Japanese development and Iranian uneven development: a Gramscian perspective

Marziyeh Asgarivash, Karim Pourhamzavi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Why Iran is underdeveloped and significantly dominated by imperial Western powers has been debated among Iranian intellectuals for more than a century. Japan’s rise in the late 19th/early 20th centuries and its defeat of Russia in 1904-5 made it something of a model that Iran might follow in order to catch up
with the developed capitalist world. Approaches which focus on this have been essentially liberal and “cultural” in nature. The aim of the current study is to re-examine the question of Iranian underdevelopment, using Gramsci’s heritage to compare the actual contexts and material/historical roots of Japanese development and Iranian underdevelopment. That is, to suggest the Japanese indigenous programme to develop the country was not significantly interrupted by foreign imperial powers. However, in the Iranian case, the emergence of multiple historical blocs and their progressive agendas were repeatedly interrupted and defeated by the dominating imperial powers, namely Britain, Russia and, from the mid-20th century onwards, the United States. The comparison between the two historical cases of Iran and Japan indicate that the global economic system played a crucial role in shaping the development
of Japan and the uneven development/underdevelopment of Iran.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Gramsci Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • development
  • uneven development
  • Iran
  • Japan
  • hegemony
  • imperialism
  • Gramsci


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