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This chapter argues that this volume furnishes a nuanced narrative of the 1979 revolution. The authors explain the revolution within the historic context of two crucial decades leading to the demise of the old regime. This juncture reveals diverse global inspirations driving the revolution. The existing scholarly literature on the Iranian Revolution falls short of fully appreciating the contemporaneity of the revolution as an experience for the Iranians. That is, the Iranian Revolution as a “transnational” social and political event, as experienced by Iranians. The contemporaneity and transnational quality of the experience embed the revolution in the preceding two decades of widespread cultural transfiguration at every social level, in the “quiet revolution.” The “quiet revolution” itself cannot be understood except in terms of a circulatory system of flows of people and ideas between Iran, the West, the Middle East, and Asia, and other countries like the Soviet Union and those in Latin America.
The Iranian revolution of 1979 not only had an impact on regional and international affairs, but was made possible by the world and time in which it unfolded. This multi-disciplinary volume presents this revolution within its transnational and global contexts. Moving deftly from the personal to the global and from the provincial to the national, it draws attention to the multiplicity of spaces of the revolution such as streets, schools, prisons, personal lives, and histories such as the Cold War and Global 1960s and 70s. With a broad range of approaches, Global 1979 conceives of the Iranian Revolution not as exceptional or anachronistic, but as an uprising constituted by multiple, interwoven geographies and histories, which disrupt static and bounded notions of the local, national, regional, and global.
The book concludes by considering the implications of hidden liberalism for the study of liberal thought-practices in non-Western, postcolonial settings, and more generally of liberalism in general. In recent years, political theorists have begun to examine the complex relationship between liberalism and empire. These studies have ranged from meticulous genealogies of imperialist arguments in the works of Enlightenment-era thinkers, to dissections of liberal justifications and criticisms of empire during the eighteenth century, and still further to conceptualizations and classifications of liberal-imperialist thought-practices in the long nineteenth century. Overlooked in nearly all of these studies are the implications of Western imperialism for the reception and development of indigenous liberal views and practices inside postcolonial societies. I offer a critical assessment of Western political theory’s privileging of a contextually-specific model of liberalism as a universal standard for understanding, appraising, and promoting liberal thought-practices across the globe. I argue that mainstream, critical, and approaches in political thought unwittingly perpetuate this “visibility bias” as regards the study of liberalism in non-Western societies, and suggest ways of making these modes of inquiry more inclusive.
Compared to rival ideologies, liberalism has fared rather poorly in modern Iran. This is all the more remarkable given the essentially liberal substance of various social and political struggles – for liberal legality, individual rights and freedoms, and pluralism – in the century-long period since the demise of the Qajar dynasty and the subsequent transformation of the country into a modern nation-state. The deeply felt but largely invisible purchase of liberal political ideas in Iran challenges us to think more expansively about the trajectory of various intellectual developments since the emergence of a movement for reform and constitutionalism in the late nineteenth century. It complicates parsimonious accounts of Shi'ism, secularism, socialism, nationalism, and royalism as defining or representative ideologies of particular eras. Hidden Liberalism offers a critical examination of the reasons behind liberalism's invisible yet influential status, and its attendant ethical quandaries, in Iranian political and intellectual discourses.
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