Agence France Presse, September 10, 1998.
William Samii, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Renewed Unrest over Khorasan Split,‚Ä™‚Ä™ RFE/RL Iran Report 4, 5
(February 11, 2002).
Ibid.; Bayat, Street Politics; and Asef Bayat, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Activism and Social Development in the
Middle East,‚Ä™‚Ä™ International Journal of Middle East Studies 34 (February 2002), 4.
Bayat, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Activism and Social Development in the Middle East,‚Ä™‚Ä™ 6.
Seda-ye ‚Ä˜Edalat, 1 Ordibehesht 1380 (April 21, 2001).
258 Bazaar and State in Iran
amount of evidence of bazaaris voicing their dissatisfaction with gov-
ernment policies. In 2000, the ofÔ¬Ācial guild magazine, Asnaf (Guilds),
for instance, devoted a special issue to listing all the problems found in
the service and commercial sectors and argued that they all stem from
government policies.119 Also, there is growing evidence that bazaaris are
shunning the calls of the hard-line Islamic associations and voting for
reformist candidates (also see below).120 One of the few journalists who
interviewed bazaaris during the elections found much support for
Mohammad Khatami and reformist candidates.121 A long-time jeweler
in the Tehran Bazaar claimed, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Sixty percent of the bazaar is behind
Khatami. . . . The conservatives here have blocked Khatami from acting.
But he‚Ä™s in touch with the realities of the modern world. We want to do
business with everybody ‚Ä“ Europeans, Americans, [and] Arabs. Khatami
supports us. Why have the others refused to open up to the world?‚Ä™‚Ä™ The
reformists did very well in those 2000 elections, sweeping to power in
the thirty seats in Tehran. During my research stay in Iran, the 2001
presidential elections were held that saw Khatami win another landslide
victory (he received over 21 million votes or close to 80 percent of the
total; the turnout was 67 percent). During the run-up to the election,
I witnessed considerable public support for Khatami among the
bazaaris. Several caravanserais hung large pictures of the smiling cleric.
Some storeowners placed signs bearing the slogans of the reformist
party. One well-known tea merchant placed a large statement on his desk
declaring that he would vote for Khatami on election day. Furthermore,
there were almost no posters or signs for the other nine candidates.
During the week prior to the election, discussions among bazaaris and
between them and their customers often turned to political matters.
I overheard one bazaari loudly chastising and mocking his brother (and
business partner) for ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜still‚Ä™‚Ä™ supporting the right-wing faction and voting
for their leading candidate (Ahmad Tavakkoli came in second with less
than 16 percent of the vote). On one occasion, a bazaari who thought
that I was voting for the conservatives pleaded with me to vote for
Khatami ‚Ä“ ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜But Doctor, you are open-minded, you have seen the world;
you should know that we need things to change.‚Ä™‚Ä™ More commonly,
discussions in the Bazaar, as in taxis and homes and cafes, revolved
around the decision on whether or not to vote. I listened to customers
and bazaaris urging apathetic merchants to vote for Khatami so the
conservatives would not gain the upper hand and to register their desire
Asanf, no. 90 (Aban 1379 [October‚Ä“November 2000]).
Iran, 21 Aban 1382 (November 12, 2003).
Agence France Presse, February 14, 2000.
Networks of mobilization under two regimes 259
for change. In short, there is ever-growing awareness among bazaaris
that state policies are deleterious. There is also an interest in opposing
them, but the conditions for social mobilization are seemingly absent.
Parsa, who has offered some of the most comprehensive and bazaar-
centric studies of the Islamic Revolution, is careful to distill into its
constitutive parts the many factors that are necessary for collective
action.122 He argues that ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜the mobilization and collective action of
bazaaris are explainable historically in terms of their responses to state
policies that adversely affected their economic interests, their organiza-
tional capacity to act collectively, and the existing opportunity structure.
When bazaaris possessed a strong autonomous organization, they were
able to mobilize and act collectively to defend their interests.‚Ä™‚Ä™123 Thus,
Parsa, like other resource mobilization theorists, places the bazaar‚Ä™s
organization at the center of his analysis of the causes of the Revolution,
commenting, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Bazaaris have consistently played a crucial role in the
political conÔ¬‚icts of twentieth century Iran because of the particular
structure of the central bazaars and their resources.‚Ä™‚Ä™ He continues by
arguing that ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜social solidarity‚Ä™‚Ä™ (in part created by spatial concentration)
and resources allow bazaaris ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜to mobilize and act collectively to defend
The network approach to the Tehran Bazaar extends Parsa‚Ä™s empir-
ically reÔ¬Āned and meticulous analysis in two ways. First, I broaden the
empirical scope of his analysis to investigate the protracted and localized
nature of bazaari protests after the Revolution. The rarity and limited
nature of bazaari mobilization contradicts Parsa‚Ä™s claim that high levels
of state intervention in capital accumulation lead to a greater likelihood
of collective action.125 The highly interventionist Islamic Republic
should be extremely susceptible to contentious politics. The lack of such
a scenario suggests that the organization of groups, the mechanism that
translates individual grievances against the state into collective action by
groups, is wanting.
