In every age intellectuals shape and cling to one concept as the organizing principle for an understanding of the present and speculation about the future. From the end of the 1940s, as the colonial era drew to a close, the fashionable concept was “modernization” and its variants such as “development” and “progress”
But what constituted modernization wasn’t quite clear. Nor after what model should nations aspire in their quest for progress and development.
In the 1970s, the Iranian capital Tehran was a favorite destination for intellectuals from all over the world who wished to test those ideas in a country which had the rare distinction of having never been either a colony or a colonizer, and yet, its leaders had adopted the gospel of modernization with some enthusiasm. For a journalist, the arrival of so many prominent intellectuals, among them people like Gunnar Myrdal, W.W. Rostow, G.K Galbraith, Raymond Aron, Henri Lefebvre, Carlo Schmidt, Talcot Parsons and David Apter, made Tehran the equivalent of a candy store for a child. I had the rare privilege of spending quality time with almost all the visitors both for formal interviews and informal conversations.
Their message was: Hurry up! Modernize!
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