In the June 2009 election debacle, the Islamic Republic of Iran faced a legitimacy crisis the like of which it has not experienced since its creation in 1979. I offer my reflections on the country’s class-cultural divide. A significant sociocultural realignment has taken place in recent years indicating that the official Iran of the devout multitudes may not be a majority, as compared to the “other” Iran of a largely modern and pragmatically secular citizenry. I argue that neither President Ahmadinejad’s class-based political views nor his cultural grandstanding is progressive. The “masses” mobilized by religious fundamentalism play into the hands of national demagogues. I offer my reflections on the pragmatic secular attitudes that shaped the reactions to the June electoral fraud. I argue that the Iranian experience seriously undermines the assumption that the future success in building a democratic polity depends on the success of the discursive rediscovering of Islam’s humanistic-egalitarian nature. It seems that Muslim theorists offering their new interpretations of Islam are largely left behind by the young Iranians, whose way of life is characterized not so much by their anti-religious ethos as by their practical disposition towards contemporary needs and desires. Finally, I comment on the emerging phenomenon of a citizen seeing herself as a distinct individual and realizing that to preserve a sense of personal worth within the structure of the modern state she needs the state to respect her human rights. An ordinary person can now be heroic merely by virtue of her own individuality: No cultural or nationalist metanarrative; no collectively conceived claims.


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pp. 839-855
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