May 18, 2007


An appeal for empire: a review of
Theology of Discontent by Hamid Dabashi
(Dmitry Shlapentokh, 7/19/07, Asia Times)

Hamid Dabashi, an eminent specialist in Iranian studies from Columbia University, following a sort of romanticized version of post-modernism, states that a philosophy based on a new interpretation of Islam was able to permeate the minds of Iranians and was the prime engine for change. Discarding socioeconomic or political reasons for discontent, he sees the revolution as caused primarily by a new vision of an ideal society that had been shaped by several key Iranian intellectuals.

In Dabashi's view, this dream about the ideal society is a myth. This statement is hardly novel. The assumption that revolution is a sort of attempt to materialize the myth is quite popular in European and Russian thought and has often been employed by conservative historians of the major modern European revolutions, eg, French and Russian, to demonstrate the basic unworkability of revolutions. The attempt to create the ideal society usually led, in the view of these historians, to the opposite result: a nightmare of tyranny and terror.

How different history might be if Ayatollah Khomeini had been exiled to London instead of Paris....

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 18, 2007 6:57 AM

I don't know that it would have been that much different. Karl Marx wrote in London.

Posted by: Brandon at May 18, 2007 8:14 AM

I was going to make Brandon's point, tho it's worth stating that Marx had spent a lot of time in France as well, before the 1848 Revolution, and that the foundation for his philosophy lay in his French experience. See for example his "18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte."

Also, the fact that they're in London or England in general hasn't seemed to influence for the better the extremist clerics.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 18, 2007 8:38 AM

Hmmmm. Who else spent time in France?

Ho Chi Min
Pol Pot

I'm sure there were others, but this is three butchers who were steeped in France. Good enough for me to arrive at a rule-of-thumb: Something about France is toxic.

Posted by: ray at May 18, 2007 10:44 AM