MESA Banner
Colonialism and the Consumer Society: Marxist Humanism in Ali Shariati’s Political Thought
This paper examines the engagement with Marxism in the political thought of the Iranian revolutionary Ali Shariati (1933-1977), who is widely considered to be the seminal theorist of the Iranian Revolution. Shariati’s intellectual engagement with Marxism has hardly been examined in depth by English-language scholarship, but is deeply insightful for both the theoretical analysis of colonialism and for illuminating the novel ways in which Marxist theory was transformed by non-European thinkers theorizing in contexts markedly different from Western Europe. My paper reconstructs Shariati’s analysis of colonialism as an economic and social regime which turns the colonized into mere “consumers” of Western commodities as well as social values and culture. Under the colonial division of labor and the accompanying social hierarchies, Shariati argues, colonized peoples are unable to engage in the free and conscious act of creation. Reconstructing his critique of colonialism as a homogenizing system of forced consumerism, which destroys the particularity of colonized communities, I situate Shariati in a global genealogy of Marxist humanism, while foregrounding his links with African anti-colonial thought and Catholic liberation theology. The concept of the colonized as a “consumer” articulates a distinctive critique of colonialism which places the human ability to create at the forefront. I pursue a methodology combining an examination of intellectual lineages of concepts and theories (typical of intellectual history) with close reading and textual interpretation of primary texts, particularly Shariati’s untranslated writings.
Political Science
Geographic Area
Sub Area