Second, in order to understand this anomaly and the shift from high
to low mobilization capacity, I focus on the mechanisms maintaining
In a quantitative study, Parsa concludes, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜In sum, the presence of shopkeepers was the
best positive predictor of collective action during the Iranian Revolution in both the
national sample and the large cities. This Ô¬Ānding lended (sic) support to the conclusion
that bazaaris‚Ä™ conÔ¬‚ict with the state were highly signiÔ¬Ācant in ousting the Shah.‚Ä™‚Ä™
Misagh Parsa, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜ConÔ¬‚ict and Collective Action in the Iranian Revolution:
A Quantitative Analysis,‚Ä™‚Ä™ Journal of Iranian Research and Analysis 20 (November
Parsa, Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution, pp. 93‚Ä“4, emphasis added.
Parsa, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Mosque of Last Resort,‚Ä™‚Ä™ 147.
Parsa, States, Ideologies, and Social Revolutions.
260 Bazaar and State in Iran
and extinguishing social solidarity and coordination. What are these
mechanisms that impact the capacity of the bazaar to mobilize? Parsa
responds that in times of conÔ¬‚ict the bazaaris enjoy relatively high
capacity because they enjoy a ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜common fate with respect to market
conditions.‚Ä™‚Ä™126 How exactly bazaaris come to know, interpret, and
share in their fate, and how they translate this knowledge into collective
action and the mobilization of resources, however, is not clearly
explained.127 The creation of a collectivity and members‚Ä™ identiÔ¬Ācation
of it as a community are as much a challenge as the problem of acting
collectively. The Tehran Bazaar faces formidable problems in this
regard. It is a very large group with members of divergent class and
social standings, heterogeneous political persuasions, and numerous
ethnicities and religions. Pace Mozaffari, the bazaaris‚Ä™ ability to coor-
dinate closures, demonstrations, and fund raising is striking because of
the very absence of homogeneity. Parsa does suggest a means by which
these cleavages are overcome. In a concluding section, he suggestively
writes, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Their concentration and networks enabled bazaaris to shut
down as a sign of protest against the government and disrupt national
trade.‚Ä™‚Ä™128 While this chapter has concurred that the bazaar‚Ä™s socio-
economic structure, rather than the political organization or ideological
homogeneity, is what mediates this diversity and facilitates bazaari
collective action and political mobilization, as not all networks are
enabling as implied by Parsa‚Ä™s analysis.
Preexisting relations, as a growing number of scholars of social
movements have pointed out, are useful building blocks for collective
action.129 For Tarrow social networks are an external resource (along
with cultural and symbolic frames) that helps social movements
‚Ä˜‚Ä˜coordinate and sustain collective action.‚Ä™‚Ä™130 Social movements emerge
once groups solve the ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜social‚Ä™‚Ä™ collective action problem of ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜coordi-
nating unorganized, autonomous and dispersed populations into com-
mon and sustained action . . . by responding to political opportunities
Parsa, Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution, p. 92.
In fact, Parsa cites differences in wealth and political views to suggest that by the late
1970s the bazaars suffered from ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜organizational weakness‚Ä™‚Ä™ and a lack of solidarity.
Ibid., p. 108.
Ibid., 124. Smith also argues that ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜informal networks‚Ä™‚Ä™ allow for collective action.
Smith, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Collective Action with and without Islam: Mobilizing the Bazaar in Iran.‚Ä™‚Ä™
See Deborah J. Yashar, Contesting Citizenship in Latin America: The Rise of Indigenous
and the Postliberal Challenge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), Chapter
3, for a summary of the roles played by networks in social movements. In her own
treatment of indigenous movements in Latin America, Yashar persuasively incorpo-
rates networks (in particular transcommunity networks) as means for diverse and
spatially distant indigenous groups to mobilize against the state.
Tarrow, Power in Movement, p. 17.
Networks of mobilization under two regimes 261
through the use of known, modular forms of collective action, by mobi-
lizing people within social networks and through shared cultural under-
standings.‚Ä™‚Ä™131 Turning to the Iranian case we can surmise that modular
forms and shared cultural understandings are unlikely to have been for-
gotten so soon after the Islamic Revolution and episodic rounds of mobi-
lization in the last century (at least it does not seem that students at Tehran
University have forgotten these forms). If my analysis of the political
economy of the bazaar is correct, what has changed is the grouping of social
networks. The constellation of networks, or what I call the form of gov-
ernance, has undergone profound restructuring and with itso too has the
Bazaar‚Ä™s internal structure for alleviating the social collective action pro-
blem. In short, cooperative hierarchies were the prime ingredients for
preserving cooperation and giving bazaaris a sense of solidarity in the
prerevolutionary era; on the other hand, the coercive hierarchies of the
present period subvert the bazaar‚Ä™s potential mobilization against the state.
