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Keywords:

  • Iran;
  • Warfare/welfare;
  • Social welfare organizations;
  • Middle East and North Africa

Abstract

This article examines the relationship between welfare and state governance in Iran since the 1979 Revolution. It argues that the contemporary set of social welfare organizations in Iran arose as a corollary to post-revolutionary state formation, particularly during the 1980–8 war with Iraq. The Revolution itself resulted in a process of ‘dual institutionalization’ where new revolutionary organizations appeared in tandem with the inherited bureaucracies of the Pahlavi Monarchy, and both sets of institutions were directed by the new regime towards social welfare in areas relatively untouched by the ancien régime. These institutions were locked in place by the exigencies of the long war that followed, and most have continued to the present. This is followed by a discussion of the main developmental outcomes of the past three decades in Iran in literacy, health and poverty. The article concludes by discussing how the successes and shortcomings of the Islamic Republic's welfare system are consequential for understanding broader developments in Iran today.