Pay, “Republican Islam: Power and Authority in Iran”

This month, I.B. Taurus will release “Republican Islam: Power and Authority in Iran” by Vahid Nick Pay (Political Analyst and Consultant). The publisher’s description follows:

When the Islamic Republic of Iran launched its fully-articulated political agenda in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution, it merged the concept of political Islam with the previously secular readings of the republican doctrine of state. This book provides an analysis of the constitutional and institutional structure of public power in the most emblematic instance of a theocratic republic to date: the Islamic Republic of Iran, using the methods of political science. Nearly four decades after the 1979 revolution, a thorough evaluation of Iran’s prevalently anti-modernist political discourse and concurrent claims of republican popular sovereignty is here carried out and their theoretical coherence and applied success investigated. Vahid Nick Pay surveys the major republican schools of political philosophy on the one hand, and the principal narratives of the prevailing Shi’a political theology on the other, to provide a pioneering evaluation of the republican credentials of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It will be essential reading for scholars of political science and modern Iranian politics and history.

Rieffer-Flanagan, “Evolving Iran: An Introduction to Politics and Problems in the Islamic Republic”

Early this year, Georgetown published Evolving Iran: An Introduction to Politics 9781589019782and Problems in the Islamic Republic, by Barbara Ann Rieffer-Flanagan (Central Washington University). The publisher’s description follows.

Evolving Iran presents an overview of how the politics and policy decisions in the Islamic Republic of Iran have developed since the 1979 revolution and how they are likely to evolve in the near future. Despite the fact that the revolution ushered in a theocracy, its political system has largely tended to prioritize self-interest and pragmatism over theology and religious values, while continuing to reinvent itself in the face of internal and international threats.

The author also examines the prospects for democratization in Iran. Since the early years of the twentieth century, Iranians have attempted to make their political system more democratic, yet various attempts to produce a system where citizens have a meaningful voice in political decisions have failed. This book argues that greater democratization is unlikely to occur in the short term, especially in light of increased threats from the international community.

This accessible overview of Iran’s political system covers a broad array of subjects, including foreign policy, human rights, women’s struggle for equality, the development and evolution of elections, and the institutions of the political system including the Revolutionary Guards and Assembly of Experts. It will appeal to undergraduates and the general public who seek to understand a country and regime that has mystified Westerners for decades.

Panel: “Whose God Rules?”

This Friday, Harvard Law School will host a panel on “Whose God Rules?”, a recent book that outlines a new “theolegal” theory of American government. The description follows. Details for the panel are here.

Is the United States a secular nation or a theolegal democracy? The theolegal theory describes a political system that allows public officials to use theology in its democratic process to shape law without instituting an official state religion. Join co-editors of the new book “Whose God Rules?” (Palgrave Macmillan) for a review of how preeminent scholars debate theology theory, which describes the gray area between a secular legal system, where theology is dismissed as irrational and a threat to the separation of religion and state, and a theocracy, where a single religion determines all law. The United States is neither a secular nation nor a theocracy, leading scholars to ask whether the United States is a theolegal democracy. If so, whose God rules?

Hanna, “Naked Truth”

From the University of Texas Press, a new book arguing that legal restrictions on strip clubs are part of a theocratic plot to supplant constitutional government in America: Judith Lynne Hanna, Naked Truth: Strip Clubs, Democracy, and a Christian Right (2012). Who knew? The publisher’s description follows.

Across America, strip clubs have come under attack by a politically aggressive segment of the Christian Right. Using plausible-sounding but factually untrue arguments about the harmful effects of strip clubs on their communities, the Christian Right has stoked public outrage and incited local and state governments to impose onerous restrictions on the clubs with the intent of dismantling the exotic dance industry. But an even larger agenda is at work, according to Judith Lynne Hanna. InNaked Truth, she builds a convincing case that the attack on exotic dance is part of the activist Christian Right’s “grand design” to supplant constitutional democracy in America with a Bible-based theocracy.

Hanna takes readers onstage, backstage, and into the community and courts to reveal the conflicts, charges, and realities that are playing out at the intersection of erotic fantasy, religion, politics, and law. She explains why exotic dance is a legitimate form of artistic communication and debunks the many myths and untruths that the Christian Right uses to fight strip clubs. Hanna also demonstrates that while the fight happens at the local level, it is part of a national campaign to regulate sexuality and punish those who do not adhere to Scripture-based moral values. Ultimately, she argues, the naked truth is that the separation of church and state is under siege and our civil liberties—free speech, women’s rights, and free enterprise—are at stake.

“Radical Islamists Win Final Round of Egyptian Elections”

Ilya Somin has the story and comments:

If the Islamists consolidate power and make serious progress towards implementing their agenda, Egypt 2011-12 could easily join Russia 1917, Cuba 1959, and Iran 1979 as a classic historic example of a case where a bad regime was overthrown only to be replaced by one that is much worse.

American Theocracy, cont.

More evidence that worries about creeping “theocracy” in America are misguided: According to a poll released this week by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, only 16% of American Catholics are aware that during the 2008 election cycle, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a document explaining Catholic teaching on political issues. The report, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” was not a new idea; the bishops issue such a report every presidential election cycle. Even more striking: 71% of American Catholics said the report would not have made a difference to them even if they had known about it.  Three-quarters who read the report said it had no influence on their vote.

Statistics like these don’t explain why American Catholics apparently tuned out the bishops’ report.  Maybe the report wasn’t sufficiently publicized. Maybe the report was vague. Maybe American Catholics know what the Church teaches about political questions and don’t think they need a refresher. Maybe – and this surely worries the Bishops Conference – the vast majority of American Catholics simply do not believe they have to form their consciences according to Church teaching. One implication is clear. If “theocracy” means that believers blindly vote the way their churches tell them – or even seriously consider their churches’ positions on political questions – theocracy doesn’t seem a real issue in America today. — MLM

Douthat on “American Theocracy”

Ross Douthat has an interesting op-ed in this morning’s New York Times about recent press coverage of Republican presidential candidates Michele Bachman and Rick Perry. Douthat argues that reporters are absolutely correct to ask candidates who “wear their religions on their sleeves” to explain how their beliefs would influence their policy decisions.  He cautions, though, that reporters should not assume that a candidate shares the most extreme views associated with his or her denomination, or apply a double standard.  If Barack Obama is not identical with Jeremiah Wright, Michele Bachman may not be identical with R.J. Rushdoony. She’ll have to explain.

I think Douthat is right on both counts, but what interests me is the use of the term “theocracy” in American public life. Traditionally, “theocracy” means government by clergy, the sort of thing that exists today in Shia Iran, and, I suppose, Vatican City.  But that is an extremely rare arrangement nowadays, and no one in America, including the overwhelming majority of conservative Evangelicals, would favor it.  I suppose “theocracy” could also mean a state in which religious law applies to civil matters. That arrangement is the norm in Continue reading

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