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Ebrahim Towfigh

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of Interest

  • historical sociology
  • state theory/political sociology
  • sociology of knowledge
  • urban sociology

Westoxification as an Ideology of Patrimonial Rule

Drawing on my research findings on the postcolonial state and the production of knowledge in modern Iran, I intend to explore the development of gofteman-e gharbzadegi (the discourse of Westoxification) during the final three decades of the Pahlavi regime (1950–1979). Specifically, I ask: How did a group of conservative intellectuals appropriate Henry Corbin’s apolitical and theosophical analysis of Iranian Islam (Shi’ite and Irfan) in order to formulate Westoxification as a discourse? And how did these conservative intellectuals transform into key social actors as a result of the interaction between power and knowledge systems in this period? This research paves the way for a genealogy of conservative thought in modern Iran. In my view, the lack of attention to the history of Iranian conservatism in the human and social sciences has prevented adequate consideration of the particularities of the Iranian experience of modernity and its specific form of social differentiation. This lack of attention to Iranian conservatism is both the result of and a condition for an orientalist and modernist narrative of the history of modern Iran. This narrative considers the different forms of conservatism in systems of thought, structures of power, and social relations in Iran as the reproduction of premodern traditions within a society that is in a transitional state, progressing from premodern/authoritarian tradition to modernity/democracy. In this narrative, the discourse of Westoxification is considered through the prism of the Islamic Revolution and seen as a sign of “politics of authenticity,” a “nativist” response to the imbalance between socio-economic development and political underdevelopment under the Pahlavi regime. I have previously argued against this perspective, illustrating elsewhere that the formation of Westoxification as a discourse was, in fact, the result of an effort by conservative intellectuals to formulate a new theory of monarchy, and a response to the crisis of the patrimonial power structures. I propose to advance my previous findings by exploring the following hypotheses: First, that the departure from the conventional archaic historiography of the first Pahlavi era, and the critique of the emerging positivist sociology enabled the formation of Westoxification as a philosophical discourse. Second, that Westoxification transformed into an influential intellectual force through the strategic actions of key social players such as Seyed Hussein Nasr, Darush Shaygan, and Ahmad Fardid. I posit that Westoxification was then given further definition by a network that spanned official and unofficial institutions such as the Institut Français de Recherche en Iran, The Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of Letters and Humanities at the University of Tehran, the ashabe taavil circle, and the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy, along with their related periodicals. This research project will draw on archival material, analytical sources, and interviews conducted with the key actors who were involved in the rise of Westoxification as an intellectual discourse. In sum, this research project will offer an alternative account of the development of Westoxification as a discourse by critically engaging with orientalist and modernist accounts of the phenomenon.


Since 2014

Lecturer at postgraduate program, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Letters and Humanities, Tarbiyat Modares University, Tehran (Iran)

Since 2014

Lecturer at graduate program, Faculty of Cultural Studies, Science and Culture University, Tehran

Since 2013

Lecturer at graduate program, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Kharazmi University, Tehran

since 2007

Lecturer at graduate and postgraduate programs, Faculty of Social Sciences, Azad University and Payame-Nour University, Tehran


Lecturer, Faculty of Social Sciences, Allameh Tabataba’i University, Tehran


Lecturer, Faculty of Social Sciences, Goethe University, Frankfurt

Relevant Publications

  • Towfigh, Ebrahim, et al. “Naming of the Suspension: A Research Program for Historical Sociology of Iran.” In The Book series of Critical History, Vol. 1. Edited by Ebrahim Towfigh. Tehran: Mania Honar, forthcoming 2019.
  • Towfigh, Ebrahim. “Refashioning Empire. Political Economy of the Modern State in Iran.” In The Book series of Critical History, Vol. 2. Edited by Ebrahim Towfigh. Tehran: Mania Honar, forthcoming 2019.
  • Towfigh, Ebrahim, et al. The Emergence of the Kholqiyat (National ethos) Genre in Iran. Tehran: Research Center for Culture, Art, and Communication, forthcoming 2019.
  • Towfigh, Ebrahim. جایگاه و اهمیت «اقتصاد و جامعه» در اندیشه ماکس وبر, [“Status and Significance of ‘Economy and Society’ in Max Weber’s Thought”]. Pažuheshnâme-ye Enteqâdi-ye Motun va Barnâmehâ-ye Olum-e Ensâni, forthcoming 2019.
  • Towfigh, Ebrahim, and Farjad Nateghi. تبارشناسی جنبش ملی شدن صنعت نفت در ایران: تأملی دربارۀ رابطۀ دولت، جامعه و سرمایه‌داری از 1320 تا 1332, [“Genealogy of the Nationalization Movement of the Iranian Oil Industry: A Reflection on the Relations between State, Society and Capitalism from 1941 to 1953”]. Dolatpajoohi 11 (2017): 162–99.
  • Towfigh, Ebrahim. دربارۀ نظام دانش, [About the Knowledge System]. Tehran: Institute for Social and Cultural Studies, Ministry of Science, Research & Technology, 2017.
  • Towfigh, Ebrahim. تأملی در گسست میان تاریخ و جامعه‌شناسی در ایران, [“A Reflection on Rupture between History and Sociology”]. In Proceedings of the Conference on History and Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Edited by Dariush Rahmaniyan, 103–26. Tehran: Research Centre for Islamic History, 2013.
  • Towfigh, Ebrahim and Shirin Ahmadnia. “How to Overcome ‘Oriental’ Sociology?” In Spatial Social Thought: Local Knowledge in Global Science Encounters. Edited by Michael Kuhn, and Kayumi Okamoto, 313–26. Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2013.
  • Towfigh, Ebrahim, and Farjad Nateghi. تبارشناسی روشنفکری در تاریخ مشروطۀ ایران (سال‌های 1285 تا 1305), [“The Genealogy of Intellectualism in Constitutional History of Iran (1906–1926)”]. Journal of Iranian Social Studies 7, no. 4 (2013): 160–86.
  • Towfigh, Ebrahim, and Alireza Javadi. تأملی معرفت‌شناختی بر جامعه‌شناسی آکادمیک در ایران, [“An Epistemological Reflection on Academic Sociology in Iran”]. Social Problems of Iran 3, no. 1 (2012): 59–83.
  • Towfigh, Ebrahim. جامعۀ دوران گذار و گفتمان پسااستعماری. تـأملاتی در بحران علوم اجتماعی در ایران, [„The Transitional Society and the Post-Colonial Discourse. Reflections on the Social Science’s Crisis in Iran”]. Iranian Journal of Sociology 12, no. 1 & 2 (2011): 3-39.
  • Towfigh, Ebraim, Massoud Golchin, and Zohre Khorsandy. تحلیل گفتمان روشن‌فکران ایرانی دربارۀ علوم جدید (از تأسیس دارالفنون تا تأسیس دانشگاه تهران), [“The discourse analysis of Iranian Intellectuals about Modern Sciences”]. Social Problems of Iran 2, no. 1 (2011): 75-106.
  • Towfigh, Ebrahim. تأملاتی نظرورزانه درباره هویت ملی/ایرانی. آسیب شناسی گفتمان‌های هویتی و علوم اجتماعی, [“Speculative Reflections on national/Iranian Identity. A Pathology of the Discourse of Identity and the Social Sciences”], 2009. Online: