Politics and the Welfare State in Iran: A Conversation with Kevan Harris (S. 6, Ep. 6)

On this week’s POMEPS Podcast, Marc Lynch speaks with Kevan Harris about his new book, A Social Revolution: Politics and the Welfare State in Iran.  Harris is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“In the book, I lay out the main social welfare organizations— both that preceded the 1979 revolution and the ones that germinated afterwards. And then I asked the question, ‘How can we explain the expansion of both social policy organizations and access to these organizations by the majority of the population because expansion of social policy and access to social welfare has grown since 1979,” said Harris. “Very few scholars have looked at the institutions themselves, and historically trace the development of them. So I ask why, and how, did a particular social welfare organizations in Iran grow— and continue to be created?”

“Iran is not Lebanon. Iran has a population of 80 million. You can’t explain mass politics in Iran through single anecdotal stories of clientelism. We get surprises on a regular basis in Iranian politics,” said Harris. “I think we need to look at the middle institutions, a meso-level understanding of Iran and many other organizations.”If we historize and look at the ways that they were created, I think we’ll come up with a wider set of conceptual tools to understand why the Middle East is the way it is today.”

Music for this season’s podcast was created by Feras Arrabi. You can find more of his work on his Facebook and Instagram page.

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