Rethinking Structure and Agency in Democratization: Iranian Lessons

Mojtaba Mahdavi


This paper examines the complex and dialectal interactions between structural and agential factors and how they help or hinder democratization in contemporary Iran. The paper provides an operational definition of structure and agency by subdividing each into three levels of analysis. The structural factors are measured by the nature of the Iranian state (political level), Iran’s uneven development (socio-economic level), and the global structure of power (international level). The agential factors, both in the reform and the counter reform movement, are examined in terms of the leadership capability (individual level), the organizational arrangements (institutional level), and the intellectual discourse (cultural ideological level). The findings suggest that Iran’s future prospects for democratization equally depend on the structural “causes” and the sociopolitical “causers”. Iran’s process of democratization is surrounded by a number of international and domestic obstacles. Theses include Washington’s policy of regime change and the global war on terror, Iran’s oil-centered rentier state, and the lack of strong leadership, well-organized institutions, and an inclusive and engaging political discourse on the part of the reformists.

Full Text:


International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory | ISSN : 1916-2782