israel stands against Islam and ulama,"

so does the Shah. 148 Speaking as if both Iran and Israel were ruled by one regime, he argued that

"Israel has assaulted you and your nation; it wishes to seize your economy, to destroy your trade

and agriculture, to appropriate your wealth by its agents."149 Israel will be disappointed,



146 Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: J'- ,i, i and Declarations oflmam Khomeini, p. 177.

147 Ibid.
148 Ibid., p. 177.

149 Ibid., p. 178.









however, because ulama, students, and our Qur'anic knowledge are blocking its path and will

eventually eliminate it. 150 After glorifying members of the clergy as the "real" representatives of

the people and Islam and the "true" contenders against Israel, Mohamad Reza Shah, and the

United States, he advised the Shah not to follow his father's example.

Mr. Shah, I advise you to desist in this policy and acts like this. [Referring to the 1941
Allied invasion and the forced abdication of Reza Shah] I don't want the people to offer up
thanks if your masters should decide one day that you must leave. I don't want you to
become like your father .. remember how three foreign countries attacked us during
World War II. ... But God knows that everyone was happy to see the Pahlavi had gone. ..
You must reflect ... and learn from the lessons of your father. .... Those who are
dictating to you .. will not rescue you when some uproar occurs. They are friends of
dollars; they have no religion and no loyalty.151

Unlike Bazargan, Shariati, Al-e Ahmad, and other modern Islamists, Khomeini spoke in a

straightforward language without trying to wrap his argument with so-called "scientific" or

"objective" philosophies or theories. Instead, he passionately spoke in long, simple, and direct

verses by appealing to Islamic and Shi'i's authorities and myths. Nevertheless, Khomeini's

representation of the regime resembled those of modern Islamists at its core. It depicted the

regime as the manifestation of foreign, Western, and un-Islamic powers. He told his audience:

"We must collectively confront the West. We must get rid of our Westoxification (garbzadegi).

Even other Eastern governments must stand up to the West. Buddhist nations must also stand up

to the West. We must force the West to retreat."152

In October 1964, Mohamad Reza Shah agreed to extend diplomatic immunity to all

Americans working in Iran. Contending discourses represented the act as a new version of

"Capitulation Rights," which Russia and Britain had imposed upon Iran during the Qajar


150 Ibid., pp. 177-180.

151 Sahif-Eh Imam (Collection ofImam Khomeini) Sep. 1964. v. 1961, p. 1384.
152 Islam and Revolution: ; ''a,,i, and Declarations ofImam Khomeini, p. 189.









dynasty. Reza Shah, with much of fanfare, had abolished this act. At the time, the impression

was that the Shah had agreed to exchange Iranian juridical power for a $200 million loan.

Khomeini delivered a devastating speech, which resulted in his deportation, but it secured his

leadership position as the most vocal and fearless opponent of the regime. 153 Gradually, the key

points of this speech became the central theme among all contending discourses. For the

occasion, he announced:

I cannot express the sorrow I feel in my heart. .... Iran no longer has any festival to
celebrate. They [the regime] have turned our festivals to mourning .... They have sold
us. ... They have sold our independence .... The dignity of Iran has been trampled
underfoot .... All American military advisors, together with their families ... and anyone
in any way connected to them, are to enjoy legal immunity to any crime they may commit
in Iran ... if some American's servant assassinates your marja [source of guidance]. ..
the Iranian police does not have the right to apprehend him. 154

Khomeini said that this indignity is because the nation is represented by a foreign-installed

regime that is not sovereign, cannot provide security, has not helped Iran develop, has violated

the constitution, is unjust, and most importantly, has corrupted Iranian Islamic norms. In other

words, Khomeini utilized all the previously constructed signifiers to devalue the regime, and

provote an Islamic theory of nation-state building that would be independent of all foreign

powers. He proclaimed that as far as Iran is concerned, "America is worse than Britain; Britain is

worse than America, [and] the Soviet Union is worse than both of them. They are all worse and

more unclean than each other! But today, it is America that we are concerned with."155

In sum, not only Khomeini but also all modem Islamists in the 1960s incorporated values,

concepts, and rationalities previously constructed in Iranian contending discourses in a new

153 This was the beginning of a particular construction that equated credibility, justness, and even correctness of a
political position or leader by the extent to which a person suffered at the hands of Mohamad Reza Shah while
continuing to resist. Hence, the logic of argument was not what one said, but how fearlessly he said it.
154 Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: J-0 ,'i,, ', and Declarations oflmam Khomeini, p. 185.

155 Afshin Matin-Asgari, Iranian Student Opposition to the Shah (Costa Mesa, Calif.: Mazda Publishers, 2002).









discourse signified by Islam. Although these interpretations remained in the discourse until 1979,

after the 1979 revolution, they turned into actual policies and practices of the Islamic Republic of

Iran.

For example, with regard to development, modern Islamists rejected both capitalism and

socialism and valued a particular developmental model under the rubric of an Islamic

development plan. In regard to nationalism, while Islamists incorporated values and concepts

constructed in the discourse of democratic nationalism, they defined the Iranian nation Islamic

nation with citizenship rights and duties of religious rights and obligations. With regard to

foreign policy, the ideal for foreign relations was a re-representation of Mussadiq's policy of

"Negative Equilibrium." It meant Islamists viewed the West in general and the Soviet Union,

Britain, and America in particular as foreign others. But unlike Mussadiq who admired the

humanist aspect of the West, modern Islamists believed that the humanist dimension of the West

was a front for its colonizing policies. Therefore, unlike Mussadiq, their approach to the West

sought a dual policy of isolation and confrontation. Externally, it wished to isolate itself from

Western powers. Internally, it aimed to confront the West culturally. These ideals became the

framework of Iran's foreign and domestic politics after the Islamic revolution, although even this

framework turned out to be a shifting one.

In brief, in the discourse of modern Islamists, traces of the past mixed in with new

hierarchic formations of signifiers constituted the logic behind a series of related narratives

posited in oppositional relations with those of the official state discourse. For modern Islamists,

concepts, such as Islamic ideology, Islamic state, Islamic nation, religious-political duties and

obligations, return to Self, and the West, were discursively represented in oppositional relation to

narratives attached to the official state discourse and its constituting sub-discourses.









Part III: Consolidation of Power (1964-1978)

During this era, Iran's oil revenues increased, the United States acquiesced in a shah-

centered foreign policy, and Mohamad Reza Shah enhanced his personal power over the state

and society. The result of this consolidation was the rapid transformation of the state according

to a particular vision of security, modernization, law, people, justice, and ethics embedded in the

official state discourse.

Security

In terms of security, while contending discourses represented the shah as the "servant of

America (nukar-e America)," the state represented itself as an equal partner in the struggle

against the spread of international communism.156 Based on this logic, for example, the shah sent

Iranian troops to fight against pro-Nasser forces in Yemen, armed Iraqi Kurds against the Soviet-

leaning regime in Baghdad, and became the only state in the Middle East with close ties to Israel.

The shah gladly played the role of being the regional gendarme in accord with the Nixon

Doctrine of regionalization of security. Simultaneously, the United States acquiesced to the shah-

centered state, for the most part discontinued pushing for political reform, and focused on

persuading the shah to purchase more American products. 157

Development

In terms of development, U.S. media represented Mohamad Reza Shah as the agent of

"progress" and modernization in the Middle East. 158 From the perspective of the United States,


156 The word nukar literally means a house servant, which also means being loyal to one's master. During this era,
because of the state repressive measures, the opposition's rhetorical campaign against the Shah was mostly waged
from outside of the country. For example, see Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran and America,
p. 95.
157 Ansari, Modern Iran since 1921: The Pahlavis andAfter, pp. 166-167.

