‘Based on years of field research with activists and civil society groups, the analysis offers a careful look at how regime-citizen relations have evolved and how even micro-shifts in those relations—changes that seem insignificant in the near term—can create the potential for greater challenges down the road.’—Jillian Schwedler, Professor of Political Science, Hunter College, USA
‘This is a major contribution to understanding how social movements create spaces of autonomy and popular counterpower from below.’—Kaveh Ehsani, Assistant Professor of International Studies, DePaul University, USA
‘Through grounded analysis and patient observation, this book transforms our understanding of the interaction between institutional politics and political contestation in authoritarian contexts.’—Frédéric Vairel, Associate Professor of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada
This book examines the unintended consequences of top-down reforms in Iran, analysing how the Iranian reformist governments (1997–2005) sought to utilise gradual reforms to control independent activism, and how citizens responded to such a disciplinary action. While the governments successfully ‘set the field’ of permitted political participation, part of the civil society that took shape was unexpectedly independent. Despite being a minority, independent activists were not marginal: without them, in fact, the Green Movement of 2009 would not have taken shape. Building on in-depth empirical analysis, the author explains how autonomous activism forms and survives in a semi-authoritarian country. The book contributes to the debate about the implications of elite-led reforms for social reproduction, offering an innovative interpretation and an original analysis of social movements from a political science perspective.
Paola Rivetti is Assistant Professor in Politics and International Relations in the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University, Ireland.