Creating Local Democracy in Iran:
State Building and the politics of Decentralization
Author(s): Kian Tajbakhsh
Reviewed by: Ammar Khan Nasir, Gujranwala, Pakistan
Reviewed by: Ammar Khan Nasir, Gift University, Pakistan
Published by – Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2022, 303pp. ISBN: 978-1009160919.
The book under review examines the origins and consequences of the decentralization process that the Islamic Republic of Iran initiated since the 1990s. The author considers it “the most significant transformation of the institutions of the Islamic Republic of Iran since its inception in 1979” (p. 286). The author combines a chronological study of the developments in this period with a sociopolitical analysis to explain a phenomenon that may seem paradoxical for Western observers: how the decentralization process increased, rather than reduced, the sphere of control of the centralist Islamist regime of Iran. The author has a unique perspective for the study and analysis of this state-building phase in the history of modern Iran, as he participated in some of the international efforts to promote local democracy and human rights in Iran and endured more than six years of imprisonment for alleged subversive activities.
The book provides sufficient background information to enable the reader to comprehend the rationale and dynamics of decentralization in Iran. The author emphasizes the close connection between the modernization of state apparatus and decentralization. He argues that effective modern state-building necessitates some level of decentralization, even for authoritarian regimes. In the same vein, Iran experienced decentralization initiatives after the constitutional revolution of 1907.
Local participation was also endorsed by The Islamist regime that came to power in 1979, as it was consistent with the Islamic principles of governance. The author