The State and Rural Development in Post-Revolutionary Iran
Nowshirvani, Vahid, The Middle East Journal
The State and Rural Development in PostRevolutionary Iran, by Ali Shakoori. Basingstoke, UK and New York: Palgrave, 2001. xii + 171 pages. Tables to p. 185. Bibl. to p. 210. Index to p. 217. $65.
Reviewed by Vahid Nowshirvani
The pre-Revolutionary regime in Iran was widely criticized for its agrarian policies, which many contended were responsible for low productivity in agriculture, dependence on food imports, rising income inequality, and a high rate of rural migration to the cities. From the very beginning, the Islamic regime sought to reverse these trends by giving higher priority to the rural sector in general and to agricultural development in particular. The rural development policies adopted and their long-term impact on rural living conditions, which the author contends have not been studied in a systematic way, is the stated focus of Professor Shakoori's book (p. 7).
Unfortunately, he promises more than he delivers. Much of the book goes little beyond summarizing previous, and by now dated, studies; and only one of the six chapters deals with the author's own field research in six Eastern Azerbaijan villages.
The author starts with a review of the theoretical debate on modernization and rural change and then provides an account of the long-term transformation of the rural sector up to the advent of the Islamic Revolution, concentrating in particular on the Shah's land reform and its alleged adverse consequences. Perhaps the most useful part of the book is the chapter describing the post-revolution policies concerning land reform, the reorganization of agricultural administration, including the establishment of the Construction Crusade (Jehad), and the transformation of village level political and administrative structures. This is a good summary of the institutional changes implemented during the first decade of the Revolution, but adds little to the treatment of the subject provided in the sources extensively quoted by Professor Shakoori.
Chapter 4 consists of a perfunctory account of the performance of the agricultural sector and the economic policies adopted to promote its growth. Spotty coverage, flawed analysis, and contradictory statements make this chapter particularly unsatisfactory. For example, to show the failure of the government to fund agricultural investment adequately, the author compares the rate of growth of investment and agricultural loans to the rate of inflation. Given that investment goods and agricultural inputs were highly subsidized, mainly through the exchange rate, the consumer price index is an inappropriate deflator. He states that "all major crops experienced a steady rise in yield," but in the very next sentence asserts that "output growth tended to be slow and irregular" (p. …