What a Revolution! Thirty Years of Social Class Reshuffling in Iran

Type Journal Article - Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
Title What a Revolution! Thirty Years of Social Class Reshuffling in Iran
Volume 29
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
Page numbers 84-104
URL https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sohrab_Behdad/publication/236782808_What_a_Revolution!_Thirty_Y​ears_of_Social_Class_Reshuffling_in_Iran/links/00463525fc49e9092c000000.pdf
The 1979 revolution in Iran overturned the existing political order. It ruptured the
existing social relations and institutions to reconstruct them in a new mold. It was an
idealized expression for social change and progress. Its slogans, deliberate or spontaneous,
were epitomes of the expected orientation of the revolutionary movement by the
mass of its participants and its leaders. Yet a revolution, like a forest fire or a tornado, once it
takes shape, its form, direction, and extent have more to do with the internal dynamics of the
interaction of its forceful momentum with the social landscape in which it traverses than with
its origin or initial orientation. Such is the story of the Iranian revolution, seeking to establish
the rule of the oppressed; to eradicate poverty, exploitation, and “excessive” wealth; to do
away with “imperialism of East and West”; and to replace Iran’s “dependent capitalism” with
a hitherto undefined utopian Islamic economic order, under a petty-bourgeois-oriented Shi’i
clergy, in the deeply polarized Iranian society.
Soon after the revolutionary surge, the Islamic government nationalized large manufacturing
and financial enterprises. Revolutionary Islamic courts confiscated the property of
those who were found “corrupt on earth.” Land-hungry peasants took over rural land. The
urban poor occupied vacant apartments, and workers’ councils captured control of many
enterprises. Owners of capital and property rushed to liquidify and ran for cover in the safe
havens of foreign banks and currencies.

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