The Breakaway Boss: Semiperipheral Innovations and the Rise of Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad

Kevan Harris

Abstract


Within a year of becoming president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad had already confused much of the world. Explanations of his political ascent in a semi-peripheral country rely largely on the concept of charismatic authority. This is a non-explanation, however, as the charismatic historical figure who seemingly holds creative command over the social world also has to be created. Instead, I argue that Ahmadinezhad’s trajectory from an Islamist engineering student to the presidency of a post-revolutionary state highlights three mechanisms of social-political innovation that are bounded by space and time: the situated overlap of social capital, the paradox of vertical clientage, and the breakaway of the machine boss. These mechanisms are usually misread as timeless signifiers of national backwardness or as charismatic dei ex machina. By showing these mechanisms at work through biography, we can challenge scholarly and popular explanations of social change that implicitly rehash modernization theory.


Full Text:

PDF

References


Ahmadi-Amui, Bahman. 2003. Political Economy of the Islamic Republic. Tehran: Gam-e No Press.

Ahmadinezhad, Mahmoud and Hossein Saleh-Zadeh. 2003. Tunnels in Simple Language. Tehran: Science and Technology University Press.

Ahmadinezhad, Mahmoud. 2009. Son of the Nation. Tehran: Raja News.

Alem, Yasmin. 2011. Duality by Design: The Iranian Electoral System. Washington D.C.: International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

Anderson, Benedict. 2006. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.

Andreas, Joel. 2009. Rise of the Red Engineers: The Cultural Revolution and the Origins of China’s New Class. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Ansari, Ali. 2008. “Iran Under Ahmadinejad: Populism and Its Malcontents.” International Affairs 84(4):683—700.

Arrighi, Giovanni. 1994. The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times. London: Verso.

Auyero, Javier. 2012. “Poor People’s Lives and Politics: The Things a Political Ethnographer Knows (and Doesn’t Know) After 15 Years of Fieldwork.” New Perspectives on Turkey 46:95—127.

Barseghian, Serge. 2011. “Lord of the Rings: The Story of the Ongoing Breakdown of Ahmadinezhad’s Entourage.” Shahrvand-e Emruz 79: 24-27.

Bayly, Christopher. 1988. Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1996. The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Broadbent, Jeffrey. 2003. “Movement in Context: Thick Social Networks and Environmental Mobilization in Japan.” Pp. 204—29 in Social Movements and Networks: Relational Approaches to Collective Action, edited by Mario Diani and Doug McAdam. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Burawoy, Michael and Karl Von Holdt. 2012. Conversations With Bourdieu: The Johannesburg Moment. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.

Chase-Dunn, Christopher, Hiroko Inoue, Teresa Neal, and Evan Heimlich. 2015. “The Development of World-Systems.” Sociology of Development 1(1):149—72.

Chehabi, Houchang. 1997. “Ardabil Becomes a Province: Center-Periphery Relations in Iran.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 29:235—53.

Chehabi, Houchang. 2012. “The Reform of Iranian Nomenclature and Titulature in the Fifth Majles.” Pp. 84—116 in Converging Zones: Persian Literary Tradition and the Writing of History: Studies in Honor of Amin Banani, edited by Wali Ahmadi. Costa Mesa: Mazda.

Cook, Michael. 1992. “On the Origins of Wahhābism.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 2(2):191—202.

Cook, Michael. 2014. Ancient Religions, Modern Politics: The Islamic Case in Comparative Perspective. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Cooper, Frederick and Ann Laura Stoler. 1997. Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Derluguian, Georgi. 2005. Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus: A World-System Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Derman, Joshua. 2012. Max Weber in Politics and Social Thought: From Charisma to Canonization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dirks, Nicholas. 2006. The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Doostdar, Ali. 2012. “Fantasies of Reason: Science, Superstition, and the Supernatural in Iran.” Ph.D. dissertation in Middle East Studies. Cambridge: Harvard University.

Ehsani, Kaveh. 1999. “Municipal Matters: The Urbanization of Consciousness and Political Change in Tehran.” Middle East Report 212:22—27.