Cooperative hierarchies as a foundation for collective action
I have argued that cooperative hierarchies coordinate actions by helping
groups develop a corporate character and group solidarity, generating
communal sanctions and pro-social norms, and, in the case of the
Tehran Bazaar, tying actors to other commercial and social groups.
These particular characteristics that shape the economy of the Bazaar
also nurture a political potential. At moments when it was in the
interests of bazaaris to mobilize and an opening existed for social
mobilization, cooperative hierarchies were able to (a) mobilize resources
to reduce costs of activism, (b) monitor and provide selective incentives
to limit free-riding, (c) engender trust among group members, and (d)
transmit knowledge about repertoires of action and modular forms.
The Tehran Bazaar used to have a number of resources that were
critical for sustained social mobilization: independent capital assets
and Ô¬Ānancial systems, information channels for publicizing actions
and demands, public spaces for visible congregation, and symbols and
repertoires of action that were widely understood by participants and
observers as protest. The Bazaar‚Ä™s access to vast sums of assets and a
distribution system (i.e. a system of interest-free loans, the reputation
assessment by guild leaders and brokers) alleviated many of the practical
problems of funding strikers, printing and distributing political
announcements, and sabotaging the economy. Political entrepreneurs
among the bazaaris were able to tap into this existing expertise to pool
Ibid., p. 9.
262 Bazaar and State in Iran
and distribute Ô¬Ānancial resources. Furthermore, as a dense pedestrian
area marked by public gathering places (coffee houses, mosques, and
open squares) and located near government establishments, the Tehran
Bazaar is a ready-made space for public gathering and political
demonstration. Finally, the crosscutting, expansive, and long-term
relations were also an important mechanism for gatheringand evaluating
information and rumors from individuals known to one another through
socially embedded trade. Those inclined to join social movements could
evaluate the risks and assess the sentiments of others. All these factors
are essential in triggering and sustaining the Bazaar‚Ä™s participation in
The cooperative hierarchies also included ways to encourage collec-
tive action by reducing free-riding. For some, cooperative hierarchies
imbue a sense of belonging and solidarity that intrinsically motivates
them to trust the collective action process. They begin to see their
individual fate as tied to that of the collectivity. In addition, cooperative
hierarchies also harbor selective incentives to compel and coerce skep-
tics to join. Cooperative hierarchies offer a greater deliberative potential
than coercive hierarchies, and as such provide a means to develop
frames to justify and target collective action by which the apolitical or
unconvinced majority may be persuaded to participate. Also, the
reputation system of the Bazaar ensures regular monitoring, with the
evaluation of actions constituting an integral part of one‚Ä™s reputation
and standing in the community and capacity to conduct business. Thus,
in such an environment, once protests develop they are prone to swell
in numbers as bazaaris join the process out of concern for their repu-
tation. When the Society of Merchants, Guilds, and Artisans called
for strikes, those store owners who did not close in the morning, closed
in the afternoon.132 The power of social pressure within the bazaar can
be detected in the statement of a shopowner in Amiriyyeh, a quarter
near the Bazaar, when he said that fearing attacks against his store he
placed a picture of Khomeini in his shop window. He responded, ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜Most
people want an Islamic republic. . . . And I want anything that most
of the people want.‚Ä™‚Ä™133 It seems that the closures very often worked
through peer pressure.134 Throughout the protests the capacity of
bazaaris to identify, shame, and coerce nonparticipants helped com-
mitted rebels reduce free-riding, and unenthusiastic shopkeepers swim
with the tide.
Lebaschi, tape recording no. 2, 19.
New York Times, February 2, 1979.
This point emerged from a number of interviews.
Networks of mobilization under two regimes 263
Cooperative hierarchies also help generate a ritual of collective action
by sustaining memories, myths, and models of social mobilization.
Despite the ultimate failure of the Bazaar to prevent the Mosaddeq
government‚Ä™s downfall, bazaaris in the early 1960s remembered the
episode as a ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜golden era‚Ä™‚Ä™ for the bazaar community.135 Almost half a
century after the 1953 coup and regardless of age or political persuasion,
the Bazaar‚Ä™s ‚Ä˜‚Ä˜principled‚Ä™‚Ä™ support for Mosaddeq and its continual clo-
sures and organization of rallies remained a prominent theme in my
discussions with bazaaris.136 The existing lore among bazaaris, and
Iranians in general, that the Bazaar was so powerful that when it closed
the government trembled forms expectations and interprets actions.
Thus, in the 1960s and 1970s these existing cooperative hierarchies
were at the disposal of activists within the Bazaar and enabled their
efforts to be effective and enduring. Bazaaris were able to identify and
trust the leaders of the Tehran Bazaar-based groups tied to the National
Front and the Islamic Coalition Association through the reputa-