This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals
Iranian modernity has thrown eurocentric limitations of classical social theory into the sharpest relief. This has led to the dominance of micro-theoretical or narrative accounts of Iranian modernity that elide the need for a radical reconstruction of classical social theory away from its eurocentric foundations. This intellectual posture’s porosity to essentialism is reinforced by the anti-universalism of post-structuralist and post-colonial approaches. By contrast, this paper seeks to deploy Iran’s distinct experience of modernity and revolution to pinpoint the root cause of classical social theory’s eurocentrism, and sketch an alternative non-eurocentric social theory that comprehends historical difference as a universal feature of, and organic to, social development. Through a critical interrogation of Weberian and Marxian historical sociology the paper traces classical social theory’s eurocentrism to its ontologically singular conception of society, which furnishes ‘internalist’ conceptions of social change. The paper therefore argues for a social theory that is based on a plural social ontology that assigns a constitutive and generative theoretical status to international relations understood as the interactive co-existence of all historical forms of social coherence in mutually recognized integrities. The argument culminates in a novel conception of social change in which societies’ interactive co-existence enters into their individual existence and vice-versa. Consequently, variation in the experience and outcomes of modernity are recast as an organic property of the international dimension of social change itself. These theoretical arguments are outlined and substantiated through empirical investigations of two key episodes in Iran’s modern history, the Constitutional Revolution and the 1979 revolution.