A Structuralist Rereading of the Dialectics of ‎Infrastructure and Superstructure in the ‎Governmentality‏ ‏of Ardashir's Reign‎

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Law & Political Science, ‎Ferdowsi University, Mashhad, Iran. ‎

2 A PhD Candidate in Political Science, Faculty of Law & Political Science, ‎Ferdowsi University, Mashhad, Iran. ‎



The Era of Ardashir (Ahd-e Ardashīr), is attributed to Ardashir, the founder of the ancient Sasanian Empire (224-651 A.D.) and is a historical text on how to govern considering the principle of expediency in this dynasty. The importance of Ardashir's Testament is that it presents Ardashir's ideas on statecraft and policy based on his experience in governance. This work gave political advice to the Sasanian Shāhanshāh (King of Kings) as the supreme royal authority on acquiring, maintaining, and consolidating power. In his writing, Ardashir proposed the appropriate use of various instruments—including realistic wisdom, coercive power, job creation, religion, and Farrah-e īzadi (mystical divine force)—which had the attribute of infrastructure (the base) and superstructure (e.g., politics, laws, civil society) in governmentality. He intended to teach his successors of the Sasanian empire and the future generation of Persian rulers when and how to use force as an instrument or use religion as the ideological superstructure of the government. Ardashir presented his views about specific infrastructure and superstructure instruments of governance and drew attention to the proportional use of these instruments in different situations with which a ruler is confronted. This writing depicted a collection of ancient Persian maxims, and Iranian political wisdom which subsequently influenced Islamic political though. More significant was the edict that ideology and religion could be useful in running the kingdom, because of the unity of religion and state as illustrated by the claim that “king's authority is guarding religion, and religion is the foundation of king's authority”.
The main research question to be answered is, “what is the nature of the relationship between the ideological superstructure (such as religion, justice, Farrah-e īzadi) and the infrastructure (foundation) of governance (e.g., the use of force and bureaucracy) in Ahd-e Ardashir?” In the hypothesis, the authors argue that there is a continuous and organic relationship between the infrastructure and the superstructure of Ardashir’s political system, as described in Ahd-e Ardashir. Using the framework of Althusser's theory of ideology and ideological state apparatuses, the organic relationship between the superstructure and the infrastructure of governance is analyzed. The argument will be articulated by drawing from the literature that exists on Ardashir's edicts of governance and his views on issues such as establishing a central power with an organized bureaucratic system, consolidating power in his domain, relations with the outside world during the reign of Ardashir. In Althusser’s view, religion as an ideological superstructure of a political system can be reflected in private and public spheres. What emerges from the content of Ahd-e Ardashīr is that religion can flow into the society mainly through the public channel—i.e., the public institutions related to the government. The relationship between Althusser's infrastructure and the state repression apparatus can also be seen in Ahd-e Ardashīr. In this paper, the infrastructure and superstructure of governance are first discussed and then connection between the two are examined. In conformity with Althusser's arguments, it is shown that ideological superstructure helped maintain the power of the state during the reign of Ardashir.


Main Subjects

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