The Urban Political Elite
Prior to the Revolution of 1979, the political elite of the towns
consisted of the shah and his family and court in Tehran and the
representatives of the monarchy in the provincial towns. These
representatives included provincial governors and city mayors,
all of whom were appointed by Tehran; high-level government officials;
high- ranking military officers; the wealthiest industrialists
and financiers; the most prominent merchants; and the best known
professionals in law, medicine, and education. The highest ranks
of the Shia clergy--the clerics who had obtained the status of
ayatollah--were no longer considered part of the national elite
by the mid-1970s, although this social group had been very important
in the elite from the seventeenth to the mid- twentieth century.
The Revolution of 1979 swept aside this old elite. Although the
old political elite was not physically removed, albeit many of
its members voluntarily or involuntarily went into exile, it was
stripped of its political power. The new elite consisted first
and foremost of the higher ranks of the Shia clergy. The most
important administrative, military, and security positions were
filled by lay politicians who supported the rule of the clergy.
The majority of the lay political elite had their origins in the
prerevolutionary middle class, especially the bazaar families
(see Political Dynamics , ch. 4).
Data as of December 1987