158 Barry M. Rubin, Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1980), p. 122.









Iran's average annual growth of 10% from 1963 to 1973 represented successful developmental

projects forged by the Shah. This rate of growth became the metric for measuring Iranians'

satisfaction with the shah-centered state.159 Even Iranian experts such as James Bill argued that

the rapid growth of the Iranian economy might overcome the societal resentment.160 In policies

and practices, Iran shifted from being a receiver during the Kennedy administration to the status

of donor-state during the Johnson and Nixon presidencies. This shift reflected the consolidation

of the Shah's position not only as an indispensable Western ally in security, but also as a

stabilizing force for production and marketing of oil to the West and Israel. Moreover, the rise in

oil prices helped make Iran an open market all sorts of military, commercial, and consumer

products. The United States, along with Britain, France, and even the Soviet Union, found it

difficult to resist the increasing oil revenues. For instance, The New York Times reported: "The

Defense Department hopes to ease its troublesome cost problems with a new Navy fighter plane,

the F-14 Tomcat, by selling some of them to Iran and perhaps to allies in Europe such as West

Germany."161 Some Pentagon official considered the shah's insistence on acquiring so much

sophisticated military equipment as a psychological obsession rather than an actual security

threat from either Iran's Arab neighbors or the Soviet Union.162

As a result of the Shah's consolidation of power, a shift arose in the perception of Iran. In

1966, the Johnson administration went as far as declaring Iran a "developed nation" that no

longer needed American aid. 163 This representation became a dominant theme in the U.S. media.


159 Bill, The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy ofAmerican-Iranian Relations, pp. 19-40.

160 John W. Finney, "Pentagon Hoping Iran Will Buy F-14sr: Able to Intrude," New York Times, Thursday, July 19,
1973.
161 Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran and America, p. 96.

162 Ibid., p. 95.

163 Zonis, The Political Elite oflran, pp. 18-79.









For example, the title of a report in The New York Times read: "Economic Reforms Are

Transforming Iran: Officials Turn to Industry." The piece argued, "Perhaps nowhere else in the

Middle East have such broad, basic steps been taken in quest of economic progress as in Iran."

This shift in the perception of Iran also translated into policy changes. Iran was re-classified as a

politically stable, developed, and progressive state. A year before the 1979 revolution, President

Carter announced that Iran was "an island of stability" in a troubled region." Constitutive of this

classification was muting or ignoring the widening gap between the official state representation

and those of the contending discourses. 164

The state-elites also believed that Iran was an island of stability and development. For

example, Jahangir Amouzegar, Iran's influential finance minister during the 1970s, published a

book tiled titled Iran: An Economic Profile. As the regime was deeply alienated from its own

society and on the verge of a revolution, Amouzegar boasted about the unprecedented rapid

growth and political stability in Iran, which he mainly attributed to the sound and determined

policies of Mohamad Reza Shah:

Iran's remarkable economic growth, political stability and social progress in recent years
are considered one of the world's outstanding success stories. The record is particularly
striking because of its short time span. ... In fact, in the 1960-1976 period, Iran [has]
experienced what is likely to be recorded by future historians as one of the most rapid and
most fundamental socio-economic transformations in modern times. A fortuitous
combination of farsighted leadership, internal political stability, improved developmental
planning, increasingly educated people, newly discovered and better utilized natural
resources-and the indispensable rise in oil revenues.165

In his book, Amouzegar argued, "The national policies formulated within the framework of

the 17-point 'Revolution of the Shah and the People' have produced equally interesting




164 For example, see Amuzegar, Iran: An Economic Profile, ix-xiii.
165 Ibid.









results."166 Next, he contended that in this "new cultural and industrial transformation," the shah

has been the source of guidance for developing an "economic democracy," redistributing "the

national income," providing "free education," subsidizing "nutrition," and enfranchising

women.167 Finally, he chronicled "policies and programs for Iran's recent achievements" in

economic development. 168 Iran's economic growth, represented as structural and positive

changes, was improving the standard of living and creating political stability. Although structural

changes were observed in Iran, they turned out not to be interpreted as positive or good by

others.

As for structural changes, the academic knowledge-produced by many of the experts on

Iran-showed the much rapid structural changes in Iran. For example, Afsaneh Najmabadi, who

documented the consequences of the state land reform, argued that by the mid-1960s, the result

of the shah's land reform caused irreversible institutional changes in the commercialization and

monetarization of rural production, distribution, and consumption. She demonstrated how

peasants became paid workers-whether they migrated to cities or remained in rural areas.169

She contended that capitalist relations of production penetrated deep into Iran's remaining

enclaves of traditional society. Moreover, Richard Elliot Benedict, who researched the capital

markets in Iran, documented the transformation of traditional system of Bazaar-based credit and

finance to state-controlled and regulated industrial crediting and financing. 170 In other words, the

state became the major source of credit and financing, as well as the largest landowner, industrial

166 Ibid.

167 Ibid.

168 Najmabadi, LandReform and Social ( I,,o..- in Iran, pp. 101-102, p. 136, pp. 130-136.

169 Richard Elliot Benedick, Industrial Finance in Iran; a Study of Financial Practice in an Underdeveloped
Economy (Boston,: Division of Research Graduate School of Business Administration Harvard University, 1964).
170 Bill, The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy ofAmerican-Iranian Relations, p. 3.









and agriculture producer, and consumer. In addition to becoming the largest employer in the

country, the state became the largest source of promoting education, the gatekeeper for receiving

education, and decider in the content of knowledge for the educational system. By the 1970s, the

state financed 70,000 students in state-owned universities in addition to financing even a larger

number of students in various Western educational systems. In fact, among the Near Eastern

countries, Iran sent a higher percentage of its student population abroad than any other country in

the region.171 Additionally, while the state maintained its traditional economic monopolies, such

as imports, exports, transportation, roads, airlines, cements, steel, tobacco, the state also began to

tightly regulate and control licensing of small and large businesses.

In short, notwithstanding their differences, the media and epistemic community in the

United States, as well as Iranian state-elites, agreed that the shah-centered policies were

drastically transforming the lifestyle of Iranians, but according to a particular vision that

perceived the shah as the cause of not only regional security but also "domestic stability." 172

Constitutive of knowledge was, however, a total disconnect between the state version of realities

and those interpreted and understood from the prism of contending discourses. These discourses

represented Mohamad Reza Shah as the "Servant of America." For socialists, the shah was

serving the interests of capitalist America. For nationalists, the shah was serving the interest of

foreign powers, which by then happened to be America rather than Britain. For Islamists, the

shah was serving the interest of non-Muslim America out to destroy Islam.

During this time, Ayatollah Khomeini, who had been released from prison for calling the

Shah's White Revolution un-Islamic and branding him as the cheap servant of America, once


171 Minister of Science and Higher Education, "Statistics Concerning Iranian Students in Iran," (Tehran 1970), pp.
74-75.
172 Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: J0 '' '., and Declarations oflmam Khomeini, pp. 181-188.









more attacked the shah for selling Iran's independence "to our masters," the Americans.

