Iran’s Political Economy Since the Revolution

In This Review

Iran’s Political Economy Since the Revolution
By Suzanne Maloney
Cambridge University Press, 2015
588 pp.

Maloney covers Iran’s political economy since the fall of the Qajar dynasty in 1921, with a heavy emphasis on the years since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. She begins with an unsurprising premise: economic crises have driven Iranian politics. Inflation helped bring down the shah; the unraveling of the economy during the Iran-Iraq War brought in a “pragmatic” president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; and economic mismanagement under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, combined with effective international sanctions, set the stage for the election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013. Maloney stresses the constant tussle pitting redistributionists in the parliament, who have been a thorn in the side of every Iranian president, against the more economically orthodox Guardian Council. Two important takeaways emerge from her analysis: the Islamic Republic is surprisingly plural, although not democratic, and remarkably resilient. After the revolution, GDP dropped by 32 percent, three million skilled Iranians left the country, three million Afghan refugees came in, and Iraq initiated an eight-year war with devastating consequences. Subsequent decades have not been much kinder, but the regime has survived.

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