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in the Bazaar in the Bazaar
˜
Married to daughter of
dye wholesaler
in the Bazaar




Daughter 1 Daughter 2
Son 1
Daughter 1 Son 2
Son 1 Daughter 2 Son 1
Moves to U.S.A. Married to owner of
National Iranian
Married to industrial Mechanic
Moves to U.S.A. Married to china Floral nursery
brick production
Oil Company
materials importer wholesaler owner
workshop
employee
in the Bazaar in the Bazaar




Son 2 Daughter 3
Son 1
Glassware wholesaler Glassware retailer
Glassware wholesaler
Daughter 2
in the Bazaar in the Bazaar
in the Bazaar
Marries bicycle
˜
manufacturer
Married to daughter of
Daughter 1
kitchen utensil and
Marries university professor
cutlery wholesaler
in the Bazaar
(and has other relatives
in the carpet bazaar)

Illustration 3.1 Genealogy of a bazaari family
98 Bazaar and State in Iran

colleagues, to compare goods and prices easily, and to stop by to exchange
news and gossip. This public quality allowed everyone to observe the
activities of others, whether they were strangers, relatives, neighbors, guild
elders, competitors, or trade partners. A shopkeeper could spontaneously
go across to a store and chat about the day™s news or enquire about the
creditworthiness of a potential partner, and all the time keep a watchful
eye over his abode. With a quick wave his apprentice could signal to him
that he had a phone call or potential sale. The compact morphology
allowed ˜˜eyes to be upon the streets.™™59 Gazes were the Bazaar™s market
reports and whispers were its ticker-tape. The bazaar™s objective spatial
dimensions allowed for daily, face-to-face interactions and could spawn
authentic friendships as well as economic pacts.
Fostering multifaceted relations was the Tehran Bazaar™s textured life
that blended various social dimensions within the economic con¬nes.
Within and surrounding all Iranian bazaars there were also public baths,
restaurants, coffee and teashops, gymnasiums (˜˜houses of strength™™),
major mosques, seminaries, and shrines. To use a term coined by
Jane Jacobs, the Bazaar area was a ˜˜mingled city™™ that had mixed uses “
commercial, manufacturing, holy, hygienic, recreational, and culinary. On
a daily, or habitual, basis bazaaris would eat lunch together, gather in coffee
houses, and have meetings at their warehouses and entrance gates to their
alleys. Also, many schools were located in the immediate bazaar area (the
Marvi school and the Dar al-Fonun being the most notable), and some of
these were funded by bazaari families. The Tehran Bazaar historically
functioned as a holistic sphere with high levels of ˜˜social connectivity.™™60
Historically, the Tehran Bazaar included residences in addition to
commercial units.61 Although bazaaris who were prospering began to
leave the immediate Bazaar area in the 1950s, the old neighborhoods in
central Tehran maintained their multiclass nature. Habib Ladjevardi,
the son of one of Iran™s prominent industrialists who had roots in the
Tehran Bazaar, recalls that his family
lived until 1962 in the Amirieh district of central Tehran where his house was
across the street from a grocery store, a butcher, and a cobbler, and a bakery. The
neighborhood was heterogeneous; the rich and middle-class lived in the same
street, frequented the same shops, used the same public baths, and wore cloths of

59
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Random House,
1993 [1961]).
60
Saskia Sassan, The Global City: New York, London, and Tokyo (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 2001).
61
In the last Qajar census the Bazaar area contained the most homes. Naser Takmil-
Homayun, Tarikh-e Ejtema˜i va farhangi-ye Tehran, vol. 3 (Tehran: Daftar-e
Pajuheshha-ye Farhangi, 1379 [2000]), p. 31.
Bazaar transformations 99

