Skip to main content
  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: December 2017

5 - Un-national Therapy: Freedom and Its Discontents


In the previous chapters, I have covered different sites where psycho-nationalist tropes reveal themselves and I have attempted to specify how and why they feed into forms of power, sovereignty and legitimacy which underpin the infrastructure of any contemporary nation-state. I have also begun to show that psycho-nationalism doesn't work, in the sense that it creates too many ‘others’, in terms of both domestic politics and foreign relations. I have termed the counter-conducts that emanate from this process of exclusion ‘psycho-therapeutic’ resistance because they too are concerned with bio-political themes, in particular ‘identity’. I have already discussed the resistance to the Shah of intellectuals such as Ali Shariati and Jalal al-e Ahmad. This chapter will demonstrate further that centuries of psycho-nationalism in Iran has created certain forms of psycho-therapeutic resistance that oscillate around the question of ‘freedom’, which has been at the heart of the Iranian quest for democracy, human rights and pluralism for over a century now.

The meaning of ‘freedom’ in Iran cannot be unravelled exclusively from an ‘Islamic’ perspective of course. At the same time, liberal concepts and the idea of freedom itself repeatedly have figured prominently in the writings of leading Islamic theoreticians and philosophers in the country. In order to give a brief overview of these ideas and the debates they have provoked, this chapter will follow three steps. Firstly, it will show that the idea of freedom has been at the heart of political events in modern Iran. I will start by sketching some of the major political upheavals in the country, with a particular emphasis on the events surrounding the revolution of 1979. In a second step, I will look at the nexus between Islam and liberal ideas in the political philosophy of major contemporary Iranian thinkers. And thirdly, I will sketch some of their flaws with a short philosophical critique. In all of this, I do not start with a strict definitional yardstick to measure complex concepts such as liberalism, democracy or freedom. Rather, I attempt to sketch how these concepts are handled within an Iranian and Islamic framework, acknowledging that they are defined by context and historical circumstances. The freedom to carry arms in many parts of the United States seems irresponsible to most Europeans.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

  • Online ISBN: 9781108394918
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *