EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 15 Jun 2016 | 17:00–18:30

The Middle Class and the Rentier State in a Changing Middle East: The Case of Iran

Mahnaz Zahirinejad (EUME-A.SK Fellow 2015/16 of the WZB Berlin), Chair: Nadine Abdalla (Cairo / EUME Fellow 2015/16)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

The rise of a middle class has been an important factor in societal change, political transition and the transformation from authoritarian to democratic regimes in the developed countries. It can be assumed that  the rise of the middle class is also a prerequisite for changing and creating a real democratic future in the Middle East. However, in the case of Iran, the transformation of an old and the emergence of a new middle class was a result of socio-economic developments such as the formation of rentier state. The new middle class that emerged in rentier-state regimes is dependent on the rent and the state and is therefore vulnerable. However, the new middle class turned revolutionary (Iran 1979) and grew into a perceived source of threat to ‘supporters’ of the system. Despite some attempts for democratization in these countries, hybrid regimes were ultimately established. Due to the disadvantages of the rentier state, there are numerous possibilities of an emerging authoritarianism. However, it seems that the strong resistance of the middle class has been an important obstacle to authoritarian desires of a rentier state. Thus, the present research is aimed to analyze the possibilities of democratization under hybrid regime with focus on characterizing a rentier state and the role of the middle class in the Middle East countries, particularly Iran.

Mahnaz Zahirinejad graduated from Tehran University and got her MA degree in International Relations. From 2006 to 2010 she was a PhD student at Jawaharlal Nehru University and got her PhD degree after defending the thesis Iran’s Energy Policy towards China and India: a Comparative Study. Since then, she has been a researcher at Iran’s Foreign Relations Council in Tehran, which is a non-governmental institute. The academic year 2011/2012 she spent at the Warsaw University as a postdoctoral researcher. In 2012 she was a Visiting Professor at the Jagiellonian University where she taught courses on the contemporary Middle East. Since November 2012 she has been employed as a researcher at the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures, Polish Academy of Science. She has continued to study Middle Eastern politics focusing on the rentier state – middle class interaction, as a subject related to democratic development in the region. She is the author and co-author of two books on the Middle East and has published many papers and articles in this area. Her new book on the middle class in Iran will be published next year.

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