Working Paper n°2017-17 – Coercive state, resisting society, political and economic development in Iran


Mehrdad Vahabi, CEPN, UMR-CNRS 7234, Université Paris 13, Sorbonne Paris Cité –


In my studies, I have explored the political economy of Iran and particularly the relationship between the state and socio-economic development in this country. The importance of the oil revenue in economic development of contemporary Iran has been underlined since the early seventies and a vast literature on the rentier state and authoritarian modernization has scrutinized the specificities of the political and economic natural resource ‘curse’ in Iran. A new critical social history of the oil industry has recently endeavored to reconsider the spread effects of this industry on the emergence of new cities and labor activities. In this sense, the impact of oil revenue on economic development should be mitigated: it has not been only a ‘curse’ but also a ‘blessing’. The precious results of natural resource curse or blessing notwithstanding, this approach is insufficient to explain why some predatory states reliant on natural resources could contribute to economic development while others hinder such development. Two recent examples provide a salient illustration: why did the Shah’s regime which was dependent on oil revenues enhance economic development during 1962-1974, while Ahmadinjead’s two terms presidency (2005-2013) imped economic growth despite the quadrupling of oil revenues?

In this essay, I will first introduce my theoretical framework and distinguish two types of predatory states, i.e. inclusive and exclusive (section 1). I will then apply this framework to explain oil and economic development (section 2). Section 3 will be devoted to the Shah’s regime as an inclusive predatory state, and section 4 to Ahmadinjead’s presidency as an illustration of an exclusive predatory state. A short conclusion will follow.

Keywords: Capital flight; Captive, Intermediary and Fugitive assets; Confiscatory regimes; Inclusive and Exclusive Predatory States; Islamic Republic of Iran; Land Reform; Oil revenues; the Shah regime

JEL Codes: D74, H1, L32, N15, O11, O12, O14, O15, O53, Q15, Q34, Q35

Consulter ce document de travailIdeas

Consulter la liste des documents de travail du CEPN les plus récentsIdeas