Two prominent sociologists in Iran argue that with the decline in political participation, opportunists got concessions from the state and gained the upper hand.
Mohsen Goudarzi and Abdolmohammad Kazemipour told Shargh newspaper: "We reviewed the data for several decades and we found out that with the decline of trust between the people and the government corruption will rise and the rule of law will take a downturn."
Goudarzi maintained that all this will lead to the government's inefficiency and more corruption which will in turn, further damage the people's trust in the government and other institutions.
He argued that this vicious circle will continue, and as the situation worsens, this is not something citizens can tolerate forever. When the people feel that there is no hope for change and no institutionalized way to bring about change, they will take to the streets.
As long as corruption and inefficiency and other shortcomings persist and cause dissatisfaction, and there is no institutionalized outlet for expressing dissent, protests are always probable.
Goudarzi explained that the government, the economy, and social structures are the main ingredients of a coherent society, but many political elites believe that after politics, the economy plays the most important part in the society. In several periods before and after the 1979 revolution, and even before the revolution, Iranian politicians have asked themselves whether economic development should come before political development or vice versa.
Iranian sociologist Mohsen Goudarzi
A 1969 document called "The Principles of Cultural Policy" and several other studies in the mid-70s about the future of Iran have all considered social crisis as the core problem for Iran. At that time, they referred to it as a cultural crisis. In the 1970s, sociologists believed that Iran's problem was that economic growth was prioritized over cultural and political growth.
The social scientists of the 1970s believed that a fast-paced economic change had altered the material aspects of the people's life. With the transition from traditional agricultural economy to modern industrial economy, large parts of the population migrated from the villages to the margins of urban areas, where they found themselves in an environment with different ideals and values.
Social scientists believed that the newcomers to the cities found themselves alien to the new environment. In order to escape the anxiety of this dislocation, they took refuge in the safe haven of traditions, particularly in religion, Goudarzi added. The transforming society pursued material values and looked forward to a modern future, but at the same time, people did not tolerate the resulting cultural changes.
Yet another problem was that while economic growth was creating a well-off middle class, doors to political participation remained closed. Sociologists Majid Tehranian, Ali Assadi and Hormoz Mehrdad in 1970s believed that focusing on the economy and ignoring its social and political implications by the Iranian government was the root cause of tensions. They believed that in that situation the society was not able to remain stable.
Time proved them right in a matter of only a few years. Since then, sociologists made sure that focusing on the economy without paying attention to people's political and social needs will lead to catastrophe. But ruling politicians in Iran, both then and now, thought that political participation could be relegated to the background. In their book, "What happened? The story of decline of Iranian society," Mohsen Goudarzi and Abdolmohammad Kazemipour have challenged this view. We have laid emphasis on the idea of balance, said Goudarzi.