similar quality and style. The proximity of different economic classes, combined
with the natural reluctance of members of the merchant class to engage in con-
spicuous consumption, resulted in a harmonious neighborhood. On Thursday
evenings, I remember a local mullah would come to our house, sit in the entrance
hall, recite prayers, and then depart. On holy days, there were great religious
processions, organized by the local mosque, going through our street.62
These group activities within the speci¬c locale of the Bazaar area created
a ˜˜spatial ecology™™ that assembled bazaaris in ways that exceed what one
would expect from a group that contained class, guild, and ethnic divi-
sions.63 The multiplex and crosscutting relations allowed for a chain of
reciprocity to develop in which the balance between gift giving and
receiving could be extended over time and across various ¬elds.
In conclusion, the value chain in Tehran™s Bazaar during the pre-
revolutionary era was stable because it consisted of long-term relations
between the various levels that fashioned the networks. Nested and
evolving credit relations and the regularized exchange between bazaaris
who specialize in particular lines of work extended relationships over
stretches of time. These repeated exchanges, or in Geertz™s term ˜˜cli-
entelization,™™ introduced reciprocity into the exchange process, while
improving the likelihood that promises would be honored.64 These
essentially vertical ties were patterned in a particular type of embedd-
edness that incorporated communal attributes. Complex webs of credit
relations and social activities based on multiple categories of identity
and af¬liation both built important horizontal bonds that distributed
and veri¬ed information. The rich social milieu brought the Tehran
Bazaar together on a number of overlapping fronts and created an
interdependent form that ensured ongoing vertical and horizontal ties,
or cooperative hierarchies. Bazaaris who had group membership had
access to credit, resources, and a potential to accrue a reputation.
Meanwhile, participation in the multiplicity of facets of bazaar life
instilled in its members norms of cooperation and solidarity. This
mutually reinforcing process was the basis for binding obligations,
or ˜˜conditional cooperation.™™65 It was the participation in these

62
Habib Ladjevardi, Labor Union and Autocracy in Iran (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse
University Press, 1985), p. 236.
63
William H. Sewell, ˜˜Space in Contentious Politics,™™ in Silence and Voice in the Study of
Contentious Politics, ed. Ronald R. Aminzade et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2001).
64
Clifford Geertz, ˜˜Suq: The Bazaar Economy in Sefrou,™™ in Meaning and Order in
Moroccan Society, ed. Clifford Clifford Geertz, Hildred Geertz, and Lawrence Rosen
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
65
Michael Taylor, The Possibility of Cooperation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1987).
100 Bazaar and State in Iran

polycentric networks that brought diverse bazaari groups together to
shape the way people thought of themselves and others who were ˜˜of the
Bazaar.™™ It is these embedded and expansive networks that created a
robust sense of solidarity and made the Tehran Bazaar in the pre-
revolutionary era a community, despite having a hierarchy.

The coercive hierarchies of the postrevolutionary bazaar
In order to demonstrate to me that the ˜˜old ways™™ were inappropriate for
today™s Tehran Bazaar, Mehdi, a glassware wholesaler, recounted a story
about his friend ˜Ali. ˜Ali was the eldest son of a prominent and highly
respected glass wholesaler in the Hajeb al-Dawleh Timcheh. He helped
his father as a child and even worked there while he went to university. In
the mid-1970s ˜Ali had found employment outside the Bazaar and
worked as an engineer. When he lost his job in the economic recession of
the early 1980s, he decided to return to the Bazaar and continue
his deceased father™s wholesaling operation. Mehdi thought highly of
˜Ali™s ˜˜intelligence™™ and ˜˜education™™ and his ˜˜father™s good name
[reputation].™™ Yet, when ˜Ali sought Mehdi™s opinion regarding his return
to the Bazaar, Mehdi recalled that he cautioned him by saying that things
were different and he must be careful not to view the Bazaar as the same as
when he left it. He warned that the market, its people and practices, had all
changed. According to Mehdi, ˜Ali did not heed his warning. He was
˜˜swindled™™ by suppliers and buyers alike. After only a few years in the
Tehran Bazaar, ˜Ali left it with heavy debts and a bruised ego.
I heard similar stories from other bazaaris. These narratives were both a
critique of the present situation and intended to demonstrate that my
preconceptions of a systematic hierarchy with well-de¬ned roles and a
normative system of checks and balances that protected against guile and
dishonesty did not apply ˜˜now.™™ If the postrevolutionary Tehran Bazaar
was not the same as its prerevolutionary antecedent, what was it?

Change in the Tehran Bazaar™s membership
The revolutionary turmoil led to major instability in the composition of
the Tehran Bazaar. The plethora of manifestos and slogans of the
Revolution included many anticapitalist platforms that threatened the
private sector in general, and the larger trade houses in the Bazaar in
particular. Newspapers, political declarations, and public rhetoric
included descriptions of corrupt capitalist elements as ˜˜economic ter-
rorists,™™ ˜˜hoarders,™™ ˜˜fraudsters™™ (kolah-bardar, literally hat thieves),
˜˜pillagers of the national wealth,™™ ˜˜oppressors,™™ and the ˜˜corrupt of the
Bazaar transformations 101

