School of Politics and International Relations

Image of Kayhan Valadbaygi

Kayhan Valadbaygi

Doctoral Researcher, Faculty of Social Sciences



Kayhan is a doctoral researcher in the School of Politics and International Relations and a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ). He holds a BA in Communications and Media Studies (First Class) from the University of Tehran, an MSc Econ in International Relations from Cardiff University as well as an MA in International Relations -Research Track- (Distinction) from the University of Nottingham.

Expertise Summary

International Political Economy

International Historical Sociology

Political Economy of the Middle East

Modern and Contemporary Iran

International Theories

Historical Materialism

Teaching Summary

Kayhan teaches International Political Economy and Global Development (M12089- second-year module).

Office Hour: Fridays 2-3 pm, Room C105, School of Politics and International Relations

Research Summary

Doctoral Thesis Title: Neoliberalisation, State and Social Classes: The Political Economy of Contemporary Iran

This thesis aims to offer a new account of the political economy of contemporary Iran. It problematises the existing literature on the country that has sought explanations based upon various unique internal characteristics whereby Iran is disconnected from the wider space of economic, political and cultural globalisation. In contrast, by subscribing to a dialectical method of analysis, the project situates Iran within the broader process of neoliberal restructuring of the global economy.

After critically engaging with IR and IPE approaches, Chapter 2 proposes a dialectical method of analysis with the aim of transcending the dualism of the global/local, agency/structure, material/ideal, politics/economic, and state/market in the investigation of changes in the state and society. As a historical background of the study, Chapter 3 periodises the development of capitalism in Iran from the beginning of the nineteenth century until the commencement of neoliberal restructuring in 1991. Tracing the long durée of the institutionalisation of modern state and consolidation of capitalist relations of production in the course of the successive structures of global order, the chapter characterises the nature of its development as uneven and combined, resulting from the dialectical interactions of geopolitical and geo-economic external pressures and the struggles of domestic class forces. In particular, it focuses on the way in which Iran was incorporated into the structure of the global order of Pax Americana as it played an imperative role in the unfolding of contemporary changes. It thus illuminates on the conjuncture through which the accumulation strategy of import-substitution industrialisation (ISI) developed during the second Pahlavi state and surprisingly continued to a large degree throughout the first decade of the Revolution. Reiterating on the complementary use of the idea of 'uneven and combined development' and the notion of 'passive revolution', Chapter 4 argues that while the process of Iranian neoliberalisation has been primarily instigated from above as a result of external geo-economic and geopolitical pressures, the struggles of an emerging internationally-oriented class force and a reconfigured nationally-based fraction of capital, named the military-bonyad complex, have equally shaped the course of its development. The upshot of this has been a peculiar form of combined development by amalgamating monopolistic state capitalism and neoliberalism, attesting to the importance of the dialectics of continuity and change in the understanding of Iran's contemporary capitalist development. Chapter 5 has two chief objectives of sketching the reorganisation of the institutional structure of the state and tracing the battle for hegemony in the society as a result of the reconstruction of classes outlined in the previous chapter. To this end, first, it problematises the conventional conceptualisations of the Iranian state as a unitary entity based on a longstanding ideology or a government within a government since these explanations put too much emphasis on the ideology and interests of political elites, which end up producing voluntarist notions of state power. In contracts, by conceiving the state as a relationship of forces among classes and class fractions, the chapter argues that the incoherent appearance of the state policies is the product of the struggle of emerging fractions of capital to realise their interests through institutions rather than the persistence of institutional duality of the post-revolutionary state. It illuminates that the state institutions have consequently undergone some noticeable alterations since 1989 as a result of neoliberal restructuring as a politically-charged and struggle-driven process. With regards to the second aim, the chapter calls for the importance of the notion of the 'material structure of ideas', therefore exposing the links between the resurgence of an already-existing liberal/reformist interpretation of Islam and re-articulation of the revolutionary discourse of Islam to the material interests of these class fractions. Thereafter, by employing the ideological-coercive-material matrix, it challenges the people-state duality in the understanding of recent political unrests in Iran. With regards to the 2009-2100 Green Movement, it characterises the movement as a (short-term) alliance-compromise of these two fractions of capital with other classes to nullify the supremacy of the rival, crystallising the impasse of the outright control of the state by one fraction and the actuality of minimal hegemony over the society. The aim of Chapter 6 is to provide a fresh account of the Iranian nuclear program. As well as insisting on an internal relation between geopolitical confrontations and process of capital accumulation and the flexibility of geopolitical strategies due to the balance of power between different fractions of ruling class within the state in any given time, the chapter claims that the 'non-West' as an active agent has to be recovered to overcome the deep-rooted problem of Eurocentrism embedded in almost every theory of geopolitics. What followed from this is an analysis of the Iranian nuclear program whereby the kaleidoscope of nuclear policy changes in the last three decades is understood as the manifestation of struggles of different fractions of capital inside the U.S. state and the Iranian state in line with their long-term objectives and interests. The chapter concludes that a true explanation of geo-territorial struggles should transcend the charge of Euro-centrism, the possibility of which is opened up by the inclusion of the active role non-Western social forces in the analysis.

Supervisors: Professor Andreas Bieler and Dr Daniel Ritter (Stockholm University)

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