Politics and Culture in Contemporary Iran: Challenging the Status Quo

In This Review

Politics and Culture in Contemporary Iran: Challenging the Status Quo
By Abbas Milani and Larry Diamond
Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2015
280 pp. $65.00

This collection consists mainly of contributions by Iranians who have experienced the Islamic Republic firsthand. They were not happy with that experience. They intimate that profound socioeconomic change is under way in Iran that might jeopardize the Iranian theocracy. But they rarely specify the precise nature of the threat; it manifests itself, rather, as an ominous rumble. The chapters cover a wide range of topics, including social media, music, and the relationship between religion and the state. Few of the contributors see hope for internal reform; nor do they suggest other ways that change, violent or otherwise, might come about. In one chapter, however, a reformist and former member of Iran’s parliament, Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, speculates that the vast authority arrogated by Iran’s supreme leader might someday erode or that the current holder of that office, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, might even be succeeded by a multiperson council rather than an individual. The book does not adequately explore a number of other issues that would interest readers less familiar with Iran—for example, President Hassan Rouhani’s efforts to end the country’s long diplomatic isolation or the ways that the authorities allow political factions to organize and express themselves. 

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