Misagh Parsa, Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution (Rutgers, 1989).

Misagh Parsa’s work successfully lays out the essential factors behind the Iranian revolution and the subsequent triumph of the clergy in establishing a consolidated Islamic state. His text provides a sharp analysis of the social factors involved and does an outstanding job of integrating primary sources and scholarship.

Parsa’s analysis, his understanding of the significant social issues, and his indispensable method of study produces an account that is straightforward, accurate, interesting and balanced in comparison to existing treatments of the Iranian revolution. He furnishes ample evidence of sociopolitical forces such as the erosion of existing values, the oppositional authority of the clergy as a result of its traditional role being undermined by the Shah, the socioeconomic gap between the disadvantaged and the advantaged, state intervention for accumulation of capital, foreign influence, uneven development, and the emergence of the secular opposition. The author is able to shed light on many obscure aspects of these issues by synthesizing crucial economic and social data with an overall critical assessment of life in Iran. In his analysis, Parsa demonstrates that many of the actions carried out in the social or political scene were by no means isolated cases; indeed, they were so strongly related that together they created a social milieu that profoundly influenced solidarity and consolidation among the social forces.

Parsa devotes distinct chapters to the most important groups and organizations — the bazaar, the clergy, the workers and white-collar employees, and the secular contenders (the National Front, the Writers Association, the Fedayeen guerrillas) — along with other social classes and intellectuals whose organizations in the fall of 1977 began to mobilize and bring about a revolutionary atmosphere against the monarchy. Parsa insightfully and subtly elaborates on the development of different levels of political consciousness within each group and organization on the basis of which they all eventually found a common ground to express their dissatisfaction against the state.

How to cite this article:

Mostafa Vaziri "Parsa, Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution," Middle East Report 169 (March/April 1991).
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