Khomeini blamed the shah for "destroying Iranian dignity," for reducing "the Iranian people to a

level lower than that of an American dog."173 For this speech, the shah deported Khomeini. In

less than three months, in January 1965, an Islamic militant killed the prime minister, Ali

Mansur. In the same year, a faction of the banned National Front formed the Mujtahedin-e

Khalq-e Iran (MKI), an Islamic militant group, whose aim was to overthrow the shah-that

"American servant."174 In April 1965, a socialist militant attempted to assassinate the shah

because "the shah was serving the interest of American capitalism."175 In the same year, the

Fadaian-e Khalq, another group of Marxist militants, was formed. Its goal was to overthrow the

Shah-that "American Servant and the Hired Hand of Capitalists." Interestingly, the words

Mujtahedin and Fadaian (fighters and devotees) are both rooted in the Islamic concept ofjihad

in a struggle of Self against the Others-the non-believers, the foreign capitalists, and foreign

dominators.

Although the meaning of serving the interest of America fundamentally differed from one

group to the next, a unity existed in both words and deeds. The shah was represented as the

"Servant of America," a represent that continued until the fall of the regime. In deeds, because of

the state's effective suppression of all voices of opposition, nationalists, socialists, and Islamists

became united in their stand against the regime. They all began to call for the violent overthrow

of the regime. This was a fundamental shift. In the early 1960s, only modern Islamists were

calling for the overthrow of the regime, the changing of the constitutional monarchy, and the


173 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, pp. 489-491.
174 Bill, The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy ofAmerican-Iranian Relations, pp. 161-163.

175 Ansari, C..'ii m; Iran: The Failure ofAmerican Foreign Policy and the Next Great Crisis in the Middle East,
p. 59.









return to Self. By 1965, all contending discourses were united in both words and deeds. This

transformation was the beginning of the construction of a hegemony, which eventually caused

the implosion of the regime.

However, the Shah's construction of reality had already created a political space in which

he failed to imagine, comprehend, or even give credence to the legitimacy of those who resisted

his rule. Instead, he aggrandized his own power as absolute, invincible, and divine. He continued

to physically repress his opponents brutally as if the physical repression or destruction of

opponents would also destroy their social reality. He was unaware that the very act of repression

helped create an image that symbolized various degrees of foreignness for contending

discourses. In other words, the social reality for the state and contending discourses were

different. While the state saw itself as a developed nation-state, contending discourses interpreted

Iran as a state owned by foreigners. With time, this gap was widening despite Iran's tremendous

economic growth according to the official state metrics.

In 1971, for example, the Shah celebrated the 2,500 years of Iranian monarchy. Rather

arbitrarily, he changed the Islamic-based calendar and selected Cyrus as the founder of Iranian

monarchy and set up a new monarchic-based calendar. As expected, this act offended Islamists,

who represented this action as another sign of the regime's foreignness. Others argued that if the

Iranian monarchy had begun prior to Cyrus, then why should Cyrus be the founder of Iranian

monarchy? For the state-elites and the Shah, the logic of selecting Cyrus was obvious.

Intertextually, Cyrus was construed as a great Persian conqueror, based on Greek historians such

as Herodotus and not any known Iranian record or research. Ali Ansari put this reconstruction of









history aptly: "In starting the national clock from the Ancient Persia (Ackaemenid) Empire,

Mohammad Reza Shah was paradoxically paying lip service to a Western historiography."176

In addition to starting a new calendar, the Shah invited an impressive number of world

leaders, including Vice President Spiro Agnew. According to Ansari, the occasion drew

tremendous attention to the Shah and his economic, military, and political achievements in the

foreign press along with "the prying eyes of human rights groups and other non-governmental

organization.""177 In Iran, the representation of this celebration was the same. While the official

media declared that Iran had reached the "Gate of a Great Civilization," contending discourses

represented the event as the travesty of justice.

In the opening of his speech in front of a large gathering of world dignitaries, the Shah

addressed Cyrus directly from a location not too far from Cyrus's tomb. He declared, "Cyrus,

rest in peace because we [present Iranians] are awake." The shah's statement assumed a

continuing historical consciousness between Cyrus and Mohamad Reza Shah in particular, and

the shah of Iran and the people of Iran in general. But in contending discourses, the speech

produced a variety of popular parodies and political texts that undermined the Shah's legitimacy.

Additionally, reports of the Shah spending millions of dollars for flying food from Maxim's of

Paris while many Iranians were starving entered the common language.178 From 1971 to 1976,

the Shah's alienation from his own society increased.

On February 20, 1975, shifting from the representation logic of a two-party system,

Mohamad Reza Shah banned the two officially sanctioned political parties-the People's Party


176 Ibid.
177 Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, pp. 168-175.

178 Asgar Saremi Shohab, The Rastakhiz Party of ranian Nation According to the Documents 2vols., vol. 1 (Tehran:
The Center for Isalmic Revolution Documents, 2006/1386).









and Party of New Iran-and ordered the formation of a single party called Hizb-i Rastakhiz-e

Melat-e Iran (Resurrection Party of the Iranian Nation).179 Previously, the Shah had boasted that

Iran's two-party system was similar to those of advanced democracies where one party ruled and

the other one played the role of a loyal opposition. 180 He had once argued:

So I consider that my role as King requires that I encourage parties. If I were a dictator
rather than a constitutional monarch, then I might be tempted to sponsor a single dominant
party such as Hitler organized or such as you find today in Communist countries. But as
constitutional monarch I can afford to encourage large-scale party activity free from the
straitjacket of one-party rule or the one-party state.181

However, in 1975, he began arguing that the time for performative puppet shows are over,

and only those loyal to him are considered "true" Iranians:

A person who does not become a member of this new political organization has two
choices. Such a person belongs to either an illegal organization or the illegal Tudeh Party,
both of which in other words mean such a person is traitor whose place is in one of Iran's
prisons. However, such a person can leave the country and go anywhere he may want
without even paying exit-taxes. Because such a person is not an Iranian and thus not a part
of this nation, therefore his-her activities are illegal and punishable by law. 182

In this text and similar texts, the Shah was beginning to demand not only loyalty, but

faithful commitment to the regime. For example, the preamble of the Resurrection Party charter

read:

As our leader [Mohamad Reza Shah] has guided us, all Iranian adults who have faith in,
and commitment to, the monarchic order, the constitution, and the people-shah's
revolution can participate in this Party, but all those with anti-Iranian thought or sympathy
or those who threaten the security and order of Iran cannot be a member of this Party or the
nation.183



179 Mohammed Reza, Mission for My Country, p. 172.

180 For an argument in favor of a two party system, see Ibid., p. 173.

181 Shohab, The Rastakhiz Party of ranian Nation According to the Documents p. 35.
182 Mohammad Reza Shah's radio speech on February 23, 1975, quoted in Ibid., v. 1, p. 187, document No. 110.

183 Ibid., document No. 88, v.81, p. 85.









Simply stated, the Shah constructed a particular political space that defined the parameters of

what were considered security or insecurity, lawful or unlawful activities, Islamic or non-

Islamic, and divine or secular. However, the very nature of these classifications constituted the

way they were interpreted and practiced. In my comparative analysis of these values for the state,

there were two categories: the official category that the state enforced, and the non-official

category that the state repressed.

