Rinehart takes three examples of successful revolutions for a comparative study of revolutionary and millenarian movements in developing nations during this century. He makes a convincing attempt to bring together the experiences that led to upheaval—each people's powerful sense of its own history, its place in the world, and its millennial tradition, plus the sense of frustration and the inability to confront Western imperialism.
Rinehart's is a bold but premature attempt; much more primary research needs to be done before comparative studies of this sort can flourish. Of the three case studies, the one that concerns us, Iran's Islamic Revolution of 1978-79, is in fact the weakest; unlike his discussions of China and Mexico, Rinehart has difficulty providing a historical basis for the Islamic Revolution. Iran lacks a tradition of popular messianic revolt that erupted regularly. He finds just one example of Iranian messianic revolt in the past five centuries, the Babis of the 1840-50s, and it was not even directed against foreign domination. Clearly more research needs to be done on apocalyptic motifs, if they indeed exist, in other popular revolts of the past 150-200 years.
The Islamic Revolution was undoubtedly millennial in nature, and Rinehart does an exemplary job at describing its ideological basis—‘Ali Shari‘ati's effective synthesis of Shi‘i apocalyptic expectations and Western Marxism. But Rinehart's analysis of the shah's regime and its place in the popular perception would have been strengthened immensely had the element of the apocalyptic conspiracy theory been factored in. The author virtually ignores the turn of the Islamic century (1400) in 1979 as one of the motivating factors for the attempt to usher in the messianic era, though a minimum of research would have uncovered the ubiquitousness of this motif. Even Sunnis frequently describe Ayatollah Khomeini as the "renewer" (mujaddid) promised by God at the beginning of each new century, an identification that immensely enhanced his authority.