Khamenei vs. Weber

A reader sent me the link to this RFE/RL story on the possibility of an Iranian “cultural revolution” designed to purge the universities of the Western social sciences:

Khamenei, in a meeting with professors and Basijstudents on August 30, said that “many of the human sciences are basedon philosophies whose foundations are materialism and disbelief ingodly and Islamic teachings.”

Now, the thing is, I don’t think Khamenei’s necessarily wrong on the merits. Maybe “disbelief” is too strong a word, since it’s possible to study human social relations scientifically while still embracing religion-based moral and ethical outcomes as a goal of society. But the social sciences do approach human relations without an a priori acceptance of the moral authority of religious beliefs. And they probably do tend to undermine religious authority, if only because they encourage the pursuit of knowledge and truth through constantly questioning assumptions. So if I were Khamenei, I’d probably be worried about them, too.

Of course, the purge of the universities has as much to do with targeting university students who have supported the opposition movement as it does with ideological purity. And history has a way of not treating too kindly those who try to stand in the way of the free transfer of knowledge, in particular, and information, in general. So a university purge, in the long run, is probably only likely to exacerbate the regime’s problems, both by further alienating the restive youth, but also by intellectually handicapping future generations of Iranian elites.

So in the battle between Max Weber and “Sultanism,” my money’s on Weber.