The New Choice; Sociological Analysis of the May 23rd Event [Entekhabe now; Tahlil Jane’e Shenasane az Vaqe’eye Dovyom-e Khordad]

Parviz Piran, Saeed Hajjarian, Hosein Bashirie, Mohammad Reza Tajik, Abbas Abdi, and Abdol’Ali Rezaee. The New Choice; Sociological Analysis of the May 23rd Event [Entekhabe now; Tahlil-e Jame’e Shenasane az Vaqe’eye Dovvom-e Khordad]. Tehran: Tarh-e Now (1377 [1998]).

In this book, a number of authors present their sociological view  of the landslide victory of Mohammad Khatami on May 23,1997. In this election, Mohammad Khatami won against Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri, who was supported by the establishment . Khatami relied on a discourse based on democratic values such as freedom, civil society, and the rule of law . Authors in this book try to explain why two-thirds of voters unexpectedly voted for Khatami.

Parviz Piran, in his explanation, refers to the formation of a new young generation. He also isolates and develops the politicization of women after the revolution. He argues that May 23 was also the first time that rural society, which has traditionally been considered passive, reacted to official policies and took a somewhat oppositional stance. The other important factor has been the change in the reference groups  in the Iranian society. There were 2 million students at that time in Iran, and the size of this segment has been important to this transformation.

Saeed Hajjarian sees May 23 as a movement that has characteristics of both the 1979 revolution and the Constitutional Movement. May 23rd was simultaneously similar to a massive social movement and a conventional participatory election. He suggests that in peripheral countries , in the absence of formal organizations, the connection between the marginal elites and masses  takes the shape of social movements.

Hosein Bashirie emphasizes the three crises of the Islamic Republic of Iran – in participation, administration, and the economy – which led in the event of May 23. He also refers to the formation of a participation-seeking sector  in the population.

Abbas Abdi also mentions the role of some structural changes such as the change in the level of education, the decline of clergy as a reference group and the rise of press instead, and some structural changes in villages. Villages are no longer closed economies and have better access to television and information.

In the last chapter, Ali Rezaee points to the growth in higher education and literacy in towns and villages. He also takes into account changes in the employment market. Employers in the private sectors have tripled in the two decades after the revolution. This transformation in employment has increased the number of autonomous employers. He describes the new workers as independent people who can choose their own style of life. The increasing number of this section of the population has helped the society to pluralize more.