earth.™™66 The climate was at best precarious and at worst hostile toward
capital. Prominent importers, especially those who were also active in
industry, emigrated to escape the unsympathetic environment. Of those
who remained, some faced allegations of cooperating with the Pahlavi
regime or having af¬liations with an ever increasing list of banned
political parties. Those who were unable to demonstrate their revolu-
tionary credentials and allegiance lost their property, were ¬ned and
imprisoned, or were executed.67 All this led to attrition among of the
elder and high-pro¬le bazaaris.
A select group continued their trading activities under the patronage of
state enterprises. A small segment of bazaaris, many of whom were
brokers, minor wholesalers, and members of the vegetable and fruit
bazaar (mayduni or maydani), had been active in the burgeoning Islamist
and pro-Khomeini organizations of the early 1960s (Jam ˜iyyat-e Mota-
lefeh-ye Eslami or ICA), the most important of which was the Islamic
Coalition Association or Party. Through their hayats and religious
schools, ICA developed long-standing social and kinship ties with clerical
ideologues of the Islamic Revolution (Ruhollah Khomeini, Mohammad
Beheshti, Morteza Motahhari, and Mohyeddin Anvari)68 and cham-
pioned an interpretation of Islam that gave authority and responsibility to
the clergy and devout Muslims to take action against ˜˜illegitimate™™ rule.
Owing to state surveillance the ICA was operated in a secretive, cell-like,
and underground manner,69 and as a result this did not have a broad base
of support in society or the Bazaar. Moreover, one of the leading ideo-
logues of the organization disputes the labeling of the ICA as a ˜˜bazaari
party™™ by differentiating the ICA members from bazaaris, by describing
them as ˜˜cultural ¬gures™™ (farhangi ) because they were busy teaching
and writing religious works.70


66
Khomeini made a reference to these attacks in a 1982 speech to members of the Tehran
Bazaar by saying that most bazaaris are not these people and bazaaris do not act against
religious law. Reprinted in Asnaf no. 22 (Oribehest 1373 [April“May 1994]), 47.
67
Abolqasem Lebaschi, interview by Habib Ladjevardi, tape recording no. 3, Paris,
France, February 28, 1983, Iranian Oral History Collection, Harvard University.
Misagh Parsa claims that over a hundred bazaaris were killed or executed after the
revolution. Parsa, Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution, p. 282. During my interviews
many of the bazaaris regularly recalled their fear in the ¬rst couple of years after the
Revolution.
68
Asadollah Badamchian and ˜Ali Banaii, Hayatha-ye Motalefeh-ye Eslami (Tehran: Awj,
1362 [1983]); Changiz Pahlavan, ˜˜Negahi beh Jam˜iyyat-e Hayatha-ye Motalefeh-ye
Eslami,™™ Andisheh-ye Jame˜eh 5 (n.d.), 8“13
69
Davud Qasempur, ed., Khaterat-e Mohsen Ra¬qdust (Tehran: Markaz-e Asnad-e
Enqelab-e Eslami, 1383 [2004]), 59“65.
70
Sharq, 6 Shahrivar 1384 [August 28, 2005].
102 Bazaar and State in Iran

During the revolutionary struggle against the monarchy, the Islamist
bazaaris ¬nanced and organized many political rallies and events. After
the Islamic Revolution, these groups exhibited loyalty to the Imam and
the revolutionary cause by initially disbanding their independent orga-
nizations and joining the Islamic Republican Party.71 They were
rewarded handsomely for their vigilance and ¬delity with positions in
government ministries, the newly formed foundations (bonyads), and the
Chamber of Commerce “ they became part of the new ruling elite.
Since the economy was dominated by the state, these ¬gures enjoyed
ideal positions for direct access to rents via exclusive importing licenses,
tax exemptions, subsidized hard currency, and control over procure-
ment boards and industrial establishments. The bazaaris who have
established patronage channels have used them for personal and
exclusive ends, and not as a tool for the bene¬t of the entire Bazaar.72
˜˜They had their bread and they weren™t going to share it,™™ groaned one
wholesaler. He added, ˜˜They still haven™t. Why should they?™™ When I
checked to see who he meant by ˜˜they,™™ I consciously referred to them
as ˜˜bazaaris™™ in order to solicit a response. I was promptly cut off and
told, ˜˜They are not bazaari, they are dawlati (of¬cials of the govern-
ment).™™ Another person described them as ahl-e regime, literally ˜˜of the
regime,™™ distinguishing them from those who are ahl-e bazaar, or ˜˜of
the Bazaar.™™ Some of my interviewees would go so far as to deny that
these individuals were ever ˜˜real bazaaris.™™ My interlocutors claimed
that prior to the Revolution these ¬gures were mere middlemen (dallal
and vaseteh), thus disparaging them as lesser bazaaris. Others mentioned
that people like Mohsen Rezaii (a former commander-in-chief of
the Revolutionary Guard) and Mohsen Ra¬qdust (a former comman-
der-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guard and head of the most
powerful bonyad, the Foundation for the Disinherited) were from the

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