Gharbzadegi (Persian: غربزدگی) is a pejorative Persian term variously translated as "Westoxification," "West-struck-ness"[1] "Westitis", "Euromania", or "Occidentosis".[2] It is used to refer to the loss of Iranian cultural identity through the adoption and imitation of Western models and Western criteria in education, the arts, and culture; through the transformation of Iran into a passive market for Western goods and a pawn in Western geopolitics.

The phrase was first coined by Ahmad Fardid, a professor of philosophy at the University of Tehran, in the 1940s. it gained common usage following the clandestine publication in 1962 of the book Occidentosis: A Plague from the West by Jalal Al-e-Ahmad. Fardid's definition of the term as referring to the hegemony of ancient Greek philosophy, differed from its later usage as popularised by Al-e Ahmad.[3]

Al-e Ahmed's idea

Al-e Ahmed describes Iranian behavior in the twentieth century as being "Weststruck." The word was play on the dual meaning of "stricken" in Persian, which meant to be afflicted with a disease or to be stung by an insect, or to be infatuated and bedazzled.[4] "I say that gharbzadegi is like cholera [or] frostbite. But no. It's at least as bad as sawflies in the wheat fields. Have you ever seen how they infest wheat? From within. There's a healthy skin in places, but it's only a skin, just like the shell of a cicada on a tree."[4]

Al-e Ahmad argued that Iran must gain control over machines and become a producer rather than a consumer, even though once having overcome Weststruckness it will face a new malady - also western - that of 'machinestruckness'. "The soul of this devil 'the machine' [must be] bottled up and brought out at our disposal ... [The Iranian people] must not be at the service of machines, trapped by them, since the machine is a means not an end."[5]

The higher productivity of the foreign machines had devastated Iran's native handicrafts and turned Iran into an unproductive consumption economy. "These cities are just flea markets hawking European manufactured goods ... [In] no time at all instead of cities and villages we'll have heaps of dilapidated machines all over the country, all of them exactly like American 'junkyards' and every one as big as Tehran."[5]

The world market and global divide between rich and poor created by the machine - "one the constructors" of machines "and the other the consumers" - had superseded Marxist class analysis.[5]

Al-e Ahmad believed the one element of Iranian life uninfected by gharbzadegi was religion. Twelver Shi'i Islam in Iran had authenticity and the ability to move people.[6]


The phrase was revived after the Iranian Revolution as the Islamic Republic sought to legitimize its campaign of nationalization and Ruhollah Khomeini's push for "self-sufficiency".

"Gharbzadegi" is the title of a political song by British avant-garde musician Robert Wyatt, which appears on Old Rottenhat (Rough Trade, 1985) and can also be heard on the tribute LP Soupsongs Live: The Music of Robert Wyatt (Jazzprint UK, 2005).


"Gharbzadegi" has now been superseded by a new term commonly used in reference to China's growing presence in Iran. Called "Sharqzadegi", the new term is classed as fear of China's dominance.

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Works cited


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