Acting under Tyranny: Hannah Arendt and the Foundations of Democracy in Iran

Constellations 20 (2):328-346 (2013)

Amidst the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East and the reshaping of political systems in the region, the Iranian people remain mired in difficulties on their path to democratization. Much of this can be blamed on the gradual decline in activity within Iranian civil society and the stagnation of political imagination. If Iran is to have a future built on the solid foundation of a viable and legitimate political authority, Iranian civic actors must reimagine and revisit the notion of constitution-making through sustained dissent and deliberation. Hannah Arendt's ideas are extremely helpful in this regard. The main purpose of this essay will be to explore how some of her most useful concepts may be applicable in the Iranian context. Briefly tracing the history of Iran since the Islamic Revolution, the paper then turns to a deeper examination of Arendt’s ideas to determine how they can foster resistance, civic engagement and eventual legitimate authority. The focus in the end will be on what Iranians can do to begin anew, to build foundations for the future, and to tell themselves a new story about their identity.
Keywords Political Philosophy  Political Theory  Democratic Theory  Deliberative Democracy  Agonism  Pluralism  Democratization  Hannah Arendt
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DOI 10.1111/cons.12041
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