Political Sophistications and the War of Philosophies

  March 26, 2022   Read time 2 min
Political Sophistications and the War of Philosophies
Unable to criticize political conditions, intellectuals, publicists and activist journalists turned attention to domestic cultural and moral conditions emerging as a result of Westernization and to undermining the idea of the West’s civilizational superiority.

Two works in this genre, Jalal Al-e Ahmad’s Occidentosis: A Plague from the West (Qarbzadegi) and Ehsan Naraqi’s Atomization and Loneliness in the West (Qorbat-e Qarb), are briefly examined here given their influence on Rastakhiz discourses of antiWest Occidentalism. The choice of these two works is not reflective of a belief that only they exercised a strong influence on educated opinion and party discourses. Al-e Ahmad’s work is well known and any discussion of this topic rise must include it. Worthy of note is the fact that not he but Ahmad Fardid first coined the term. Fardid, a strong follower of Heidigger, ‘claimed a neo-mystical reading of Islam corresponding to Martin Heidigger’s critique of Western modernity’. Nonetheless, al-e Ahmad’s work made the term famous and thus has been frequently covered in the literature, especially in the search for the causes of the 1979 Revolution.

Naraqi’s work, although relatively unknown outside of Iran and within the existing literature, exercised a strong direct and indirect influence on state discourses and educated opinion. First, Naraqi was a cultural advisor to the empress and a member of the committee charged with writing the Philosophy of the Revolution established by the shah. These positions brought his views close to the centre of power. In addition, at the end of the 1960s he joined the UNESCO World Heritage Project in Iran whose goal was the preservation of material culture which was regarded as a repository of cultural authenticity. Second, his work was serialized in Rastakhiz publications. Third, Rastakhiz publications frequently solicited articles and editorials from him and published his remarks made in other public venues. Al-eAhmad never enjoyed such official links and platform.

Al-e Ahmad in 1944, turning his back on his Islamic identity despite or because of his father’s religiosity, joined the Tudeh Party. By 1948 he abandoned Tudeh over its willingness to tow Moscow’s political and ideological lines and subsequently supported Mossadegh. During the 1950s he started an intellectual return to Islam as the source of authenticity of culture and national identity. This journey’s result can be seen in the themes he included in a research paper on the Goals of Iranian Education delivered at the Congress held in 1961. Its proceedings were published the following year but without his report. This infuriated Ahmad: ‘The Ministry of Culture was neither worthy nor capable of publishing this report. The time had not yet come for one of the office of the Ministry of Culture to publish a report like this one officially’.

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