In This Review

Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty
Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty
By Ali Gheissari and Vali Nasr
Oxford University Press, 2006, 232 pp

This book treats the last century of Iranian history, organized around the theme of how the country "has responded to the challenge of balancing state-building with democracy-building." The point of departure is the era that brought into being the 1906 constitution and ended five years later with the Russian occupation and the reversal of reforms. This period of promise followed by setback serves to illustrate that Iran has long wrestled with issues of representation and constitutionalism, and it continues to do so today. At the same time, Iran has been caught up in the task of putting in place a modern and strong state. There were many more ups and downs in that search for a balance between strength and democracy through the time of the Pahlavis, ending in 1979, and thereafter during the Islamic Republic. This thematic framework for making sense of the complex interplay of rulers and ruled, ideologies and material interests, provides a perceptive interpretation of Iran's past century.