Reformism, Economic Liberalisation and Popular Mobilisation in Iran

Povey, Tara. 2019. Reformism, Economic Liberalisation and Popular Mobilisation in Iran. Middle East Critique, 28(4), pp. 365-380. ISSN 1943-6149 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Whereas in other MENA countries the impact of neo-liberal policies has been the subject of intense debate, there are at present few voices that directly analyse or critique its social and political consequences in Iran. This article seeks to address this lacuna by analysing the dynamics of reformism, economic liberalisation and popular mobilisation in Iran. It charts the country’s move from a post-revolutionary populism to a liberalised yet increasingly exclusivist model of politics and compares this to trajectories of economic liberalisation in Egypt. Two distinct outcomes of economic reform are analysed in the first part of the article: Socio-economic exclusion; and the contraction of political rights. In the second half, I investigate the ways successive post-war governments in Iran have packaged neo-liberal reforms, and how their re-imagining of the role of the state has led to differing levels of popular resistance. Finally I argue that under the present administration, political elites increasingly are oriented toward strengthening the state and seeking to limit opposition to their policies. However, the absence of neo-liberal hegemony in Iran means that growing mobilization on socio-economic issues is challenging these policies. The Right in Iranian politics is utilizing this mobilisation to present a populist challenge to the reformists in power.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Iran, neo-liberalism, politics, popular mobilization, reformism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology > Unit for Global Justice (UGJ)


2 August 2019Accepted
19 September 2019Published Online

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Dec 2019 10:22

Last Modified:

13 Jun 2021 04:57

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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