Emerging Public Spheres and the Limits of the Press
Economic factors by themselves, however, do not tell the full story. The confl ict of the underdevelopment of the press in Iran, and we might add many other peripheral countries with economic development indicators, is damning for the modernization school. In order to get the full picture, we need to return to what appeared at the end of causal chain of ‘development’: political participation. As Golding has argued Lerner was careful
to place “institutions of participation (e.g. voting)” at the end of causal chain-nothing being worse than unready electorate. While apathy affl icts the advanced societies, “the parallel danger to developing democracies comes from the reverse confi guration, i.e., non-literate voters”. Again the refl ection of change theory (in this case the “unripe time” theory) shines through. (1975:45)
Modernization school arguments revolved around changing notions of the characteristics of traditional and modern societies. They clearly saw the transformation as unproblematic and mechanical, changing societies in the process from static, agricultural, and primitive to dynamic, industrialized, urbanized, and rational nation-states. The ‘development’ of course did take place, in Iran and elsewhere, but the tools (mass communication) that were accorded a signifi cant place to carry the strategy and the burden of ‘development’ have themselves remained underdeveloped. This is one of the great ironies of ‘modernization’. Despotism, the biggest and most dangerous ‘tradition’ in ‘traditional’ societies therefore remained intact. The legacy of this ‘tradition’ has played a major role in the underdevelopment of the Iranian press. This factor has prompted one editor to suggest that although Iran at the end of the 20th century is unrecognizable from what it was in the early 20th
century, there is one similar trend: political underdevelopment. The structure of politics has not gone through similar transformations (Abdi, 1998).