The Secret of Divine Civilization and the Development of Iran
worldview, emphasized the dynamic and the living character of religion and the word of God, and called for the transformation of religious culture in a way that would leave no room for clerical pulpit. Unlike the West where many political rulers allied themselves with Luther, in Iran even the reformist Amir Kabir failed to recognize this turning point of Iranian history, and instead of supporting this religious and cultural reform, allied himself with the traditionalist clerics in suppressing the Babi movement. The Coincidence of System Problems as the Foundation of Iran’s Problems Many forms of sociological analysis of modern Iran impose a Western model on Iranian society. For example, since Marxist theory considers religion to be superstructural and insignificant, in its analysis of Iran it only emphasizes the role of economy and state while overlooking the critical role of religious and cultural despotism in determination of the course of Iranian history. But even in the West, the decline of the significance of religion in determining social trends was due to the fact that the Western Europe experienced a systematic religious reform in 16 th century. In the judgment of this author, the key concept for understanding the structural characteristics of Iran in the last two centuries is the coincidence of system problems. In developing this model, I have benefited from the theories of many thinkers including Trotsky, Lipset, Almond/Verba, and particularly the Norwegian sociologist Rokkan. 2 According to Rokkan, influenced by Weber and Parsons, modern societies have to deal with four major system problems. These are the problems of identity, church-state relation, participation and distribution. For him, Identity refers to definition of a country as an independent nation, which in the case of Western Europe took place through gradual separation of various nations from the political rule of pope. The question of the relation between church and state deals with the nature of state and whether it is a secular or theocratic form of state. The question of participation is related to the choice between political democracy and political despotism. Finally, the question of distribution concerns various alternatives of pure capitalism, communism or welfare state. The theory of the coincidence of system problems emphasizes the qualitative difference between the experiences of Iran and the Western Europe. In Western Europe these four system problems appeared separately, at different times and in various intervals. Consequently, when a new system problem would appear, the previous system problems have already appeared and resolved. For this reason, solving a problem becomes much easier and it can be resolved through the logic of that specific problem. For example, the question of the relation of church and state appeared in 16 th century through Luther’s protestant reformation. But at that time neither the quest for democracy nor the problem of labor movement had emerged. The question of church-state relation, therefore, appeared independent from other system problems and it was resolved in a way that even the catholic countries gradually adopted some form of a secular state. Two centuries later, and in the context of the resolution of the church- state system problem, the question of participation appears in Western Europe. At the same time, the quest for political democracy took place when the question of distribution (capitalism vs. communism) had not yet appeared. The result was a successful solution of the question of participation. The fact that both church-state relation and participation were already resolved when labor movement, unionization and socialist parties come into existence led to a peaceful resolution of the distribution question in 2 Rokkan, Stein, “Dimensions of State Formation and Nation-Building: A Possible Paradigm for Research Variation within Europe”, in Tilly C., (ed.) The Formation of National States in Europe . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975.
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