Monday 26 March 2007

Danny Postel on liberalism in Iran

As they say in the ads, if you liked Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism and Nick Cohen's What's Left? then you'll enjoy Danny Postel's new book Reading Legitimation Crisis in Tehran: Iran and the Future of Liberalism, which discusses the revival of interest in liberal ideas among Iranian students and intellectuals. Postel's slim volume provides an incisive critique of the western Left's failure to support Iranian dissidents. He sees the main stumbling block as the Left's tendency to view everything through the prism of American imperialism:

We're better at making sense of situations in which the US Empire is the foe and building our solidarity with other people around that...But that model simply doesn't apply to situations in which the struggles of oppressed groups are not aimed directly against American imperialism. And that's a serious blind spot. It creates myopia on the part of American leftists [and British leftists too]. Anti-imperialism can turn into a kind of tunnel vision, its own form of fundamentalism. Cases that fall outside its scheme simply get left out, and our solidarity with struggles around the world is determined by George Bush, rather than by our principles.

Read the whole book - it's an important intervention in current debates about relations between the West and the 'Muslim world', and about whether liberal and democratic ideas are 'western' or universal. I first read about the book in the latest issue of the online journal Democratiya, which contains a (not uncritical) review by Ladan Boroumand.

No comments: