On Divinity Argument for Monarchy
A while back I wrote a series about
“natural rights,” which was prompted by a continued, yet comical, abuse of the
concept of “natural rights” by an Islamic Republic supporter. As a
side advantage of that series, I also presented the “political philosophy” of
monarchy as was developed after Renaissance and beyond, particularly between the
sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.
That series was written based on Bertrand Russell’s book, “History of Western Philosophy.” In some subtle, but not substantial, difference, you’d also find the same concept of “political philosophy” as related to monarchy in Mohammad Ali Foroughi’s masterful book, “Sey-re Hekmat dar Oroopaa.”
The “political philosophy” of monarchy, as started to be shaped in the late fifteenth century, evolved around the dichotomy between the concept of “man as an individual,” and “man as a subject.” Therefore, recognizing “individual rights” upon which to govern a society needed to be reconciled with the definition of society and its sovereignty.
As a result of this argument, the basis for “monarchy” was explored. In the eighth century, as a result of the Paderborn (in today’s central Germany) Treaty between Rome and the Franco rulers, the “Holy Roman Empire” was created. Its demise happened after the Renaissance. Upon the demise of “Holy Roman Empire,” and the creation of various dynasties and monarchies in the European heartland, and after the beginning of the Reformation in Christianity, then at the dawn of the Enlightenment Era, the concept of “man as an individual" with some "natural rights” and the philosophy of governance needed to be reconciled.
In particular, philosophers searched for the basis – not so much political or societal, but philosophical – of monarchy. As we know, the Monarch in England (United Kingdom notwithstanding) has the title of the “Protector of the Church.”
All in all, it has been argued that monarchy, particularly in Europe, and to a very large extent in Ancient civilizations like Iran, China, Egypt, Japan, found its legitimacy, from the political philosophy standpoint, from the divinity argument. That is, man’s individual natural rights exist, but the society is ruled (governed) based on a monarchy that defends the faith and its Church. The Church spreads the word of God and God’s faith, and the monarchy protects it.
Obviously, with the French Revolution and the American Revolution came the concept of rule of “people” by the “people” – a republican system of democracy. I don’t go into the political philosophy of federalism versus statehood, but suffice to say that the population challenged the notion of monarchy as justified by divinity.
Islamic Republic based on Velaayat-e Faghih is a monarchy because of its justification of the control mandated by divinity.
Obviously, monarchy systems in Europe changed, from the administrative perspective, since the nineteenth century, to adopt democracy: Rule of majority while respecting the basic rights of those in minority. Yet, the justification of monarchy – whether without a Constitution like in England, or with Constitution like in Belgium – continues to be based on divinity, and that’s why you do not see changes in dynasties, particularly in Europe. The same goes for Japan. The political philosophy on behalf of monarchy is nullified if a dynasty changes, because that assumes that God has changed his mind. The Church won’t go for it. Remember the Cromwell story in England, or Napoleon’s continual battle with the Vatican?
Now, to Iran. The last legitimate monarchy in Iran based on this political philosophy concept was Sassanid Persian Empire. Since then, we had “protectorates” – not real kings – waiting for Bahram Shah, the promise of Sassanid, to appear from the Indian subcontinent.
When Mashrooteh was adopted, based on the Belgian Constitution, the king was recognized based on the “divinity” argument, but his power was curbed to recognize the civil society. Thus, Reza Khan’s deposing of Qajar’s was illegal if one agrees with the premise of Mashrooteh.
Now, with the deposing of Pahlavi’s in 1979, the argument of Velaayat-e Faghih is an interesting one, as the protectorate of the faith. I think we all disagree with that because one cannot be a democrat, secular and accept that.
But, what about Reza Pahlavi’s claim to the Peacock Throne? Well, if one agrees with that, from the political philosophy stand point, particularly if Reza Pahlavi and his supporters continually bring up the European models of monarchy as justification, then Reza Pahlavi has to claim that he has a divine call to protect the “Islamic Shi'a Faith.” He has to prove that God has entrusted him for that. And, he has to have the Shi’a Oligarchy, as the holder of the faith to bless that. I believe most would laugh at Reza Pahlavi if he goes through with such a claim.
Thus, we are led to accept, as an overwhelming majority of contemporary thinkers of Iran have accepted, that monarchy belongs to the pages of history. There is no political philosophy justification for it, and let’s welcome the democratic Republican system of governance.
July 28, 2002
The above article has been adapted from a Jul 28th post by a writer under "nom de plume" J on Jebhe BB
and it is reprinted here with minor editorial changes with the author's permission. The following is the link to the original post: