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Liberalization against Democracy

The Local Politics of Economic Reform in Tunisia

Stephen J. King

Publication Year: 2003

"... a very important contribution to contemporary debates on economic and political reform in developing countries. Based on interviews King conducted himself, this is an honest, unvarnished examination and critique of propositions that are treated like gospel." -- Lisa Anderson

In Liberalization against Democracy, Stephen J. King argues that, in contrast to prevailing views, pro-market economic reforms in Tunisia did not foster democratization. Instead, state-led economic liberalization facilitated the reorganization of authoritarian rule and contributed to the subversion of democratic tendencies at both the national and local levels. In addition to King's analysis of neo-liberal economic transformation and regime change at the national level, his book offers a rare local-level analysis of these processes, based on the author's extensive fieldwork in the rural community of Tebourba. King's focus on the local level of analysis is particularly valuable. His community study shows firsthand how local elites have manipulated cultural traditionalism in order to sustain market-oriented reforms. This rich account clearly delineates the pathways by which pro-market reforms in
Tunisia have fostered corporatism, clientelism, and authoritarianism.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in Middle East Studies


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p. vii

List of Tables

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

The opportunity to participate in and observe a rural community in the midst of widespread land privatization and other elements of a standard structural adjustment program spurred the early research that gave rise to this book. Two years spent in the patronage-ridden Moroccan countryside had led me to...


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p. xiv

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1. Liberalization Against Democracy

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pp. 1-24

In the mid-1990s, Tebourba, a large village in the fertile northwest region of Tunisia, began implementing land policies that were part of a structural adjustment program (SAP). The privatization of land was the final stage in the dismantling of the country’s socialist project, as the state attempted to...

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2. Neo-liberal Transformation in Tunisia

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pp. 25-41

Neo-liberal transformation in Tunisia accentuated a growing alliance between the state and rural and urban economic elites. During Tunisia’s period of stateled, inward-oriented growth (1961–69), the state was arguably autonomous. In its pursuit of industrialization and agrarian modernization, the bureaucratic...

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3. Marketization and the Retraditionalization of Local Politics

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pp. 42-75

The regime’s ability to consolidate the emerging authoritarian system described in the last chapter may well depend on the state party’s historical ability to maintain authoritarian controls in the countryside. Neo-liberal reforms in Tunisia have had a powerful impact on rural social structures and political...

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4. Neo-traditionalism in Tebourba

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pp. 76-109

First settled by farmers from Andalusia, Tebourba has been home to a community for over ¤ve hundred years. Rolling hills full of olive trees line one side of the town. The flat plains are covered with wheat fields, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens. Farming is done next to houses in town and in surrounding...

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5. Structural Adjustment and the Small Peasantry

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pp. 112-132

Neo-liberal reforms sponsored by the World Bank and the IMF can have various effects on the political and social structure of the receiving nation. The impact of these reforms can perhaps best be discerned at the sector or even community level. As the last chapter demonstrated, these reforms may serve to...

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6. The Politics of Empowering the Winners of Economic Reform

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pp. 133-140

As a consequence of neo-liberal reforms, the economies of many developing countries are currently undergoing major structural transformations that could profoundly and permanently alter the distribution of assets. Some of these policies (e.g., privatization in both rural and urban areas) often lead to a...


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pp. 141-154


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pp. 155-161

E-ISBN-13: 9780253109873
E-ISBN-10: 0253109876
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253342126

Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 4 b&w photos, 1 maps, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Indiana Series in Middle East Studies
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OCLC Number: 53012437
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Liberalization against Democracy

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Local government -- Tunisia.
  • Structural adjustment (Economic policy) -- Tunisia.
  • Democracy -- Tunisia.
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