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Mediterranean Politics
Volume 18, 2013 - Issue 1
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Articles
The Other Side of a Neoliberal Miracle: Economic Reform and Political De-Liberalization in Ben Ali's Tunisia
Gerasimos Tsourapas
Pages 23-41 | Published online: 06 Mar 2013
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https://doi.org/10.1080/13629395.2012.761475
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Abstract
Employing a Gramscian framework this analysis argues that economic liberalization in Tunisia under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali allowed for a deeper penetration of state power into society, introducing novel modes of control during a climate of economic uncertainty which, labelled an ‘economic miracle’, was to be defended at all costs. It examines two institutions central to the reform process – the Tunisian Solidarity Bank and the National Solidary Fund – making the argument that, by associating the ‘miracle’ discourse with a variety of pre-existing narratives, the regime ensured compliance, invalidated dissent and prolonged its repressive grip on power.
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Acknowledgements
I am indebted to Laleh Khalili, Triantafyllos Gkouvas and Nancy A. Khalil for their generous comments on the manuscript. I also wish to thank Sahla Aroussi, Raphael el Ghraibi, Corinna Mullin, Ian Somerville and Charles Tripp for important insights. An early draft was presented to a conference organized by the German Council on Foreign Relations where Dina Fakoussa, Béchir Bouraoui and fellow conferees kindly provided valuable feedback.
Notes
 1 The regime's reliance on violence has been well documented. See Ismail (2003: 138–59); Khiari (2003).
 2 For a more focused analysis, see Harvey (2005).
 3 For a discussion on how this impacts upon identity creation, see Massad (2001: 1–17).
 4 Official rates were significantly lower to accommodate for the country's ‘economic miracle’.
 5 Interviews, October 2011.
 6 On how neoliberal policies resulted in the state takeover of Tunisian media outlets see Garon (2003: 42–46).
 7 Interviews, October 2011.
 8 Interviews, October 2011. A more recent example would be Tunisia's leading role in the 2011–12 revolts.
 9 This analysis will not go into a discussion of the term ‘Islamist’. It is employed here to discuss the ‘Ennahdha Movement’ or, as it was known before 1989, the ‘Movement of the Islamic Tendency’.
10 Sha'ban has also been professor of public law and political science at the University of Tunis.
11 The lack of viable alternatives to Ben Ali was, of course, true since the 1988 National Pact and the violent silencing of political opposition (Anderson, 1991).
12 Interviews, October 2011.
 
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