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Barkley Rosser on Iran

Last week Barkley Rosser emailed me that he disagreed with pieces of Dariush Zahedi's analysis of Iran. I asked him what he disagreed with, exactly. I don't see anything in my email inbox, but there is this:

IRAN: THE FIRST ISLAMIC NEW TRADITIONAL ECONOMY : [T]here is a global movement to "re-embed" modern, technologically advanced economies (such as ones pursuing nuclear power for peaceful or other purposes) back into a traditonal socio-political framework, following the categories of Karl Polanyi as discussed in his _The Great Transformation_. The most common candidate for such a framework is a great world religion, and we noted such movements occurring within Hinduism, Confucianism, and several other religions. However, the movement has been most developed within Islam.... [T]he first nation to attempt to implement a new traditional economy: Iran... which has been struggling to adopt an Islamic econmic system since the Islamic revolution of 1979.

We identify five stages in the post-revolutionary political-economic development of Iran, with a sixth stage clearly now in progress.... 1979-81 was the First Radical Phase, dominated by Islamic socialism that draws on the works of the Iranian ayatollah, Taliqani.... [N]ationalizations and a huge increase in income equality.... [The] Second Radical Phase (1982-84) came in a struggle over an effort to nationalize land and international trade, which was blocked by the Council of Guardians... the most serious implementation of more strictly Islamic elements.... Then came the First Pragmatic Phase (1985-89)... opening to the world economy to obtain weapons to fight Iraq.... The Second Pragmatic Phase (1989-97) followed the end of the war, the death of Khomeini, and coincided with the presidency of Hojjat-el-Islam Hashemi Rafsanjani... opening [to trade] and a move towards some marketization and privatization.... The Social Reform Phase (1997-2005) followed during the presidency of Mohammed Khatami, who loosened many social controls on women and political discussions.... The new president has been elected on a simultaneous platform of undoing social reforms and a populist appeal to help the poor....

Persian political developments [in the twentieth century] largely followed those in Turkey.... The westernizing Reza Pahlavi Shah overthrew the Qajars in 1925 and followed a path similar to that of Ataturk. He introduced indicative central planning in 1941 and oversaw development of industry half-owned by the state. He was removed by the British, Soviets, and Americans during WW II for his de facto alliance with Germany, and was replaced by his son, Mohammed, who would rule until 1979, except for a brief period in the early 1950s, when Mohammed Mossadegh (and Taliqani), a veteran of the Constitutonalists, removed him and nationalized oil production. Mossadegh was removed in the US-British "Project Ajax" coup.... In 1963, Shah Pahlavi... introduced the secularizing "White Revolution", which guaranteed equal rights for women. These were undone after 1979.

Today, the Iranian economy is dominated by oil... a $40 billion reserve... nuclear program... very popular in Iran.... [O]il provides over 90% of export industries, and its dominance makes it hard to develop other industries. Poverty and inequality have spread. Unemployment is running around 12% and inflation around 15%, with these problems worse for the young and the poor. This is the backdrop of the election of Ahmadinejad.

If asked I shall comment more on the significance of the dominance of Shi'ism in Iran and some other matters. However, I think this will provide a basic backdrop for a more informed discussion of matters in Iran. I will note only that Shi'ism is more inclined to have clerics actually holding office, although the new president is the first since 1979 not to be an actual cleric, despite the apparent religious radicalism of his ideology. Sunni fundamentalists are perfectly happy to have a non-cleric in charge, as long as he implements and enforces a shari'a law code.