Steffen Erdle

Steffen Erdle Ben Ali's 'New Tunisia' (1987–2009)

Ben Ali's 'New Tunisia' (1987–2009)

A Case Study of Authoritarian Modernization in the Arab World

Islamkundliche Untersuchungen Band 301

Klaus Schwarz Verlag
Langue: anglais
1. Edition ()
Paperback, 515 pages
ISBN 9783879973668

Since Presi­dent Ben Ali's blood­less ouster of his prede­cessor Habib Bour­guiba in 1987, Tunisia has under­gone signi­fi­cant changes on many levels. The country has witnessed an almost comp­lete renewal of its political elites, a far-reaching over­haul of its public insti­tu­tions, and a substan­tial recon­fi­gu­ra­tion of its ruling coali­tion. It has under­gone struc­tural adjust­ment, has trans­formed into an export-oriented market economy, and has become acti­vely engaged in the Euro­me­di­ter­ra­nean free trade area.
Changes, however, have not provided for the estab­lish­ment of demo­cracy, an open-ended compe­ti­tion for political power, an exchange at the helm of the state, or popular control of govern­ment acti­vi­ties. Ben Ali’s »New Tunisia« there­fore provides an illu­mi­na­ting example of the political moder­niza­tion of an autho­ri­ta­rian regime. It illu­s­t­rates how incum­bent ruling elites can hold out against the odds and yet change from within, i.e. how they can adapt to a changed environ­ment, but without relin­quis­hing political power.
A core argu­ment of this book resides in that Ben Ali’s »New Era« consti­tutes an essen­tially new system of political autho­rity and domi­na­tion, which func­tions accor­ding to a »source code« substan­tially diffe­rent from Bour­guiba’s Ancient Regime. As such, it also exem­p­li­fies wider processes of autho­ri­ta­rian reform curr­ently observable in many coun­tries south of the Medi­ter­ra­nean. This core hypo­thesis shall be substan­tiated by an in-depth analysis of the »elite variable«, i.e. of the cons­tel­la­tion of stra­tegic political players in the capital Tunis, their attitudes vis-à-vis certain core issues, and their rela­ti­onships with other rele­vant actors.
The insights derived from this analysis will assist us in under­stan­ding why the new rulers have been anxious to delay the estab­lish­ment of demo­cracy, how they have proceeded, and why they have prevailed so far. Analy­zing the patterns of change in Tunisia, iden­ti­fying the driving forces behind these processes, and high­ligh­ting the specific impact of political elite will thus allow to gain a deeper under­stan­ding of the survival stra­te­gies, change mecha­nisms, and demo­c­ratic pros­pects of political autho­ri­ta­ria­nism in that country and in the region at large.

Lesen Sie Joseph Croi­torus Rezen­sion in der Frank­furter Allge­meinen Zeitung:

The most exci­ting ques­tion treated in the book is without doubt how it was possible that Ben Ali’s autho­ri­ta­rian regime managed to stay in place for such a long period of time despite its failure to bring about funda­mental political change. (Maaike VOOR­HOEV, Harvard Law School, in: BIBLIO­THECA ORIEN­TALIS LXX N° 3-4)