INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL OF DEMOCRATISATION IN IRAN:Reframing the Implications of Knowledge of History, Philosophy and Socio-political Science in the Prospect of Democratisation in Iran

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Chamberlain, Mary

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Bull, Melissa

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The original contribution of this study resides in its exploration of the way in which various traditional and modern tangible and intangible factors have contributed to Iran’s intellectual and political transformations from past to present. The focal question of this thesis is: “which factors have played the dominant role in Iran's intellectual orientations and political transformations, in general, and democratisation in particular? And can these factors be explained methodically and theoretically?” This thesis claims that Iranians, in order to proceed with a genuine home-grown democratisation1, need to enhance their intellectual capital of democratisation (ICOD)2. To this end, Iran's intellectuals need to overcome their shortcomings in the three key areas of historical consciousness3, understanding of modernity, and undertaking democratic orientation. This study employs a qualitative approach and a textual analysis method to provide a multi-principled (history, philosophy, and socio-political science), multi-causal (tangible and intangible) explanation of the multidimensional state of Iran’s tradition, modernity and prospect of democratisation. While taking into account a multi-task of modern, secular and democratic orientation; it is conducted from both insiders and outsiders' perspectives. The proposed method of explanation employs the algebraic term of factorisation to classify the dominant contributing factors to Iran’s intellectual and political transformations from both phenomenological (into tangible and intangible factors) and chronological (into traditional and modern) orders. The traditional tangible factors include geography, climate and invention of Qanats4 that have played vital roles in the success of Persian civilisation in the past. The critical modern tangible factors in Iran’s modern history include discovery of oil, colonial powers interventions, modernisation programs and communication technology. While ancient Persians benefited from the traditional intangible factors effectively and successfully (by establishing the first multicultural (tribal, ethnic, and religious) empire, these achievements were forsaken as soon as the rulers inclined toward tribal, ethnic and religious preferences. The subsequent ethnic/religious systems then have imposed various types of discrimination, which have led to internal conflicts and made the society susceptible to external influence, intervention or occupation (Saleh, 2013, pp. 111-113). It is discussed throughout this thesis that colonial powers, conservative Shiite Ulama and local tyrant rulers have almost cooperatively prevented the prospect of democratisation. To challenge these powerful forces and in the absence of democracy, Iranian intellectuals have found radical ideological orientations. They have inclined toward various ideological paradigms including Westernisation, constitutionalism, nationalism, modernism, socialism and Islamism. Only during the last two decades, have a great majority of Iranian intellectuals found a democratic orientation (Azimi, 2008, p. iX). This phenomenon has played a crucial role in accelerating the pace and scope of a non-violent civil resistance movement for democratic change. The extent of popular and intellectual support for this paradigm, such as the Green Movement in 2009, reflects the promising achievement of the society in the road of democratisation (Khosrokhavar, 2011, pp. 48-58). It can be argued that despite the presence of a considerable number of internal and external obstacles, the society has gained a promising level of intellectual capacity and popular support to proceed with a genuinely inborn democratisation. It is, however, anticipated that for succeeding with democratisation in Iran, in addition to intellectual capabilities, other socio-economic, cultural and political parameters are necessary, which their detailed explanation requires further studies.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Griffith Law School

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Historical consciousness

Understanding modernity

Democratic orientation

Tangible and intangible factors

Intellectual capital of democratisation (ICOD)


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