Part sophisticated analysis, part political tract, this book seeks to account for shortcomings of the Iranian Revolution. At her best, the author presents a convincing picture of using Shiite religious authority to build a state. Shiism has been identified primarily with the victims of power structures, and the Iranian Revolution has been unable to harness Shiite doctrine to a clear structure of authority. As a result, many competing bodies claim legitimacy, Iran has been unable to develop its economy, and about all that remains of Islam is the veiling of women and their seclusion from public life.
The author's sympathies are clearly with the poor and dispossessed, and her political views seem close to those of Ali Shariati, who tried to forge a "progressive" interpretation of Shiism. Now, she believes, the purported beneficiaries of the revolution are left merely with Islamic rhetoric, while the regime, through its mismanagement of the economy, becomes more dependent on the West and less concerned with the everyday problems of its people. The analysis of the tension between Shiite Islam and state authority, however, is more convincing.