Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, many Western observers of Iran have seen the country caught between Eastern history and 'Western' modernity, between religion and secularity. As a result, analysis of political philosophy preceding the Revolution has become subsumed by this narrative. Here, Afshin Matin-Asgari proposes a revisionist work of intellectual history, challenging many of the dominant paradigms in Iranian and Middle Eastern historiography and offering a new narration. In charting the intellectual construction of Iranian modernity during the twentieth century, Matin-Asgari focuses on broad patterns of influential ideas and their relation to each other. These intellectual trends are studied in a global historical context, leading to the assertion that Iranian modernity has been sustained by at least a century of intense intellectual interaction with global ideologies. Turning many prevailing narratives on their heads, the author concludes that modern Iran can be seen as, culturally and intellectually, both Eastern and Western.
Afshin Matin-Asgari is Outstanding Professor of Middle East History at California State University, Los Angeles. He was born in Iran and completed his Ph.D. in Middle East history at University of California, Los Angeles. He was active in the international movement of Iranian students during the 1970s and took part in the 1978-79 Iranian Revolution. He is the author of Iranian Student Opposition to the Shah (2002), which is translated in Persian and published in Iran, and has authored more than twenty articles and book chapters on twentieth-century Iranian political and intellectual history.
Introduction: intellectual constructions of Iranian modernity; 1. Lineages of authoritarian modernity: the Russo-Ottoman model; 2. The Berlin Circle: crafting the worldview of Iranian nationalism; 3. Subverting constitutionalism: intellectuals as instruments of modern dictatorship; 4. Intellectual missing links: politicizing religion and translating modernity; 5. The mid-century moment of socialist hegemony; 6. Revolutionary monarchy, political Shi'ism, and Islamic Marxism; 7. Conclusion: aborted resurrection: an intellectual arena wide open to opposition.