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Hidden Liberalism: Burdened Visions of Progress in Modern Iran, Hussein Banai

Reviewed by R. R. Asaadi

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Political theorists and scholars of Iranian studies alike will find much of value in Hussein Banai's thoughtfully considered and coherently outlined work. Hidden Liberalism offers a fresh perspective on political development in Iran during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, illuminating the often-overlooked significance of liberal thought. Reflecting on the text, two major themes will be of interest to the prospective reader. First, what exactly does Banai have in mind with his novel concept of hidden liberalism? Second, what is the burden associated with hidden liberalism, and why are liberal thought practices in modern Iran, for Banai, burdened? I briefly address these questions in turn in this review, and conclude by discussing one of the broader theoretical implications of this work.

Banai argues that existing typologies of liberalism, owing to a visibility bias, are fundamentally incomplete. The missing category, that of Banai's “hidden liberalism,” is deftly distinguished from “visible” liberalisms in the book's introductory chapter. Banai argues that the primary cause of the difference between liberal theory generally speaking and its hidden variants is a result of historical context—namely, Western imperialism—and that in postcolonial settings such as Iran, “the refere

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