For example, in its repressive campaign to justify the official state party, the state

frightened the people to join the Rastakhiz Party. According to the party record, by 1978, the

party announced that it had 78,249 local chapters and more than 5 million members. 184 To

distinguish members from non-members, various versions of coat pins were given to state

employees, sycophants, and opportunists. Wearing pins became the performative act of loyalty

and a sign of submission to the regime.

Meanwhile, the act of joining was a delegitimizing act in the same way the wearing of

European hats or clothing had once become a performative symbol of loyalty to the shah-

centered state during Reza Shah. Ayatollah Khomeini announced that this Party, much like

previously state organized and funded parties, was an illegitimate, illegal, criminal, and an

imperialistic design. Participation in it was therefore against Islamic values. 185

Within the context of contending discourses, the Shah's consolidation of power

delegitimized him even more. The official state texts represented performative acts of showing

loyalty to the regime as a symbol of loyalty to the divine authority of the Shah. But the




184 Ibid., p. 132.
185 Ayatollah Khomeini's speeches, vol. 2, 149-150, also quoted in Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: ;;, ,,ia and
Declarations ofImam Khomeini, p. 212.









contending discourses re-represented his claim to the absolute divinity as arrogance, despotism,

and arbitrary rule of a monarch out of touch with the realities of his own society.

Of course, for nationalists and socialists, the very idea of divine sovereignty was a pre-

modern concept associated with despotism. Hence, they easily rejected it. But for modern

Islamists who valued the concept of divine sovereignty, re-representing the Shah's claim to

divine sovereignty was more sophisticated. Islamists first devalued secularism as an imperialistic

design and then argued that the Shah was the agent of U.S. imperialism who falsely claimed

divinity for himself. In other words, while the very concept of divinity was valued, the Shah's

claim was re-represented as illegitimate and false.

In a speech delivered in the city of Najaf in January 1978, Khomeini argued that the people

have identified "the Shah as the criminal" agent responsible for all "the miseries of Iranian

people."186 He then claimed that the Prophet Mohammad had predicted that Qum would become

the center of dissemination of the divine knowledge for an Islamic movement. This divine

knowledge supposedly would mobilize "the faithful soldiers of Islam" and would end "all the

suffering that we have suffered." Khomeini blamed the leaders of those countries who have

signed the Declaration of Human Rights, but at all times have denied man his freedom."187

Accordingly, "The U.S. is one of those countries ... [which] has committed crime against man."

He listed these criminal acts and argued that one of these criminal acts had been "imposing this

Shah upon us ... [who] has transformed Iran into an official colony of the U.S. What crimes he

has committed in service of his masters!"188 Having represented the shah as a U.S. servant, and

the United States as a criminal international entity, Khomeini began to devalue the very concept

186 Ibid., p. 213.

187 Ibid., p. 215.
188 Ibid., p. 219.









of secularism in relation of the "true" human "freedom." He represented this true human freedom

as both political and religious in opposition to U.S. imperialism. Referring to America, Britain,

and the Soviet Union, he declared:

The imperialists know full well how active religious scholars, and what an active militant
religion Islam is. ... So for several centuries they propagated that religion must be
separated from politics. Some of our akhunds [Shi'i clerics] came to believe it and began
asking, 'What business do we have with politics?' The posing of the question means
abandonment of Islam. 189

In short, Khomeini first linked secularism with imperialism, colonialism, criminality, and

the shah. Then he argued that Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad were divine political

leaders, not merely religious preachers:

Look at Moses (upon whom be peace). He was a simple shepherd: he stood alone with his
staff against the Pharaoh who was claiming divinity. These people, too-the Shah and his
gang-would like to claim divinity for themselves, but they realize there would be no
takers for their claim. But if we were to relax our vigilance, he too would say, "I am your
lord, the most high." There have always been people who made these absurd claims, and
there always will be. 190

In Khomeini's representation, the Shah was not only a criminal, but also an imposter claimant to

divine sovereignty, and the depiction of the Shah as an imposter claimant was opposite to the

representation of the state.

By 1976, while the state international power and prestige had reached its highest point, its

power to communicate with its own society hit bottom. The official state language was different

from what the state intended. In this era, while the Shah made the cover of the Time as the

"Emperor of Oil" whom the editor compared with the greatness and the power of "Cyrus the

Great," contending discourses understood Mohamad Reza Shah as the cause of dislocation,




189 Ibid., pp. 220-221.
190 Rubin, Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran, p. 142.









unemployment, inflation, regressive taxation, high prices, loss of morals, and shanty towns.191

Additionally, notwithstanding their differences, contending discourses represented Mohamad

Reza Shah as the loyal "Servant of America" and America as the main foreign enemy in Iran.

Part IV: The Collapse of the State and the Rise of Modern Islam

As the power and prestige of the state increased, so did its repressive intolerance for all

contending discourses. The intolerance of the regime created a condition of conceivability in

which all contending discourses imagined Mohamad Reza Shah as the reactionary "Servant of

America" or its equivalent of "hired-hand" (muzdour), "puppet," "stooge," "agent," and so forth.

Within this political space were two opposing interpretations of social realties: the official and

unofficial interpretations of the state policies and practices. So great was the divide between

these two social realities that no event appeared to be occurring in the same temporal or

geographic space. For example, in summer of 1978, a group of previously unknown militant

groups set a movie theater on fire. More than 400 people died in that act of arson. Without any

concrete evidence, the state immediately blamed Islamic groups for the arson, while all

contending identities did the opposite. For example, Ayatollah Khomeini declared:

I have not yet been informed of all the details, but what is certain is that this inhumane act,
contrary to all the laws of Islam, cannot have been committed by the opponents of the
Shah .... Proof indicates, and the bereaved people declare, that the cinema in Abadan was
set on fire by the criminal Shah and his government.192

Economic issues were also interpreted in the same way. For example, the oil shock of mid-

1974 caused a sudden reduction in Iran's oil revenue as the prices of imported goods drastically




191 For displacement see Robert E. Looney, Economic Origins of the Iranian Revolution, Pergamon Policy Studies
on International Development. (New York: Pergamon Press, 1982). Also see Abrahamian, Iran between Two
Revolutions, p. 497. For rent increases, see Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: ;,,,,I ~ and Declarations oflmam
Khomeini, pp. 231-235.
192 Amjad, Iran: From Royal Dictatorship to Theocracy, p. 92.









increased. These events caused a credit shortage, unemployment, and inflation.193 The common

theme among Islamists, nationalists, and socialists was that the Shah and the United States had

conspired and caused the adverse economic conditions in Iran. 194 Ayatollah Khomeini declared:

What happened to all that money? Is our country poor? Our country has an ocean of oil. It
has iron; it has precious metals. Iran is a rich country. But those so-called friends of
humanity [the Americans] have appointed their agents to rule this country in order to
prevent the poor from benefiting from its riches."195

In contrast, the Shah blamed the economic crises on the merchant class and imposed a

punishing price and income control on the middle class, which bore the brunt of the austerity

measures the state imposed. 196

Meanwhile, as the power of the state to communicate its message waned, the shah began

another round of "reforms." His measures were, however, too little and too late. From 1977,

whatever the state did or did not do was interpreted in a negative light. He charged Amir Abbas

Hoveyda with fraud and mismanagement. 197 Hovida had held the post of prime minister more

than 12 years and was one of the most loyal sycophants of Mohamad Reza Shah, an ideal "yes

man" whom the Shah tolerated. But the firing of Hovida and talk of reform were understood

according to an opposing social reality that re-represented the shah's effort to reform as another

scheme devised by his new American master, Jimmy Carter, who wanted to deceive Iranians



193 For example, while Iran was a creditor from 1973 to 1974, it sought an international loan in 1977. See Ibid., pp.
81-102.
194 See Khomeini, Islam andRevolution: ';; a,,i i and Declarations oflmam Khomeini, pp. 223-224.

195 Looney, Economic Origins of the Iranian Revolution, pp. 3-5.

196 Keddie and Richard, Modern Iran: Roots and Results ofRevolution, p. 217. Rubin, Paved with Good Intentions:
The American Experience and Iran, p. 131, p. 171, p. 270. Abbas Milani, The Persian Sphinx: Amir Abbas Hoveyda
and the Riddle of the Iranian Revolution, 1st ed. (Washington, D.C.: Mage Publishers, 2000).

197 Hoveyda was kept under arrest without a hearing until he was executed immediately after the revolution, see
Habib Ladjevardi, Memoir ofFatemeh Pakravan, Iranian Oral History Project (Center for Middle Eastern Studies of
Harvard University, 1998; reprint, IBEX, Inc.), p. 123.









with another campaign of human rights. By 1977, the rhetoric of human rights in Iran was linked

to a different narrative from those in the United States.

Meanwhile, inflicted with cancer, Mohamad Reza Shah was loosening his personal grip.

The Shah, who had previously boasted about his micro-management of affairs in Iran, began to

delegate more authority and less involvement. It appeared that the core of the shah-centered state

was disappearing. As the regime was collapsing, Fatemeh Pakravan, the wife of the chief

counselor to the shah-General Hassan Pakravan, complained, "You know, we don't have one

shah .... We have at least twelve of them. And the weakest is the one who wears the crown."198

Indeed, as the shah began to appear weak to his own supporters as well as his opponents, the

myth of the shah as an absolute and invincible ruler-backed by the United States as the most

powerful nation in history-began to collapse. The very narrow circle around the shah began to

diminish rapidly. The best sign of this reduced inner circle was how the state-elites began to send

their families out of the country. Mrs. Pakravan, whose husband had once headed the powerful

SAVAK and had actually arrested and deported Khomeini back in 1964, was urging her husband

to leave the country before it was too late. 199 The free fall of the Shah's regime had begun. This

free fall speeded up after the shah returned from a visit to the United States in November 1977.

During the Shah's visit, the confederation of Iranian Students Association organized a

protest in front of the White House. Duplicating what the state normally had done in Iran, that is,

organizing state-sponsored demonstrations while banning all other protests, the Iranian regime

bussed in the Iranian military cadets studying in the United States to cheer the shah's arrival. The

result was an inevitable clash between the pro-shah and anti-shah protesters in front of the White



198 Ibid.
199 Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: i ,i'',,i and Declarations oflmam Khomeini, p. 229.









House. To restore order, the police had to resort to tear gas, which blew over to where Mohamad

Reza Shah and President Carter, accompanied by their wives and dignitaries, stood before the

press corps. With tears running down their faces, the press corps was busy taking pictures.

Within a few hours, Mohamad Reza Shah's image, as he was wiping his tears off his face,

reached Iran. The once seemingly invincible shah of Iran, whose secret police had scared people

to submission, appeared to be a weak, feeble, and frail man broken by a few hundred students.

Suddenly, the aura of invincibility was totally gone.200 A few days later, the Association of

Iranian Writers held a 10-day public event, which attracted thousands of people. The mere

holding of a public event was a turning point in the collapse of the regime. From then on, it

appeared that the public no longer feared the regime even though the regime's terror tactics had

not yet changed. It seemed that the very nature of understanding fear of punishment had

disappeared. At the same time, Ayatollah Khomeini, backed by the Shi'i clerical establishment

and supported by nationalists, socialists, and individual activists, began to speak in a

deterministic voice. In the discourse, Mohamad Reza Shah was represented as though he was

already defeated.

For example, in his message to the people of Tabriz, a city in northern Iran, Khomeini

represented the Shah as a savage, a brute, and a criminal agent of America whose military,

police, and secret police were not only beatable, but also weak. He wrote: "Now, after the

criminal massacres and bloodshed that have taken place in Tabriz, a few SAVAK agents have

been sent into streets in different parts of the country."201 This representation of SAVAK is

different from former representations. Previously, SAVAK was represented as an omnipotent


200 Eye-witness to the event of November 1977.
201 Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: J0 a'',, and Declarations oflmam Khomeini, pp. 229-230.









entity with eyes and ears everywhere. Now, SAVAK was being represented as an organization

with few numbers and the Shah as weak and feeble. After criticizing the Shah for his brutality,

Khomeini declared:

In any event, he [Mohamad Reza Shah] must realize it is too late; the people of Iran have
chosen their path and they will not rest until they have overthrown these criminals and
avenged themselves and their fathers on this bloodthirsty family. The religious leader
will hoist the banner of Islam to exact vengeance on the Zuhhak.202

In this text, Khomeini spoke from a position of strength. He promised vengeance as he became

the natural leader of the people. Similarly, socialists and nationalists represented the Shah as a

weak, feeble, and childish monarch whose main aim was to serve the interest of the United States

and continue his illegitimate, unjust, and despotic monarchy.

Ayatollah Khomeini repeated this theme in various speeches. His speeches were widely

distributed throughout the country by cassette tapes. When Khomeini simply announced, "The

king must go [the shah bayad baravad]," he sounded as though it would have been unnatural if

Mohamad Reza Shah remained in power. By then, it had become "unrealistic" to imagine that

the Shah could remain in power or even keep his crown.

When the regime imposed a martial law, the move was represented as further weakness of

the Shah, and defying the regime became a game. When the military declared a night curfew,

Khomeini ordered the people to go onto their rooftops and recite Allah-oh Akbar. Although this

phrase means "God is Great," and it had been mostly used and understood as a call for prayer, it

suddenly became a sign of defiance that invoked calling for justice, equality, independence, and

freedom. It also invoked a sense of freedom from fear or a sense of eternal invincibility, which

had nothing to do with organized religion or faith. In my in-depth interviews with participants,
202 Mehdi Mohsenian-rad, Revolution, Press, and Values (Tehran: The Organization for Documents and Records of
Islamic Revolution 1375/1996), p. 197. By referring to the shah as the Zuhhak of the time, Khomeini invoked the
Persian myth of an ancient unjust ruler who fed human brains to his two serpents grown on his shoulder.
Accordingly, the people, led by Kaveh the blacksmith, revolted and avenged themselves.









they all expressed a feeling of empowerment to hear thousands of voices defying what had been

previously conceived as an invincible force with various means of terrorizing the people. This

new meaning of "God is Great" became a social call for action, which was signified by Islam-

but it was not necessarily Islamic.

Suddenly, the power to reproduce the state was reduced to almost nothing. By August

1978, the print media, which up to that point had reflected the official state discourse, went on

national strike. The state could not broadcast its messages any longer. Even the state-owned

National Radio and Television station went almost silent, and the military was forced to take

over its operation. But the broadcasting media effectively remained silent because Khomeini

ordered the people to turn off their radios and televisions for a time. Most people followed his

order. As though that was not enough to mute the state, workers in charge of the electrical grid

frequently triggered a blackout at exactly 8 p.m., which was the traditional time for the radio and

television news hour.203

In contrast to the state, the representational power of the people increased. In repeated

cycles of street demonstrations, the previously muted voices of the people reduced the ominous

power of tanks and troops into seemingly innocuous toys chasing young boys in the streets. In a

live or die game of hide and seek, tanks and troops, which had previously frightened the people,

became entertaining tools for the young people. The environment was jubilant and festive.204

And most slogans and writing on the walls praised Ayatollah Khomeini while they denounced

the shah.205



203 Ibid., p. 194.
204 In-depth interviews with participants.

205 Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: J0 ,''a'., and Declarations oflmam Khomeini, p. 266.









