Suppressed in Iran during the reign of the Shah, this book for the first time in a careful, annotated translation was published after the Islamic Revolution. It is a strong and emotional statement by an Iranian intellectual deeply concerned with what he saw as his country’s succumbing to “A Plague from the West" or "Occidentosis." Offering observations, insights, reasons for pride in Iran’s past and culture, and critical analyses of the Western role in the world. Jalal Al-e-Ahmad expresses many of the concerns that agitated the intelligentsia during the two decades before the Islamic Revolution.
The author begins by explaining his term Occidentosis: and describing how he sees the world: as divided between the poles of East and West. The division is not so much a geographical or an ideological schism, as a division between the produces and the consumers of machines. A brief review of history helps explain how and why Iran grew occidentotic. He cannot and does not ignore the role of oil.
The many contradictions that result from the forced consumption of Western machines and goods in Iran are the subject of the longest and most carefully considered chapters in the book. Westerners, who industrialized step by step over hundreds of years, never saw such sharp contrasts as "a man grading Kharg Island with a monstrous bulldozer with blue bead hanging from the steering wheel.""
Breaking the spell of Occidentosis is the subject of another chapter. The author rejects both the options of remaining passive consumers of the machine and eschewing the machine and reverting to pre-industrial modes of existence. Rather, he advocates gaining control of the machine so Iranians can use it as a means, not an end, "to abolish poverty and put material and spiritual welfare with the reach of all."
As an educator Jalal Al-e-Ahmad was particularly concerned with how Iran's schools preserve its occidentotic society. He points out in this book how leaders whose first interest was not the welfare of the Iranian people or the preservation of its cultural traditions were turned out year after year by Iranian universities or returned to their country from American and European educational institutions.
The book closes with a plea for everyone not just Iranians or Easterners, to awaken to the dangers of mechanosis, the ultimate end of which will be destruction of the world with a nuclear bomb.