Iranians and Their Pride: Modalities of Political Sovereignty

Publication Abstract

Moaddel M. 2010. "Iranians and Their Pride: Modalities of Political Sovereignty." Lecture Notes in Computer Science Volume 6007/2010.

In 2000, we asked a nationally representative sample of 2,532 Iranian adults “which of the following best describes you: I am an Iranian, above all; I am a Muslim, above all; I am an Arab, a Kurd, a Turk, a Baluch, etc., above all?” We also asked them how proud they are to be Iranian; (1) very proud, (2) proud, (3) not proud, and (4) not proud at all. In the 2005 survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,667 Iranian adults, we asked these questions again. The first question was intended to measure national identity and the second national pride. The results showed that between the two surveys the percent of Iranians who defined themselves as “Iranians, above all” went up significantly-from 35% in 2000 to 42% in 2005. Those who said that they were very proud to be Iranian, on the other hand, went down considerably-from 89% in 2000 to 64% in 2005. What is more, national identity and national pride displayed opposing relationships with the norms and values that were rigorously promoted by Iran’s religious regime and these relationships grew stronger between 2000 and 2005. The feeling of national pride was positively linked to attitudes toward gender inequality, religiosity, and religious intolerance, but negatively to attitudes toward the West, while national identity had just the opposite relationships with these variables.

These findings have implications not only for theories of political sovereignty but for understanding and predicting the regime’s behavior as well. The pertinent theories are predominantly concerned with national sovereignty, which is a special case of political sovereignty, where the sovereignty is territorial. Given that a shift in the identity of Iranians from Islam to the nation entails weakening support for the regime’s culture, the sovereignty the regime claims is not national in a strict territorial sense. In fact, since its emergence, the behavior of the Islamic regime has not been dictated by concerns for the country’s national interests but by the desire to defend and propagate the faith, which the regime has consistently interpreted in terms of an anti-Western clergy-centered Shi’i revolutionary discourse. It is thus plausible to argue that the nation and the religion form the bases for competing modalities of political sovereignty among Iranians. The regime, however, mobilizes support for its cultural values through the provocation of national pride.
We develop structural modeling in order to test the relation of national identity and national pride to various indicators of the regime culture.