Upon his return to Iran on February 2, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini addressed the largest

crowd ever gathered in Tehran during any time in history. This gathering occurred when

Khomeini had no official command or control over any means of power except his words. And

with words, he authoritatively belittled the government. He declared: "I will slap this

government in the mouth with the support of the people and by virtue of the acceptance the

people have granted me."206 While he was invoking "the people"-in the same way Mussadiq

had done-he was presenting himself not as a "Man of the People," as Mussadiq had done, but

as a "Man of God" for the people. In other words, Khomeini was a man chosen by the people,

but he based his legitimacy not on the people's will or laws but on God's will and laws. On the

occasion of the formal declaration of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which was held April 1, 1979,

Khomeini announced:

This day of Farfardin 12 is the first day of God's government, and it is to be one of our
foremost religious and national festivals ... for it is the day on which the battlement of
tyrannical government crumbled, a satanic power deported forever and the government of
the oppressed, which is the government of God-was established in its place.207

In a referendum held April 2, 1979, the people were asked to vote on whether or not they wanted

to establish an Islamic Republic. The overwhelming majority of the people voted "yes" without

knowing any details of what an Islamic state meant or could do. But the overwhelming majority

believed that it would be good because the new state-elites were promising it, and the people

believed them.

On December 5, 1979, the headline of Kayhan, the largest newspaper in Iran, read: "The

Government Will Transfer the Ownership of 70 Thousand Homes in 195 Cities."208 Some elites


206 Khomeini's first speech in Iran, delivered at Behsht-e Zahra. See Ibid., p.259.
207 Mohsenian-rad, Revolution, Press, and Values, pp. 271-280.
208 Keyhan No. 10872 on 12/05/1979, p. 1









were encouraging the people to take it upon themselves to redistribute the wealth of the country,

and some actually rushed to do so, mostly in forms of taking over lands, vacant homes, and

rental homes. A week later, Kayhan quoted Ayatollah Khosrow-shahi: "Do not Purchase any

Houses, We Make Everyone Homeowner."209 In other words, the new state-elites were

promising values previously constructed by socialists-the distribution of wealth-as a part of

the Islamic state.210 In fact, wealth-as a social symbol of power and prestige-began to become

an anti-value. The new state-elites, for example, Mehdi Bazargan, the prime minister of the

provisional government, refused to use the state-owned limousines. Instead, he took the

extremely crowded city bus to go to his office. In his first official act as the chief editor of the

Islamic Republic Newspaper, Abul Hassan Bani Sadr, who eventually became the first president

of the Islamic Republic, redecorated his office by ordering chairs, desks, counters, and stools to

be thrown out. Journalists working in the first official state newspaper were forced to work on

the floor. Interestingly, this act was interpreted as a sign of being humble and thus Islamic. In the

first assembly of the state-elites in the constitutional assembly held in the Majlis, Ayatollah

Taleqani, who was considered the second highest ranking official at the time, refused to sit on a

chair, so he sat on the floor next to the podium. The new state-elites represented these practices

as Islamic humbleness linked to the oppressed, weak, and poor people (mustazafin), constructed

in oppositional relation with the wealth and arrogance of unbelievers (mustakberian). Not

surprising, the United States was referred to as the "world arrogant power" (estekbarjohani).




209 Kehyan No. 10878 on 12/12/1979

210 As the result, a new wave of migration rushed to major cities. In less than a year, Tehran's population reached 6
million. The problem of unplanned urban development was exacerbated.









Once again articles of clothing became a part of political identity. The state-elites refused

to wear ties as the symbol of modernism association with garbzadegi (West-struckness).

Although wearing Western-style suits and pants remained as the standard norm for men's dress

code, ironed pants, shined shoes, short sleeves, long collars, expensive materials, shaved faces,

shiny colors, or whatever else was deemed showy or fashionable became un-Islamic. The state

also ordered all female employees to wear hejab (the complete covering of one's hair and body).

Eventually, the order applied to all women in Iran, even to non-Iranian visitors such as foreign

journalists. In addition to the dress code, alcohol, drugs, music, dating, theater, and all practices

imagined as Western were banned as anti-Islamic values.211 In brief, with the collapse of the

Shah's regime, modem Islamists officialized the discourse of modern Islam. Modern Islam was

embedded in all the existential values, concepts, and narratives previously constructed in the

context of Iranian contending discourses, but in a new meaning.

Conclusion

During the tumultuous period of 1953 to 1979, by signifying security and development, the

official state discourse represented Mohamad Reza Shah as a divine sovereign who was expected

to provide security, develop the nation, uphold the law, and enforce the will of the people, as

well as spread justice and Islamic ethics. Constitutive of the official state discourse was the

significance of six sub-discourses that all modern Iranian political discourses share, although

each according to a different interpretation of an ideal nation-state and values. The shah-centered

state represented itself (a) as the divine sovereign who provided security for his people; (b) as the

leader who modernized Iran to supposedly become as civilized as the West; (c) as the ruler who

governed according to Western bureaucratic norms and rationality; (d) as the leader who


211 Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: J0 '' '., and Declarations oflmam Khomeini, pp. 200-208.









followed the people's mandate as Western democracies did; (e) as the ruler who emphasized

redistribution of wealth and land as socialist values; and (f) as the shah who appealed to Islamic

myths and narratives as a good Muslim would do.

The logic behind these representations was, however, the relational linkages and and

differences that existed in the language since the 1905 constitutional revolution. In other words,

these six signifiers-security, progress, law, democracy, socioeconomic justice, and Islamic

ethics-constituted the social content of all contending discourses, although each with a different

interpretation of Iranian and its main Others. In the official state discourse during this era, the

shah was construed as the embodiment of the Iranian sovereignty or security, progress, law,

people, justice, and good Islamic ethics. Constitutive of this Self was the construction of Other

whom the state represented as international communists, negative nationalists, and Islam

fanatics.

In this chapter, I reviewed four eras in which the state represented and re-represented itself

in shifting relations with its main Others. Accordingly, by signifying the threat of communism,

the state terrorized the opposition into submission. Although the state succeeded in the physical

elimination of the opposition, it failed to mute their voices of reform. Then the state adopted

Kennedy's reform as the revolution of the shah and the people. While this act robbed socialists

and nationalists of their agendas and consolidated Mohamad Reza Shah's power, it energized

modern Islamists to go into action. Next, the convergence of specific historical conditions

produced by rising oil revenues, Iran's structural transformation, and the acquiescence of the

United States, along with the shah-centered policies, helped consolidate Mohamad Reza Shah's

power. In the official state discourse, while the shah essentially became the manifestation of

power and glory, in the contending discourse, he became the embodiment of foreignness,









although the very meaning of "foreign" differed for contending discourses. For socialists, the

shah was a foreign agent of capitalists. For nationalists, the shah was the foreign agent of foreign

domination. For Islamists, the shah was the foreign agent of non-Islamic oppression and

domination. Finally, at the peak of Mohamad Reza Shah's apparent power, he began to lose his

representational power. In a hegemony constructed in opposition to the Shah, he was devalued.

