IRANIAN CULTURE, CIVIL SOCIETY, AND CONCERN FOR DEMOCRACY
Farhang-e Ir'ani, J'ame'eh- ye Madani, va Daghdagh-ye Demokr'asi (In Persian)
By Ali Akbar Mahdi.
(Toronto, Canada: Javan Publisher, 1998)
Pp. xi + 223
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This book, written in Persian, is about issues that have attracted the attention, affected the thoughts and behaviors, and challenged the religion and culture, of Iranians since the beginning of the twentieth century. For Iranians, democracy has been both a desire and a challenge, an end and an instrument, and a known and an unknown phenomenon. In the last century, much of the political energy of Iranian society has been directed toward achieving democracy. In their struggle for democracy, thousands of Iranians have lost their lives in the battle with autocracy and dictatorship. (Read excerpts in The Iranian)

As an instrument, the concept of democracy has often been invoked by the Iranian elite to mask their autocratic political ambitions and undemocratic practices. As a challenge, democracy has raised serious questions about the cultural, political, and economic structures of the Iranian society. Iranians have come to know about democracy since the Constitutional movement of 1905-11, through which some of the most important elements of democracy such as parliament, elections, and voting rights were established. However, the Iranian society still lacks genuine democratic processes for insuring full participation of all its citizens in the political process.

While genuine democratic values are not alien to the Iranian culture, nonetheless the practical relationships between the ruler and ruled, men and women, parents and children, teachers and students, managers and workers, and clergy and believers are hierarchical, undemocratic, and sometimes repressive. Asking why this is so is a valid question. In other words, why, despite, a century of struggle, have Iranians not been able to establish a democratic political structure in their society and adopt a democratic culture in their relationships with each other in the family, schools, mosques, workplaces, and larger social arena?

As a collection of articles written during the past five years, this book attempts to illuminate these issues and search for an answer to the above question.

CONTENTS:

1) Iranian Culture: Religious, Secular, or National?

2) Lack ofTolerance in the Iranian-Islamic Culture.

3) Cultural Invasion: A New Tool for Suppression of Intellectuals.

4) Children in Iranian Culture and Society.

5) Religion and Science in the Context of Modernization of Iran.

6) How is Civil Society Defined?

7) Observation on the Application of the Concept of Civil Society to Iran.

8) Structural Barriers to the Development of Civil Society in Iran.

9) Khatami's Presidency and the Growth of Civil Society in Iran.

10) Democracy: Definition, Types, Instruments, and Conditions.

11) Democracy and Existential Equality. 12) The Fall of Communism, Capitalist Hegemony, Democratization, Fundamentalism, & Ethnic Nationalism.

13) Concern for Democracy in Iran.

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