Ehsani, Kaveh. 2009. “The Urban Provincial Periphery in Iran: Revolution and War in Ramhormoz.” Pp. 38—76 in Contemporary Iran: Economy, Society, Politics, edited by Ali Gheissari. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ehsani, Kaveh. 2013. “The Politics of Property in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Pp. 153—78 in The Rule of Law, Islam, and Constitutional Politics in Egypt and Iran, edited by Said Arjomand and Nathan Brown. Albany: SUNY Press.

Ekiert, Grzegorz. 2010. “The End of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe: The Last Middle-Class Revolution?” Political Power and Social Theory 21:99—123.

Gambetta, Diego and Steffen Hertog. 2009. “Why Are There So Many Engineers Among Islamic Radicals?” European Journal of Sociology 50(2):201—30.

Ghamari-Tabrizi, Behrooz. 2014. “The Divine, the People, and the Faqih: On Khomeini’s Theory of Sovereignty.” Pp. 211—38 in A Critical Introduction to Khomeini, edited by Arshin Adib-Moghaddam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goffman, Erving. 1989. “On Fieldwork.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 18(2):123—32.

Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. New York: International.

Habibi, Nader. 1989. “Allocation of Educational and Occupational Opportunities in the Islamic Republic of Iran: A Case Study in the Political Screening of Human Capital.” Iranian Studies 22(4):19—46.

Harris, Kevan. 2012. “The Brokered Exuberance of the Middle Class: An Ethnographic Analysis of Iran’s 2009 Green Movement.” Mobilization: An International Quarterly 17(4):435—55.

Harris, Kevan. 2013. “The Rise of the Subcontractor State: Politics of Pseudo-Privatization in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 45:45—70.

Hirschman, Albert. 1991. The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy. Cambridge: Belknap Harvard University Press.

Hooglund, Eric. 1986. “Social Origins of the Revolutionary Clergy.” Pp. 74—83 in The Iranian Revolution and the Islamic Republic, edited by Nikki Keddie and Eric Hooglund. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

International Crisis Group. 2005. Iran: What Does Ahmadi-Nejad’s Victory Mean? Washington D.C.: International Crisis Group.

Khomeini, Ruhollah. 1983-1994. Sahifeh-Ye Nur. Tehran: The Institute for the Publication of Imam’s Works.

Khosrokhavar, Farhad. 2001. “Neo-Conservative Intellectuals in Iran.” Critique: Journal for Critical Studies of the Middle East 10(19):5—30.

Kotkin, Stephen. 1995. Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Menashri, David. 1992. Education and the Making of Modern Iran. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Mintz, Sidney. 1989. Caribbean Transformations. New York: Columbia University Press.

Mirsepassi, Ali. 2004. “The Tragedy of the Iranian Left.” Pp. 229—49 in Reformers and Revolutionaries in Modern Iran: New Perspectives on the Iranian Left, edited by Stephanie Cronin. London: RoutledgeCurzon.

Naji, Kasra. 2008. Ahmadinejad: The Secret History of Iran’s Radical Leader. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Padgett, John. 2012. “The Politics of Communist Economic Reform.” Pp. 271—315 in The Emergence of Organizations and Markets, edited by John Padgett and Walter Powell. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Pincus, Steve. 2009. 1688: The First Modern Revolution. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Pye, Lucian. 1958. “The Non-Western Political Process.” The Journal of Politics 20(3):468—86.

Rabinow, Paul. 1989. French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Scott, James. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Shahrvand-e Emruz. 2008. "Interview with Ibrahim Esrafilian." Shahrvand-e Emruz 59: 61-64.

Stinchcombe, Arthur. 1999. “Ending Revolutions and Building New Governments.” Annual Review of Political Science 2(1):49—73.

Swedberg, Richard. 1991. Joseph A. Schumpeter: His Life and Work. Cambridge: Polity.

Taylor, Peter. 1996. The Way the Modern World Works: World Hegemony to World Impasse. London: Wiley.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2011 [1989]. The Modern World-System III: The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy, 1730s-1840s. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Weber, Eugen. 1976. Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Wright, Gwendolyn. 1991. The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Zaman, Muhammad Qasim. 2015. “The Sovereignty of God in Modern Islamic Thought.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 25(3):389—418.

Zubaida, Sami. 2011. Beyond Islam: A New Understanding of the Middle East. London: I.B. Tauris.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2015.13

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.




Copyright (c) 2015 Kevan Harris

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.