Gramsci and the root of passiveness in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution 1906-1911

Karim Pourhamzavi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Culture is frequently used to explain socio-political underdevelopment in the Peripheral countries, including Iran. In particular, national culture is viewed as retarding modernisation of the political and economic systems and the society generally. This paper regards such approaches as being essentially Orientalist. Instead, it suggests, Iranian underdevelopment is best analysed through the Core-Periphery lens adopted by critical theorists. Accordingly, the case of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1906-1911 is examined through this lens, via Gramsci's concept of 'passive revolution'. The paper also uses Trotsky's insights regarding combined and uneven development. It argues that the Iranian constitutionalists were able to establish an 'historic bloc', as identified by Gramsci, but this bloc was unable to become hegemonic and modernise and develop Iran's economy and society. This failure was due to the power of the Anglo-Russian imperial forces that dominated Iran for over a century and a half and the concomitant weakness of the kind of bourgeoisie and allied social layers that had led democratic, modernising revolutions in what are now First World or Core countries. Underdevelopment in Iran is therefore the product of the impact of imperialism rather than the product of Iranian culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-363
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2019


  • Iran
  • hegemony
  • underdevelopment
  • historic bloc
  • passive revolution
  • Anglo-Russian domination
  • global periphery


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