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Exploring the pattern of Islamic social movements : four case studies

By Seyed Saaid Zahed Zahedani


This thesis is a study of Iranian-Islamic social movements. Iran has witnessed four major social movements in the late nineteenth and twentieth century. Except for the\ud Islamic Revolution of 1978-79 which attracted a great deal of sociological attention, and the Constitutional Revolution which has received some specialist study, the other two, regardless of their importance and influence in the Iranian history, have been grossly neglected. In order to have a better sociological understanding and a more\ud general model of this type of social movements there is need to review all of them according to the same theory and with an identical method. These cases which are\ud explored in this study are: the Tobacco Movement (1892) - an 'anti colonialism' movement, the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1906) - a 'justice' movement, the 15th\ud of Khordad movement (1963) - an 'anti modernisation' movement, and the last in chain, the Islamic Revolution of 1978-79 - an 'anti imperialism' movement.\ud \ud This thesis also attempts to provide a contribution to the theory of social movements with a review and synthesis of the existing major theories of the area. Ten key social\ud movement theories are reviewed and a new synthetic one is developed. The models under review belong to Smelser (1962), Davies (1962), Toch (1966), Blumer (1969),\ud Wilson (1973), Tilly (1978), Touraine (1981), McCarthy and Zald (1987), Melucci (1989) and Scott (1990). These theories identify quite different 'engines' of the social\ud movement and thus can be classified according to whether they regard the individual, society, or their relations as the main cause or initiator of the social movements.\ud Following the discussions of the relationship between the individual and society, this thesis recognises the need for an approach to social explanation which looks at the fine\ud texture of the interrelationship of the structure, agency, and their relations, and so proposes a 'synthetic' theory of social movements which recognises the importance of\ud the conjunction of the three elements of the individualist, the structural and the relationalist models. In this theory of social movements, social context provides the ground for the underlying mechanism of the movement to be released. Ideology plays the part of the relational factor between the individual and the society. It is the main mobilisational factor of social movements. Actors then 'perform' the movements at three levels of social actions: leadership, distribution, and enactment of the outburst.\ud \ud The synthetic theory provides a framework for a more comprehensive study of the four cases. Each of the movements is explained using it as a 'conceptual grid' and it is shown on each occasion to be useful tool in identifying the main agents, antagonisms, ideologies, social opportunities and constraints, and the accomplishment of the movements. So whilst the movements vary by 'focus' and by 'success' it is shown that it is Islamic ideology which shapes the goals of 'justice', 'freedom', 'independence' and 'democracy'. In all of the reviewed movements the authority of the shah came into dispute with the command of the ulama, and it was religious rituals and organisations which mobilised the people.\ud \ud Whilst the synthetic theory proposed here can provide an analytic framework with which to compare the movements, the history of the analysed movements reveals the significance of the 'political sociology' of Iran's last hundred years. This dimention provides an understanding of some of the 'initial conditins' which underpin the Iranian\ud social movements. The thesis attempts to outline some crucial elements in this sociopolitical history, and attest their importance by examination of one further Iranian\ud social movement, the National Movement of Iran (195 1-1953). This was a predominantly non-Islamic movement which failed because it declined to take the advantage of the authority of the ulama as one of the major sways at the socio-political setting of Iranian society.\ud \ud The adequacy of the resultant knowledge from the proposed model of Iranian-Islamic social movements is further tested against the some writings of nine scholars on Iranian\ud social movements: Fischer (1980), Milani (1988), Parsa (1989), Amuzegar (1991), Ray (1993), Zubaida (1993), Moaddel (1993), Foran (1994) and Keddie (1995)

Publisher: School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
Year: 1997
OAI identifier:

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