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Pen to the tiller: Land reform and social mobility across the 1979 Iranian revolution

  • Author(s): Harris, K
  • Kalb, Z
  • et al.
Abstract

Giovanni Arrighi joined together questions of agrarian political economy with questions concerning the livelihoods of rural migrants and the fate of peasant communities as they dissipated. In this article, we apply Arrighi's concerns to the case of Iran to examine how processes of agrarian transformation link with trends in social stratification and upward mobility. First, we argue that land reform implemented during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi contributed to a heterogenous social differentiation of the Iranian peasantry. Second, we claim that the widening of access to credentials fostered by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic Republic laid the tracks by which peasants and rural households could convert landholding assets into newly accessible forms of cultural capital. The benefits of these transformational processes, however, fell disproportionately to the rural middle strata created under the Pahlavi monarchy. Through the use of a new survey dataset, we show how pre-1979 land reform in Iran favoured segments of the peasantry, not for those who remained in rural agricultural production, but instead for those who utilized landholdings as a means to transfer status and opportunities to their children after the 1979 Iranian revolution.

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