Thoughtlessness and Decadence in Iran

A Sojourn in Comparative Political Theory

By Alireza Shomali

Subjects: Political Philosophy, Middle East Politics, Political Theory, Religion And Politics, Cultural Critique
Hardcover : 9781438473796, 480 pages, April 2019
Paperback : 9781438473789, 480 pages, January 2020

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Table of contents


1. Headless Babes: Adorno and Thinking about Thinking

2. These Impotent Rebels: Strauss and Modern Decadence

3. God’s Greatest Name: Disparity Dictum and Political Religion

4. So Long as They Stay Asinine: Razi on Reason and Religion

5. The Folklore of Philosophy: Farabi’s Political Philosophy of Religion


Bridges Western and non-Western political thought to address the problem of democracy and political decadance in contemporary Iran and, by implication, similar Islamic societies.


Political decay in Islamic societies has for the most part been the subject of structural analyses while philosophical studies have been rare, often speculative and deterministic. Thoughtlessness and Decadence in Iran explores from a theoretical perspective the problem of democracy deficit—or, political decadence—in contemporary Iran and, by implication, in present-day Middle Eastern societies. This decadence, the book argues, is in part a religion-based decadence, and deliverance from it requires collective thoughtfulness about religion. Alireza Shomali conceptualizes the Iranian Reality in terms of a lack of not only good life but also thinking of good living. This thoughtlessness means dissolution of critical consciousness and, as such, it heralds escalating decadence. At this moment of rapid decay, the book argues, thought must become relevant to society: the communicative practice of thinking must emerge to examine the pathologies of a religiously administrated life. Opening a dialogue between Adorno, Strauss, Farabi and Razi, among others, Shomali underlines the critical points of similarity and difference between these thinkers and envisions a "local" emancipatory project that, noting the specifics of the Iranian case, takes lessons from the Western experience without blind imitation.

Alireza Shomali is Associate Professor of Political Science at Wheaton College. He is the author of Politics and the Criteria of Truth.


"The book is global in its vision, but also clearly local in its immersion in the philosophies, values, and culture of Iran and Iranian Islam. This unique characteristic helps its prescription become local, and simultaneously stay away from nativist, third-worldist and decolonialist discourses. " — Abdolkarim Soroush, author of The Expansion of Prophetic Experience