For decades, political observers and pundits have characterized the Islamic Republic of Iran as an ideologically rigid state on the verge of collapse, exclusively connected to a narrow social base. In A Social Revolution, Kevan Harris convincingly demonstrates how they are wrong. Previous studies ignore the forceful consequences of three decades of social change following the 1979 revolution. Today, more people in the country are connected to welfare and social policy institutions than to any other form of state organization. In fact, much of Iran’s current political turbulence is the result of the success of these social welfare programs, which have created newly educated and mobilized social classes advocating for change. Based on extensive fieldwork conducted in Iran between 2006 and 2011, Harris shows how the revolutionary regime endured though the expansion of health, education, and aid programs that have both embedded the state in everyday life and empowered its challengers. This first serious book on the social policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran opens a new line of inquiry into the study of welfare states in countries where they are often overlooked or ignored.
Note on Transliteration
1. Can an Oil State Be a Welfare State?
2. Seeing like a King: Welfare Policy as State-Building Strategy in the Pahlavi Monarchy
3. Creating a Martyrs’ Welfare State: 1979, War, and the Survival of the Islamic Republic
4. The Revolution Embedded: Rural Transformations and the Demographic Miracle
5. Development and Distinction: Welfare-State Expansion and the Politics of the New Middle Class
6. Lineages of the Iranian Welfare State
Conclusion: Development Contradictions through the Lens of Welfare Politics
Kevan Harris is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"This impressive book pushes Iranian studies from the cloisters of area studies to the wider precincts of global political economy. Kevan Harris documents how the Islamic Republic of Iran, for all the uniqueness of its political institutions, has created parts of a recognizable welfare state that includes educational, health, and old-age services."—Charles Kurzman, author of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran
"In a well-written and succinct manner, A Social Revolution provides a convincing and original account of how the revolutionary regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran was able to endure and survive years of turmoil by embedding itself in the larger society through effective social programs. A Social Revolution not only addresses new questions but makes use of a wealth of primary materials collected within Iran. Harris has had the privilege of gathering the materials inside Iran, a privilege that few American scholars have had since the 1979 Revolution."—Ervand Abrahamian, author of The Coup: 1953, the C.I.A., and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations
"A Social Revolution offers an invaluable counterpoint to the prevailing conventional wisdom and should be required reading for anyone trying to decipher social development in contemporary Iran. Working from primary documents and fieldwork over a five year period, Kevan Harris goes beyond the standard theocratic political frame to document how social mobilization and elite competition created an intriguing and surprisingly successful Iranian variation on the developmental state."—Peter Evans, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley and Senior Research Fellow, Watson Institute for International Studies and Public Affairs, Brown University