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Pankaj Mishra

See the Iranian Revolution as Iranians Do

It was not about “Muslim rage.” It was a rebellion against a Westernized, undemocratic technocracy.

They don’t need no top-down socieconomic engineering.

They don’t need no top-down socieconomic engineering.

Photographer: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Bloomberg Opinion is marking the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution with a collection of columns from around the world.

Forty years ago today, Iran made the last great revolution of the 20th century. Protesters had forced Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a despotic monarch who claimed to be modernizing his country with the help of Western techniques and Westernized elites, into exile. On February 11, 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a cleric banished by the Shah, triumphantly returned to Iran to assume — some might say, hijack — the leadership of what had been an ideologically diverse revolutionary movement.