From Dictatorship to “Democracy”: Neoliberal Continuity and Its Crisis in Tunisia

Mehmet Erman Erol


A decade after Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution in 2011, this article assesses Tunisia’s neoliberal political economy from a critical and historical perspective; from Ben Ali to its current political and economic impasse. It argues that despite the country being shown as the only democratic example to have emerged from the “Arab Spring”, the continuity of neoliberalism puts significant limits on its democratisation. Domestic and international ruling classes insisted on the implementation of further neoliberal reforms since the 2010s which curbed democratic processes, interventions and demands. Hence, despite limited democratic reform in the political sphere initially, it is not plausible to argue that the post-2010 era delivered the demands of the masses that led to the ousting of Ben Ali. In recent years, the country has experienced significant economic and political crises accompanied by deep societal unrest and labour resistance. Indeed, high unemployment persists, inflation and the cost of living have worsened, foreign debt has soared, wages have remained stagnant and state austerity is prescribed by the country’s creditors. This leaves the future of Tunisia’s political economy uncertain and crisis-prone, and makes the case for a break away from neoliberalism an urgent necessity.


Tunisia; Arab Spring; Democratisation; Developmentalism; Neoliberalism; Authoritarianism; Economic Development; IMF; Washington Consensus

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