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Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran Paperback – 1 Aug 2001

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About the Author

Daniel Brumberg is an assistant professor of government at Georgetown University. He is the editor of "Ethnicity, Pluralism, and Democracy: A Critical Reader."

Inside This Book

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The notion that modern societies are beset by institutional and symbolic contradictions is hardly new. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Complex and Reavealing But Not Polemical 24 April 2001
By "ftarrington" - Published on
Format: Paperback
Far from reducing the Islamic Republic of Iran to some kind of timeless expression of Islamic culture, tradition, or identity, the author demonstrates the competing ideological influences that shaped the Islamic Republic -- not least of which were Western notions of political particpation. The author does a good job of showing how these tensions are reflected in the reform movement, and in the struggle for power currently unfolding in Iran. Thus I found the book very useful. I would only add that the author may have given insufficient attention to the power of the conservative clerics.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
useful but not without serious flaws 18 April 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Brumberg's "Reinventing Khomeini" is a useful contribution to the literature on the Islamic Republic - it provides some important information and offers some insight into how Khomeini's at times contradictory ideas about government led to what Brumberg terms "dissonant institutionalization", namely the competing instituions and ideologies that have helped create the crisis in Iran today. However, the book has serious flaws, and its importance is in part due to the small number of books on post-Khomeini Iran (see Mehdi Moslem's new book and Nikki Keddie's 2003 updated book, Modern Iran) The first problem is that it is overwritten and relies too heavily on theories of authority and charisma. The author's argument could have been made without repeated, lengthy discussion of Weber et All. Second, the author has too high an opinion of his own work, claiming that all other interpretations fall into two categories of interpreting political power (symbolic and instrumental). On p. 41 he even claims that his work "transcends" that of other, excellent contributions. Brumberg claims his interpretation is the most nuanced while other authors fall into these categories when in fact many of the works he critizes are not as monolithic as he states - so, while Haggay Ram might provide an "instrumentalist" interpretation of propaganda in speeches, it is unfair to claim that Ram thinks that the speeches were nothing but propaganda and that the clerics did not themselves believe them. Finally, Brumberg relies too heavily on other people's translations of Persian sources - he even admits that he required help reading the Persian sources he uses - which severly limits his purview. One gets the impression that his reliance on theory is a substitute for in inability to discuss more primary sources with greater authority. Finally, while Brumberg has a good grounding in Iranian history, he makes some flawed assesement on basic facts - so, when accounting for the timing of Khomeini's open opposition to the Shah in 1963 Brumberg hardly mentions that this new path was in part opened because of the death of the highest ranking cleric, the Marja-e Taqlif and Ayatollah Borujerdi in 1961, who disapproved of clerics' involvement in politics. This book is useful and worth reading - esp. the second half - but cannot be considered definitive in any way. Interested readers should also read Mehdi Moslem's new book "Factional Politics in Post-Khomeini Iran", which based on a far wider range of sources.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Shows the roots of modern Iranian politics 12 Jun. 2002
By studentofislamichistory - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book's title could be misleading if one assumes this work is a revisionist biography of Ayatollah Khomeini. However, it is not the author who is doing the reinventing, but rather Iranians themselves, as different political factions draw on different aspects of Khomeini's life and thought to justify their agenda.
Brumberg draws heavily on social science in his analysis, which means this could be a tough slog for the casual reader. He traces the development, first of Khomeini's own ideas about government and religion, and then how these ideas influenced different political groups after the revolution, such as President Khatami's reform movement.
Readers of this work will see an Islamic Republic far more dynamic than the one usually portrayed in the media, and see how, far from being a struggle between a true, hard-line Khomeinism and Westernized reformers, the reformers themselves look to Khomeini as a guide, and Khomeini was heavily influenced by the West. This is a must-read for all who wish to understand Iran today.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
needs to learn Persian and use real Persian sources 22 April 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is worth reading, however, it is annoying in places. Brumberg comes off as arrogant and patronizing to his readers; he also puts down other books on the subject that are, in fact, better than his own. Essentially, he seems to think that most other books on the Revolution and the Islamic Republic of Iran are too simple, falling into two possible categories, while his offers some new level of sophistication, which just is not the case. While he does have some good points and has a compelling overall interpretation, he does not outdo a number of the authors he critizes. Interestingly, those authors have tackled a far wider range of original language sources, while Brumberg relies on translations such as FBIS reports. His lack of Persian skills (which he at least admits) result in a shameless reliance on quotes taken from quoted passages in other books - just look at his footnotes; so many are "quoted in...". The problem here is that thes quotes he uses have been selected by another author, which means Brumberg doesn't have a broader picture. Also, this book is so patronizing at times: readers do not need a theoretical chapter such as "Multiple Personalities" to explain that an individual's diverse experiences in life can result in his or her having contradictory ideas. Yet, the book is still worth reading, mostly because for all its faults, it offers a nuanced picture of the evolution of the Islamic Republic with some new narrative info. as well.
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