For the people who inhabit this land, what is the point of searching, even at the cost of their own lives, for this thing whose possibility we have forgotten since the Renaissance and the great crisis of Christianity, a political spirituality.
So observed Michel Foucault, the philosopher, in "What Are the Iranians Dreaming About" in October 1978. He visited Iran to watch a modern revolution already underway and published his views in a series of articles which were not well received. What they do capture as in the quote above are the spirit and idealism of revolutionary Iranians in their most modern dimension.
The global repercussions of revolutionary change of such near-mythical dimensions were recognized early by Foucault and the Islamic world. The struggle between the King and the Saint, the State and the People, Injustice and the Imam said it all. The inspiring ideas associated with Khomeini or Shariati had been echoed earlier in writings of people, such as Maududi and Iqbal, two of the best known religious thinkers of the early part of the twentieth century writing in the face of what they saw as Muslim decline.
Post-revolutionary Iran brought disappointment to Iranians who sympathised with the modern religious Islamic ideals. Afary and Anderson in "The Seductions of Islamism: Revisiting Foucault and the Iranian Revolution" place this in an intellectual context:
A number of Middle Eastern intellectuals have been grappling with their own versions of the Enlightenment project over the past century. The questions in the Middle East are quite concrete. Should such societies, which are often dominated by secular or religious despotic orders, ignore the juridico-legal legacies of the West?
Afary and Anderson describe how realities of power blunted the ideals of the revolution, in effect, re-establishing negative tendencies of authoritarian power structures.
Twenty-eight years after the revolution in Iran, the US hostage crisis resolved at the expense of the Carter presidency, Iran-Contra affair resolved at the expense of Reagan's memory, and the Iran's Conservative-versus-Reformist wrangle resolved in favor of the popular Ahmedinijad, the country announces its own arrival into the club of nuclear states with a lump of uranium enriched enough to run power stations.