The Iranian Revolution should be seen as a process. While (as with many revolutions) it is easy to date the end of the Pahlavi regime in 1979, it is harder to determine the terminus of the Iranian revolution, if one exists. This problem is not specific to Iran. For instance, there is a range of competing opinions about how to determine the terminus of the 1789 French revolution. Francois Furet analyses this ongoing disagreement by trying to identify the different endpoints of the French Revolution as posited by different historians. He sees these opinions as spread between two poles dividing past and future, from those who see the end of the French revolution as being synonymous with the termination of the old regime, since "the essential features of the Revolution's final outcome was fixed, when the final page of the ancien regime was turned" to the present time, when "the discourse of both Right and Left celebrates liberty and equality". For Furet, if there is a consensus among contemporary scholars, it is only because "the political debate has simply been transferred from one Revolution to the other, from the revolution of the past to the one that is to come". There are also other dates which are reasonable candidates for the revolution's end, the most of which range from 1794, when Robespierre was executed, to 16 May 1877, when republicans defeated the monarchists. Even between in between these, there are other possible "stopping points" at 1799, 1815, 1830, 1848, 1851, and 1870.[i]
The Iranian revolution is much too young to provoke such a wide range of disagreement about its terminus. However, we can recruit insight from the widespread disagreement about the French revolution by recognising that the "touchstone, in identifying the terminus of the French revolution is the realization of the guiding principles of the revolution". That is why today such disagreements have subsided since, as pointed out earlier on, "the discourse of both Right and Left celebrates liberty and equality". A similar line of argument can be used as a methodological device for defining the time period under inquiry, and judges the outcomes of the revolution according to its initially stated guiding principles of "freedom" , "democracy" "independence", "development" and "social justice".
So far, we can argue that the revolution actually evolved in three stages, each representing a different outcome: the short-term outcome ending in June 1981 when the first president was overthrown in a coup, which was characterised by its relatively democratic character; the medium-term outcome, ending with the election of Mohammad Khatami in 1998 and defined by its totalitarian character; and the long-term outcome, characterised by the ongoing struggle between dictatorial political forces and growing demands for the democratisation of the state and society through a strengthening civil society. In other words and from this perspective, we can see why Michelet, the nineteenth-century French historian, described the moment of revolution in France in 1789 in the following way: "on that day everything was possible...the future was present...that is to say time was no more, all a lighting flash of eternity". [ii]The refusal of Iranian society to take part in the struggle between ruling mafia families, the cracking and breaking down of the regime, and the presence of a democratic and independent alternative all provide us with both hope and opportunities to mobilize our resources to dismantle the regime and establish a dynamic democracy. This was the initial goal of the revolution; and until it is realised, the revolution continues.