Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran

Article excerpt

Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran, by Daniel Brumberg. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2001. xi + 252 pages. Notes to p. 295. Index to p. 306. $21.

Reviewed by Mehran Kamrava

More than two decades after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, an intense and frequently bitter struggle is now underway among the revolution's surviving heirs. Waged under the still-overwhelming shadow of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's legacy, three generations of Iranian revolutionaries-the revolution's fathers, children, and grandchildren-compete between and within themselves over defining the very essence of what the Islamic Republic stands for and the historic directions toward which it ought to move. In lending credence to its positions, each side claims to be the rightful interpreter of the thoughts, deeds, and words of the Republic's founder. Each group and faction claims the Imam as its own, re-interpreting his legacy to further its own traditional, radical, or reformist agenda. The consequences for Iran of such a contested legacy are of historic importance. It affects not only the multiple processes of political institutionalization underway in the Islamic Republic, but also the validity of the concept of Leadership of the Supreme Jurisconsult (Velayat-e Faqih), and, even more significantly, the very essence of the relationship between religion and politics.

These complex and multi-layered dynamics are masterfully analyzed by Daniel Brumberg in Reinventing Khomeini. The book is essentially an examination of what Brumberg labels as the "dissonant institutionalization" of the Islamic Republic from the earliest days of its establishment until the present. Such dissonance, he maintains, was rooted in the very personality and career of the Islamic Republic's founder, both before and after he became Imam to millions of Iranians. But Khomeini's "multiple biography" and his "multiple shared imaginations" were not unique and characterized Iran's other victorious revolutionaries as well. Thus what became a source of revolutionary credentials and collective legitimacy at one point could at some other time be used as justification for purging previous colleagues and collaborators. What has ensued, according to Brumberg, is a complex process of routinization. …

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