The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Apropos my last post

June 15, 2009

Today’s rally in Tehran was, by all accounts, truly massive. Now the BBC reports the security forces pro-Ahmadinejad militia members opened fire on at least some of its participants. I may have been premature in my assessment of the regime’s ability to disrupt collective mobilization against it by targeting vectors of communication among members of the active opposition. With a united opposition still capable of turning out large numbers of people, it seems increasingly clear that the direction this all takes depends, in no small measure, on:

1. Ahmadinejad’s and his faction’s ability to control the coercive apparatus of the state.
2. The political maneuvering taking place among members of the regime and its various power-centers which will help determine who controls which parts of that coercive apparatus;
3. Whether a sizable popular counter-mobilization takes place among Ahmadinejad supporters;
4. How the demands of various parties alter (or not) in response to changing circumstances, and how those demands shape the first three factors.

(Note that “forces aligned with the regime opening fire on crowd of demonstrators” comprises an extremely well-rehearsed ‘event’ in modern contentious politics. Such events often turn out to be important moments in the unfolding of both failed and successful mass movements.)

Given my lack of any expertise on the substance of Iranian politics, I’ll be looking to others to provide information concerning these processes.

UPDATE: I’m coming around to the reality that I seriously underestimated the ability of the Iranian opposition to circumvent disruptions of their communications networks. Perhaps the movement is just too big at this point, with too many different vectors of dissemination–at least in Tehran. It would be nice to know what’s going on in the rest of the country…

website | + posts

Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.