The Impact of Cleavages on the Consensus Crisis and the Issue of Development in Iran

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Professor, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Iran

2 A PhD Candidate in Political Science, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran


For effective policy-making over long-term development planning horizons in Iran, there is a need for the redefinition of the goals and approaches which are constructively unified and collaborative at the micro and macro levels. In the contemporary Iranian society, one can observe numerous divisions which are rooted in the threefold identity of Iranians based on Islamic, western, and national parts. The discord and lack of consensus caused by a multitude of intellectual, ideational, social, political, attitudinal differences and conflicts have acted as barriers to development of Iran. In the first section, the authors briefly discuss significant events in the contemporary history of Iran such as the Constitutional Revolution, the coup d'état which pave the way for the authoritarian rule of Mohammad Reza Shah, the top-down government efforts to modernize and industrialize which led to injustice and deprivation in a fast-growing economy, as well as the widespread social mobilization which culminated  in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. They then address the contradictory worldviews of those who oppose the Western liberal model of economic development. Therefore, they in its place have been searching for a new model of development which is appropriate for Iran's socio-economic environment. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, some decision-makers in the government and influential stakeholders have advocated the traditional model of development as used in the world, but some other groups have been calling for choosing  other patterns of progress which are more adaptable to Iranian-Islamic characteristics of the country. They have been critical of the traditional model of development which they believe is not appropriate for Iran. The disagreements on the meaning of the concept of development, and the most suitable and effective instruments of achieving the goals of national development have transformed Iranian policymaking into a complicated issue.
   The authors attempt to find answers to the following research questions: 1- What are the most important factors which have contributed to the failure of Iran’s development plans? 2- How can the model of good governance solve the problems of successful formulation and implementation of the national development plans in the Islamic Republic of Iran? In the substantive hypothesis, it is asserted that the deep  divisions,  which  have been manifested in myriad ways in Iranian society and the ensuing crisis of lack of consensus are the most important factors contributing to the failures of development plans; and if the disunity is continued, it can cause instability. It seems that the focus on “good governance” could be the key to solving the problem of consensus-building and also help the policymakers to confront the challenges of development with the help of the civil society and the private sector. Good governance depends on a set of issues such as transparency, the fight against corruption, accountability and the rule of law. Consensus building requires the full participation of all stakeholders including the minorities, and marginalized groups in the society. In the last section, a list of practical recommendations on socio-economic and political development are provided. They include: 1- Reducing the number of decision-making bodies and eliminating their parallel operation; 2- Defining rights and duties more clearly in order to reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation aimed at strengthening the status of the powerful decisionmakers and those who are tasked with policy implementation in the public institutions; 3- Providing greater opportunities for minorities including ethnic groups and women for the purpose of accelerating the process of nation-building and sustainable development; 4- Reviewing foreign policy objectives and the instruments used to achieve the goals of securing and guaranteeing national interests; 5- Increasing political capacity for broad participation and support for fundamental freedoms aimed at closing the gaps between the ruling elites and the citizens. Development in Iran requires an approach based on the principles of Islamic, indigenous and modern identities. Political divide is deep and wide but it is imperative to find common ground to reach the consensus needed for development. It seems that a change in governance practices is inevitable for economic development. political stability and national security.



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