Some observers in Iran say that the society has been "radicalized" because of recent protests which were the product of the authoritarian political system.
In an interview with the reformist daily Shargh, sociologist Maghsud Farasatkhah said that the government needs to find answers to a set of urgent national problems including water shortage, capital flight, emigration of human resources, increase in poverty, diminishing economic stability, gender, ethnic and social inequality, and so on.
"But currently, the government has reduced politics to the unilateral omission of 'others' to reinforce its political power," he said, adding that ignoring the need for dialogue has led all politics into an impasse.
Farasatkhah added that a ruling class should come to power by trying to satisfy the aspirations of the people, but this is ignored in Iran, as all decisions are made by an elite whose relations with the rest of the society can be defined as "patriarchal."
Sociologist Maghsud Farasatkhah
By the word "elite," Farasatkhah means a group of non-elected politicians loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, or those who have been elected to positions through a system of biased candidate vetting that merely serves the leader's interests.
According to Farasatkhah, this elite operates via non-transparent and non-accountable institutions in which there are no checks and balances. This will inevitably bring about a conflict between rulers and society. Examples of this are disagreements between the government and the people, such as compulsory hijab. What is prohibited by the government is permissible in the eyes of the nation. The same duality and conflict also exist in many other areas such as the unrestricted access to the Internet, sports, art, education, and so on.
The unrepresentative elite tries to force its views on the people and deny them personal and political freedoms.
In such a situation, when the people are not allowed to take part in politics, they turn into masses, and masses sometimes act as populist politicians and propagandists want them to act. Farasatkhah said that the society currently acts like a mass which is easily overwhelmed by events in Iran and the world. Any incident can potentially upturn the situation, and this is a cause for concern. "I am worried about the future and stability of the society as eventually the people will be the losers in the chain of events.
Farasatkhah said that the way out of this situation is turn the masses back into a society in which vocational, civil, local, and public institutions could be activated to empower the society, make it rational and rob the populists of their leverage.
However, many dissidents and critics might label Farasatkha’s recommendations as wishful thinking within the ideology and structure of the current regime. Nice ideas have been around in Iran for decades, but the regime has prevented all reforms.
In another interview in the same issue of Shargh, Expediency Council member and a long-time regime insider, Majid Ansari said he can see signs that a part of the government has noticed the threats and understood the need for a review of current policies. Ansari is concerned about the threats but is willing to offer his way out of the problem.
Expediency Council member and a long-time regime insider, Majid Ansari
Ansari, an aide to the de facto leader of ‘reformists’ in Iran, former President Mohammad Khatami, said that current protests has put regime politicians and political groups in all factions to test. He acknowledged the people's disillusionment about the factions but still believes that there are still ways to restore people's trust in political groups and even the government.
Iranian protesters have been saying that there is no big difference between the hardliner and reformist factions of the regime and they do not believe in that dichotomy any longer. Regime change, they say, is the only way to resolve the many crises Iran faces.
Ansari also acknowledged that the all-conservative government in Iran has led to "a relative political impasse," but he believes that admitting the mistakes made during the past years and using collective wisdom to make things right will put the nation back on the right track.
However, he did not say why Iran was not able to get on the right track in 44 years since the establishment of the Islamic Republic.
Ansari's solution is mainly based on holding free and fair elections, but doing so requires changes to the constitution or the combination of institutions linked to Khamenei, including the Guardian Council, and it is not clear who can bring Khamenei to terms with the idea of change as in his latest speech on March 21, he ruled out any change in the constitution and attributed the idea of change to "the enemies."