In unison, the opposition to the Shah re-represented him as an illegitimate, despotic, unjust, un-

Islamic, and the servant of the United States. Even the Shah's most expensive institutional

instruments, the military, police, bureaucracy, and media, began to reflect values embedded and

constructed in the hegemonic representation of the Shah as a foreign agent. In sum, for the fifth

time since the constitutional revolution, a fundamental social revolution occurred, and this one

happened-as the rest did-when a temporary hegemony was constructed against the official

state discourse.









CHAPTER 7
CONCLUSION

I began this dissertation with a question. How did the Iranian state elites imagine, interpret,

and practice the politics of nation-state building in modem Iran? I also asked a series of

questions. Why did so many people-within and outside of Iran, in and out of government-

dismiss the possibility of an Islamic revolution or the establishment of an Islamic state? Could it

be that competing ways of imagining Iran had produced competing social realities with different

sets of presuppositions, preferences, interests, and mode of rationalities? If so, what were the

social content of these competing realities? Most significantly, if competing ways of imagining

Self produced competing social realities, how did they shape the politics of Iran?

These questions were at the heart of my dissertation, and answering them required a

surveying of Iran's political development from the perspective of its state elites. In this spirit, my

dissertation made a historical narrative of political development in modern Iran. It reached back

to texts written in the 19th century and compared with those written later. It argued that four

previously non-existent signifying words-"development," "law," "democracy," and "class-

equality"-entered the political language of the state elites. By the 1900s, these four words

together with the two traditional words of "security" and Islam existed in competing political

discourses. I have called these six words the basic political signifiers in the politics of Iran

because they have existed in not only the common political language of modern Iran, but also in

its contending political discourses, and each basic signifier has been signiassociated with a

different set of meanings, concepts, themes, and modes of rationalities. Depending upon the

hierarchic formation of these six signifiers into an official state discourse or discourses of those

opposing the state, different interpretation of social reality and idealization of Iran were

constructed. Each "imagined" Iran produced a particular social reality and the conditions of









possibility for producing a set of presuppositions, preferences, interests, and mode of

rationalities, and each set of social reality was incapable of fully interpreting the others.

I argued that the main body of the literature on Iran interprets modernity and tradition as

fixed categorical constructs. The literature interpret meanings, concepts, themes, and rationalities

associated with the six basic signifiers of Iran by first categorizing them into modem and

traditional and then interpreting them according to Western conceptualization of modernity and

tradition. This predominant ontological assumption, which assumes the particularity of Western

political development as a universal model for all spaces and time, drives the presupposition of

research designs that value either modernity or tradition. As such, theories are constructed to

measure either success or failures of modernity. The literature focuses on false consciousness,

ideology, mistakes, misperception, irrationality, and misunderstanding of history to explain the

political development of modern Iran. Embedded in fixed and ideological framework, the

literature was not able to describe, assess, or analyze Iran as it was imagined by millions of the

people. I argue that the same is true for describing, assessing, and analyzing today's Iran.

In contrast, starting with Charles Taylor's interpretative approach and inspired by some

elements of Foucault's articulation of discourses, I attempted to analyze Iran's political

development by interpreting how the state elites understood their own social realties in two

different ways.

First, I made a narration of political development in modem Iran. In this narration, I

showed competing idealization of the state elites in Iran. Second, I made some brief textual

analysis of the state elites. In those analyses, I revealed some important aspects of the relational

linkages and differences among basic signifiers in contending official state discourses. I showed

by understanding the social content of political discourses, the politics of nation-state building in









Iran and how the state elites interpreted the meaning of security, development, law, democracy,

people, and Islam can be described and analyzed. I described how contending political

discourses constituted the interpretation of the politics of nation-state building in Iran during the

Pahlavi dynasty.

In my narration and analysis, with an eye on critical political events, social trends, and

shifts in the changing meanings of concepts, themes, and rationalities, I examined a variety of

political and non-political texts dating from pre-modern to modem times. I identified six basic

signifiers that have shown up in all contending political discourses in Iran, including the Islamic

Republic of Iran, but with different hierarchic formations.

My analysis of pre-modern texts revealed that for centuries the mode of governance was

based on two basic signifiers of security and Islam. Each produced and reproduced its own

respective institution and acted with a certain degree of autonomy from one another. However,

together, they formed the political discourse of "monarchic absolutism" whose formation did not

fundamentally change, and the meaning of its policies and practices were interpreted as

inevitable, natural, and divine. In the premodern political arrangement in Iran, Islamic jurists did

not have a claim on the state or the government and preached that the monarchic political order

was indeed a divine political order that provided security for Muslims. Because of Iran's

encounter with the West, the discourse of monarch absolutism collapsed, and the meanings,

themes, and rationalities associated with it changed.

My analysis of modem texts revealed that in addition to the two traditional signifiers-

security and Islam-constituting the Iranian discourse of monarchic absolutism, four new

signifiers and many concepts, themes, and rationality associated with them entered the language.

These signifiers were law or constitutionalism, modernism or development, people, democracy,









citizenship, or nationalism, class equality, socialism. Depending upon the hierarchic formations

of these six signifiers, five state discourses became hegemonic. I narrated and analyzed these five

discourses, although the primary focus was the discourses during the Pahlavi dynasty (1926-

1979).

The first state discourse was the discourse of what I called "constitutionalism," which

signified law linked to legal, rational, and constitutional norms as its primary signifier. For

example, constitutionalists defined "Islam" in terms of its adherence to legal-rational norms.

From 1926 to 1941, the second discourse of modern absolutism then became the official

state discourse. In this discourse, "development" and "security" became the two primary

signifiers that gave meanings to other contending discourses. In this discourse, development was

linked to education, science, evolution, progressive history, and the West. Security was linked to

the state power embodied in Reza Shah. Nationalism was attached to a particular construction of

Persian nationalism, which was based on perceiving Iranians as an Aryan race in relational

linkage to Germans but differences with Turks and Arabs.

From 1941 to 1951, contending discourses were vying to become the official state

discourse, but none succeeded. From 1951 to 1953, the discourse of democratic nationalism

became the third state discourse. The primary signifier of this discourse was the "people," which

was linked to concepts, such as citizenship, people's rights, people's free will, and civic rights-

in relational differences with foreigners. At the time, the word "foreigner" was the code for

labeling the British and Russians, but not necessarily the Americans. With the 1953 CIA coup,

the state discourse of democratic nationalism collapsed.

From 1953 to 1979, the fourth official state discourse emerged. By signifying

development and security, the state tried to govern by making an officially approved civil









society, political parties, history, and religion. From its emergence in 1953, despite having a

monopoly over the material and institutional resources of the country, the state nevertheless

could not produce legitimacy for itself, so it ruled mostly by fear. However, by the mid-1970s,

the state began to lose its representational power to its opponents.

From the mid-1970s, the state could not instill fear or produce legitimacy for its rule.

Discursively, Mohamad Reza Shah was turned into a symbol of American imperial domination,

and resisting him became a symbol of patriotism. The interpretation of the shah, as one who

invoked grandeur, fear, and the divine myth of the king of kings (shah han shah,) was changed

into a diminutive stature of a "Servant of America." Even the oil boom of the 1970s

delegitimized the regime despite the fact that the regime had raised the people's standard of

living. The military buildup fueled the people resentment rather than producing national pride.

