In its various narratives, the theory of Oriental despotism has been the dominant analytical framework for understanding the nature of state and society in pre-modern Iran. The main product of this theory's application has been presenting the state's image as an arbitra More
In its various narratives, the theory of Oriental despotism has been the dominant analytical framework for understanding the nature of state and society in pre-modern Iran. The main product of this theory's application has been presenting the state's image as an arbitrary and strong organization in the face of a fragmented society with dependent, weak, and passive social forces. According to such an analysis, the state's fundamental features, society, and the relations between them have not undergone a qualitative change from the beginning of history until now despite all the apparent changes in Iran's history. The first purpose of this article is to present a report on the origins of oriental despotism theory, its application by Western and Iranian scholars for analysis of the Iranian history, identification of its core themes about the nature of state and society, and the reasons for its popularity in the post-revolutionary period. The essay shows that despite the long history of this theory, it has been redesigned in the context of a political-theoretical conflict between the Leftist groups and their critics during the 1950s and 1970s. The article considers the hegemony of this approach after the Islamic Revolution due to the invalidity of Orthodox Marxism's analytical framework and capabilities this theory to provide a simple yet understandable answer to the problem of economic and political underdevelopment. The second aim of this article is to reveal the inadequacy of the theory and its results in analyzing the nature of the Iranian state and society. It emphasizes that the mentioned view has practically blocked the way for a "truly" historical sociology of Iran and a correct understanding of the nature of the state, society, and their interactions with one another.