Nader Hashemi gives us an informative and interesting review of Democracy in Modern Iran: Islam, Culture, and Political Change, by Ali Mirsepassi, at Democracy.
It is a transformation inextricable from Iran’s internal struggle for democracy. This struggle, embodied by the slain figure of Neda Agha Sultan and the rise of the Green Movement, became headline news in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election. The largely nonviolent street protests shook the Iranian regime to its core, creating elite rivalries at the top and a roiling discontent below. The Islamic Republic now faces a major crisis of legitimacy, unprecedented since the 1979 revolution, due in part to the widespread internal perception that the election was stolen and to the severe brutality of the postelection crackdown.
This is where Ali Mirsepassi’s Democracy in Modern Iran: Islam, Culture, and Political Change begins. Mirsepassi, who teaches sociology and Middle East Eastern Studies at New York University, reminds us that these protests were not merely a spontaneous outburst of public anger but rather are deeply rooted in modern Iranian history and “reveal the continuity of an Iranian tradition of appearing in ‘public’ and ‘shaming’ the authorities.” He draws attention to a political tradition–largely unknown to many in the West–of peaceful mass mobilization that dates back to the nineteenth century. He notes that this tradition has long played a key role in Iran’s pursuit of representative and accountable government.