An extensive array of modernizing projects and policies angered the people because they were

interpreted as further decaying of the Iranian-Muslim Self, which had never existed. By 1979,

the state collapsed. In sum, by a genealogical exploration of the state discourses during the

Pahlavi dynasty, this dissertation has shown how different ways of imagining Iran produced

different policies and practices, which facilitated some possibilities while barring others.

The implication of this dissertation is not just about understanding the past, but how the

past has permeated the present-the continuities and changes in how meanings of policies and

practices of the current regime in Iran has traces of the past embedded in the exigency of the

present. Despite the pervasive argument in the literature, which represents the Islamic Republic

as a failure in modernity, the Islamic Republic is a particular case of modernity embedded in

social values previously constructed in the contending discourses of Iran. The discourse of the

Islamic state in Iran was-and is-a particular construction made possible by the existing









signifiers available in the language-security, development, law, people, class equality, and

social ethics. For illustrative purposes, I will briefly review five previous signifiers that have

floated into the discourse of the Islamic Republic.

First, similar to previous discourses, "security" is a part of the legitimizing practice of the

state. As explained in previous chapters, in both traditional and modern Iranian monarchisms,

providing security was associated the divine right of sovereignty and both words of security and

sovereignty were metonyms in the language. Discursively, the absolute right of kings was

represented as a divine political order because kings had the absolute power to provide security.

Similarly, in the Islamic discourse, providing security is still a legitimizing signifier for the

supreme leader whose task is to secure Islam and Iran from physical and cultural threats from

"foreigners." Although the meaning attached to the word "foreigners" has changed in the last

twenty-nine years as it had changed many times over in previous discourses, the linkage between

providing security and the divine right of sovereignty has remained the same as those during

prior eras.

What has changed from the past is the previous linkage between the shah as personification

of the sovereign and the divine right of sovereignty. For many centuries, the Shi'i clerical

establishment reproduced and reinforced this linkage. The clergy argued that the shah was indeed

the personification of the sovereign and therefore had the divine right of sovereignty. However,

this linkage began to come apart in the 1960s, and by the 1970s, Islamists declared that the

shah's claim to the divine right of sovereignty was heresy. In a 1971 declaration, Ayatollah

Khomeini articulated his opinion as to why monarchic order in general has been incompatible









with Islam since the passing of Prophet Mohammad in the 7th century.1 For nationalists,

however, this linkeage had been broken during the Mussadiq's years. For socialists, the linkage

has been between proletariat class, communist party, security, and the sovereign. In the Islamic

Republic discourse, as the linkage between the shah as the personification of the sovereign and

the divine right of sovereignty embodied in him disappeared, a new linkage was constructed .

The Shi'i clerical establishment became the new embodiment of the sovereign bestowed with the

divine right of sovereignty. In other words, while the linkage providing security and having the

divine right of sovereignty remained unchanged, the embodiment of the sovereign changed from

the shah to the Shi'i clerical institution headed by Ayatollah Khomeini first and now by Ali

Khamenei, the current supreme leader.

However, fundamental differences have occurred between the present and the past. In

previous eras, the shah ruled independently of the state-elites, and in some cases, in competition

with the state and tribal elites. In the Islamic discourse, the state rules by consensus and is bound

to strict institutional norms. In other words, unlike the fragmented body of the state-elites in the

previous shah-centered state, the state-elites in the Islamic Republic are a unified body. They are

deeply embedded in the discourse of Islamic Republicanism. The new order of the elites, unlike

the previous ones, can coherently defend the system by making seemingly contradictory

decisions. Most Western analysts mistakenly categorize the state-elites into a binary opposition

between moderates and fundamentalists. But these binary representations are as useless as when

analysts used to categorize Mohamad Reza Shah as the modernizing king of Iran counterpoised

to his supposedly "radical" opposition from the left and the right-socialists, nationalists, and



'In other words, for 1400 hundred years, from the perspective of Khomeini and also the state-elites, a legitimate
Islamic order had not existed, and the Islamic Republic is only the second legitimate Islamic order to be established
after the 13-year reign of Prophet Mohammad in Medina.









Islamists. Although these binary representations reveal one dimension of any state, they hide or

mute other aspects.

Second, about the people's role in the Islamic Republic, the state values democracy

(mardum salary). But citizenship rights are defined in terms of religious rights and responsibility

rather than secular civic duties as defined in the West. This interpretation has multiple

implications, and most of them cannot be explained by binary categorization, such as democratic

or undemocratic, freedom or no freedom. Unlike Mohamad Reza Shah's regime, which did not

have mobilization, institutional, and infrastructural power, the Islamic Republic can at times

mobilize millions of people. It has command over a small but cohesive, loyal, and uncritical

segment of the civil society whose members are motivated by Shi'i myth and a particular

formation of Islamic-Iranian nationalism. Hence, although not democratic by Western standard,

the regime is perceived as a legitimate and democratic order by its social base.

Third, the Islamic state represents modernism, progress, and development as universal

values and therefore good. Previously, contending discourses represented Mohamad Reza Shah's

developmental policies and practices as signs of "foreign" domination. In contrast, the Islamic

state represents its developmental policies and practices as signs of Iranian self-reliance,

progress, modernization, although the degree of Iran's self-reliance is, at best, ambiguous.

Fourth, in the discourse, the Islamic state values class analysis and devalues class

inequality as socialists had expressed those in previous decades. This is in contrast to Mohamad

Reza Shah, who devalued class analysis and ignored the existence of class gap between the rich

and the poor. The Islamic Republic politicizes class inequality and represents it as unjust and un-

Islamic. Discursively, although workers are valued, they are not represented in an oppositional

relation to capitalists. The state represents the people as mustazafin (the repressed, weak, poor,









and faithful) in oppositional relation with mustakberin (the decadent, arrogant, and unfaithful).

While the state praises mustazafin as worthy citizens in the service of Islam regardless of their

wealth, it demonizes mustakberin for using their wealth or labor in the service of evildoers on

earth. In other words, wealth, capital, social status, labor, and power are valued as being positive

when committed in the service of Islam or for helping mustazafin, but are devalued if used in the

service of evil or mustakberin. For example, the United States is represented as estakbarjahani

(the global arrogance), which means having its wealth and power committed to the service of the

arrogant rather than the weak and the meek.

Fifth, Islamic-Iranian nationalism has traces of nationalism constructed in previous

discourses. For example, it has incorporated socialist nationalism, which focused on class

equality in oppositional relation to Western liberalism. It has adopted nationalism from Mussadiq

by representing the people as political participants. It has even taken up a part of the Persian

nationalism privileged by the late shah, although the focus of the Islamic Republic is on the

ancient Persian civilization rather than the Aryan race.

Based on these previously constructed values, the state articulates Islamic-Iranian

nationalism in terms of a particular interpretation of Islam that is supposed to unite the body of

the nation in its historical struggle against foreign domination, underdevelopment, absolutism,

and cultural corruption. This was the initial ideal for building an Islamic nation-state. The first

act of the Islamic Republic was to ask the people to vote "yes" or "no" for establishing an

Islamic Republic reflected the ideal of the "people's sovereign," which had become a dominant

social value during 1941-1953. That ideal was labeled as the "Islamic Republic," and the ideal

was rep