Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Cited by 3
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
July 2022
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:

Book description

Empirically rich and theoretically informed, this book is an innovative analysis of political decentralization under the Islamic Republic of Iran. Drawing upon Kian Tajbakhsh's twenty years of experience working with and researching local government in Iran, it uses original data and insights to explain how local government operates in towns and cities as a form of electoral authoritarianism. With a combination of historical, political, and financial field research, it explores the multifaceted dimensions of local power and how various ideologically opposed actors shaped local government as an integral component of authoritarian state building. Ultimately, this book demonstrates how local government serves to undermine democratization and consolidate the Islamist regime. As Iran's cities and towns grow and develop, their significance will only increase, and this study is vital to understanding their politics, administration and influence.


‘Kian Tajbakhsh's study of local government under the Islamic Republic of Iran is based on careful and painstaking analysis of administrative and legal documents and is unmatched by any in current Iranian history.’

Saïd Amir Arjomand - State University of New York

‘This deeply personal and academically rigorous account of the efforts to advance political decentralization in Iran raises critical questions for scholars of governance and democracy. By documenting how decentralization was as likely to be embraced by supporters of centralized state power as by reform advocates or even pragmatic technocrats, we are shown the complexities inherent in building democracy from the ground up.’

Diane E. Davis - Harvard University

‘Kian Tajbakhsh’s understanding of Iran is manifest on every page of this book. He convincingly argues, much to his own discontent, how the authoritarian regime consolidates its rule through political decentralization. His work is important for anyone interested in local democracy – a powerful read.’

Peter Knip - Director of VNG International

‘Kian Tajbakhsh beautifully documents the tragedy of municipal democracy in Iran, from its hopeful beginnings in the mid-1990s to its defeat a decade later. Tajbakhsh was both a scholarly observer of the democratization movement and a participant, whose detention in Iran delayed this long-awaited book for years.’

Charles Kurzman - University of North Carolina

‘In this unusually revealing account of decentralization efforts in Iran, Tajbakhsh provides a deeply researched and often moving account of how contemporary politics in Iran actually works.’

Lisa Anderson Source: Foreign Affairs

‘… a welcome and much-needed addition to the developing corpus of expert literature on local democracy. In the broader context, the book provides an in-depth, fascinating case study on how, when, and why authoritarian regimes opt for decentralization and employ democratic tools to achieve their nondemocratic goals.’

Nikouei Nikouei Source: Middle East Journal

‘The book stands out as an excellent intellectual exercise in combining theory and data to make sense of socio-political developments.'

Ammar Khan Nasir Source: The Muslim World Book Review

‘The value of the book is that it is both academically analytical and also a personal account of good intentions leading to the usual destination. It gives details of local budgets and elections, followed by the author’s empirical observations of the results, with revealing interviews with many senior and mid level government officials. Political scientists will find the analysis useful, while the personal insights will give those with a general interest in the interior workings of Iran a view not easily obtainable elsewhere.’

Antony Wynn Source: Asian Affairs

Refine List

Actions for selected content:

Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Save to Kindle
  • Save to Dropbox
  • Save to Google Drive

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between #date#. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.