Cultural Changes in Iran [Taghyirat-e Farhangi dar Iran]

Abbas Abdi & Mohsen Gudarzi. Cultural Changes in Iran [Taghyirat-e Farhangi dar Iran]. Tehran: Ravesh (1378 [1999]).

This book, in four chapters, describes changes in public opinion in Iran between 1974 and 1995 based on statistical analyses of opinion polls and surveys. Discussing Iran’s public culture, the first chapter examines the impact of age, income, and education on attitudes toward family, social relations, leisure time, religious behaviors, and beliefs. Results suggest that attitudes about different aspects and functions of family increasingly tend toward a more contractual, private, and core-type of family. The authors also observe a trend towards egalitarian views between men and women in decision-making, employment, rights, and a rejection of violence.

Contractual and formalized social relations in Iran are very limited, although the impact of education and income expand the formalization of relations. The commodification trend regarding leisure time is growing, meaning that production and consumption of commodities have become an integral part of leisure time. In terms of beliefs, determinism and a belief in fate is declining.

The second chapter concentrates on the cultural differences between elites and masses. The elite is defined here as people with a bachelor degree or higher education. Since the proportion of educated people is increasing, comparing these two groups should give us a good measure of the prospects for future cultural changes. For example, regarding the family, it seems that patriarchy will decline and participation of both spouses in decision-making will increase. There will also be a change toward more gender egalitarian views. In terms of religious behavior, there is not a large difference between these two groups.

The third chapter deals with the distribution of cultural attitudes in Iranian society and concludes that Iranian society is increasingly polarized around religious and political issues. The gap between the two poles is increasing.

The last chapter examines satisfaction with life. Two great changes have occurred in this area. First, the index of satisfaction with life has increased between 1974 to 1995. Second, the structure of satisfaction with life has changed as well. In 1974, economic factors were important elements in shaping dissatisfaction with life. By 1995, the importance of economic factors has decreased and social factors have gained in importance.