Saturday, June 25, 2011

In the Shadow of a Self-defeating System

In the Shadow of a Self-defeating System
Ali Asghar Kazemi
June 2011                                   

A system is a set of interacting or interdependent elements and components forming an integrated whole. These elements continually influence one another in a direct or indirect manner in order to maintain their activity, stability and survivability (existence), for the purpose of achieving the projected goals of the system.
In order to remain stable, a system must consume a certain amount of energy which is called entropy of the system. Entropy is associated with the amount of order, disorder, and/or chaos in a system.  The efficiency of a system relates to the ratio of its input to output.  When this ratio is too low or negative, the system is said to be self-defeating.
Systems can be “open” with continuous interaction with their environment, or “closed” without such relations. Closed systems have a tendency to self-deteriorate because they have no means to receive feedbacks from the environment in order to correct their path, structure or behavior.
Political systems have the same characteristics and follow the same set of laws and pattern of behavior. Isolated systems cannot reproduce their values and principles and in the long run tend to go into seclusion from the main international environment. The costs of such isolation are usually too high to afford. Many countries in the past have willfully gone through this experience and have finally decided to enter in the mainstream of global interaction. Cases of China and Japan in the past centuries are good examples.
In the case of Iran, isolation has been imposed on the Islamic regime because of its defying conduct with respect to great powers on many issues including the nuclear project. Indeed, the political system governing in Iran is no exception of the general rule that in the long run isolation will cause serious damages to the nation as a whole. The problem is where the blame should be put for this aggravating situation?
A partially closed political system with a rigid ideological structure in constant phobia of being threatened by the environment, the political system in Iran has been consuming all its moral and material energy to cope with its alleged internal and external enemies during the past three decades.   
From the first elected president of the Islamic Republic, Banisadr, to the present incumbent Ahmadinejad, almost all important office-holders in Iran  have been one way or another accused of deviating from path of Islam and Imam, during or after leaving the office. The list is too long, but two important figures Moussavi (former Prime Minister) and Karrubi, former Speaker of the Parliament, are now among the opposition groups under house arrest. Former Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami are also in the same black list and are being harassed here and there for their political views and positions. At present time many high ranking former officials, professors, lawyers and journalists are in jail for various reasons.
One is really baffled why so many important personalities, in the Islamic regime’s standard, have turned their back to the regime? Is there anything wrong with the “structure” of the system, or the problem lies on the attitude and performance of the political “agents?” In political terms, the quandary can be limited to an “agency-structure” dilemma.
The debate concerning the primacy of either structure or agency with regard to human behavior is a central ontological issue in sociology, political science, and the other social sciences. In this context, "agency" refers to the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices.[1] "Structure", by contrast, refers to the recurrent patterned arrangements which seem to influence or limit the choices and opportunities that individuals possess.[2] The structure versus agency debate may therefore be understood simply as the issue of democratization versus dictatorship and socialization against autonomy. [3] 
In the case of present Iran, it seems that both structure and agency are in permanent interaction to limit the influence and impact of each other. That is, structure, under rigorous and rigid ideological tenets, inhibits the sphere of choices and actions of the agency and reciprocally, the agency must put into action all its power and capacity to evade from the structural impediments.
This process indeed leaves no more strength for the agent to perform his duties and obligation vis-à-vis the people and the nation as a whole. In other words, the entropy of the system is so much high that it should consume all its effort to merely survive in a fragile situation and in a hostile environment.
This methodological reasoning can be verified in the daily business of governmental agencies at various levels and proven in their decisions and actions in domestic and international affairs. 
The Islamic regime has been spending very much to bribe great powers such as Russia and China to attract their support on the nuclear issue. But, so far this effort has not produced satisfactory results. Indeed, political support of entities such as Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah in the Middle East, and a number of South American states on the Iranian payroll cannot produce any substantial result in a quasi hostile international community composed of more than 200 sovereign states.
In domestic affairs, many lucrative projects in off-shore oil and gas, roads and dams construction, telecommunication, heavy industry and the likes have been handed over to the Revolutionary Guards’ high ranking officers  with a view to acquire their backing. However, it is not quite sure whether in time of crisis and emergency they will respond to the expectation of those who count on their support.
Political system in Iran suffers from a structural malaise that inhibits its agents from making rational -and not forcibly ideological- decisions and acting accordingly. It is therefore in constant discord with its human elements and components making the system vulnerable to the hostile political environment in domestic and foreign affairs. Due to this lack of   coherence, the system has to consume all its energy and actual capacity to cope with problems thus created on its way. This process unavoidably pushes the system to a self-defeating dead-end that may compromise its very survival and stability.
This topic needs to be elaborated in future comments. /

[1] Barker, Chris. 2005. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage. p448
[2] Ibid
[3] Contemporary sociology has generally aimed toward a reconciliation of structure and agency as concepts. Anthony Giddens's developed "Structuration Theory" in such works as The Constitution of Society (1984). He presents a developed attempt to move beyond the dualism of structure and agency and argues for the "duality of structure" - where social structure is both the medium and the outcome of social action. For Giddens, an agents' common interaction with structure, as a system of norms, is described as "structuration". The term "reflexivity" is used to refer to the ability of an agent to consciously alter his or her place in the social structure; thus globalization and the emergence of the 'post-traditional' society might be said to allow for "greater social reflexivity". Social and political sciences are therefore important because social knowledge, as self-knowledge, is potentially emancipator. Wikipedia

* Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and -International Relations in Tehran-Iran. Students, researchers, academic institutions, media or any party interested in using all or parts ‎of this article are welcomed to do so with the condition of giving full attribution to the author and the ‎Middle East Academic Forum. ©All Copy Rights Reserved.‎

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