“The past is a foreign country.” David Lowenthal
There is no doubt that there could be many discussions and talks on the nature of Iranian modernity. This subject requires an independent discussion. Several implications and terms have been used to introduce Iranian modernity in contemporary time. Traditionalism, economic independence, fundamentalism, dogmatism, emulation, secularism, religious reform and others are among terms which have been used by the Iranian intellects and politicians to express new Iranian situation. It seems that the entire terms mentioned above have been aiming at the contextual elements of the Iranian modernity. If so, the Iranian modernity is not a pure and integrated issue; but is in fact a mixed and historical matter with several peaks. The main peaks are religious-trends and anti-religious thoughts, westernization and anti-western ideologies. What we are discussing is the result of mixing all these elements and categories.
After World War II, most of the social and political thinkers have thought that the only way of developing the third world countries is following by the Western countries. This idea has internalized by governors by making a new planning and managing of the development institution and train the people. Because of dismissing the internal factors such as human resources and cultural matters this plan has failed. Therefore, many of the developing thinkers have changed their ideas and criticized modernization paradigm. The paradigm changes from the traditional view which focuses on a general and unify plan to the new one (Hage, 1980, Wallarstine, 1989, and Berman, 2000). They have supposed the idea that each country can develop based on its social, cultural, and economic circumstances. Berman has emphasized on different versions of modernization in all of the world. On the other hand, the only way of seeing this process theoretically right is to focus each culture and society based on its experiences. In terms of the history of modern era in Iran, relationship with European societies in the 19th century gave a new appearance to the domestic activities of the country in political, cultural and economic respects and made Iran a country different from both its own past and other countries of the region.
On the other hand, The challenge is becoming acute in the wake of the recent upheavals and transformations that have been ongoing, arrival of military technology, industry sets, new trade and banking system, modern knowledge and science, establishing some new institutions such universities and schools, new ways of training and education, communication means, books publication, photography industry, social and cultural evens such as social movement in Qajar regime and later Constitutional Revolution in 1905 and followed it by the Iranian/ Islamic Revolution in 1979 were all effective in the development of the new environment in Iran. This new era has been defined by social scientists and Intellectuals as modern era (Azadarmaki, 2001)
Each one of the above-mentioned elements had have a different role in changing the Iranian traditional world to new, developing a modern world. This shows that Iran is a society in the international context not isolated part. Iran has gotten the modern position through the international society. Hence, it is not true to say that Iran is out of the international and global space because of dual relationships. It should say that there is common and mutual relationship between Iran and Western countries and cultures over time. The main idea in different levels (individual, local, institutional, national, and international ones) the society get modern.
To nominate event(s), time or space for starting position of Iranian modernity is very hard. Because there is less common sense among Iranian intellectuals on this matter. Some believe the role of printing books and literature as to be higher than technology (Bahar, 1299 (1920)) while those who defend materialistic development believe technology as to be more important than cultural and literacy renovation. Nevertheless, this paper is not trying to identify the difference of views in this area. In terms of the above theoretical view, we are concerned to discuss and identify the new situation of Iran within the framework of global modernity not Western modernity. Hence, the main question is as follow: “What is the nature and characteristics of Iranian Modernity?”. If we want to have a perfect understanding on this situation, we should work on a broad framework which many questions can be raised:
Is Iranian modernity a suitable term in expressing the new situation of Iran?
Within what processes the Iranian modern experience have formed?
What are the characteristics, specifications and elements of Iranian modernity?
Who have been the main builders, administrators and refiners of Iranian modernity?
Is Iranian modernity acquirable, examinable with capacities to be empirically examined or, if it is a subject just to be sensed?
Based on our main aim in this paper, among the above questions, we are going to work on the following question: “What is the nature of the new situation of Iranian society. Emphasizing on “present” as reality is the main idea which many Iranian intellectuals, artists, movie makers, writers, and politicians have focused and started their thought and activities on. For example, Iranian movie makers labeled their works based on Iranian not nobody or savaged and backward people. They have dogged their everyday social life and make movies on it. The results of emphasizing and understanding “the present time and situation” has been developed based on their experiences in the present. The Iranian modernity is emotional, sensational and humanitarian. The Iranian modernity is a mixture (national and global) phenomenon.
In discussing on the concept of Iranian modernity I have been depended on the following assumption: any society in the contemporary world has its own way of development and modernization. It is not true that all of the societies follow the way of development and modernization which Western countries have done. Each society can be developed based on its social and cultural circumstances. Therefore, any society is somehow in some levels of modernization and have its own modernity.
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