The Post-Arab Spring Social Contract in Tunisia: Social Actors’ Comparative Gains and Losses

39 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2022

See all articles by Mohamed Ismail Sabry

Mohamed Ismail Sabry

International Institute of Social Studies (ISS)

Date Written: October 26, 2022


This paper is investigating what are the comparative gains/losses of the different considered social actors in Tunisia from the new post-2011 Social Contract (SC)? The SC is perceived as a product of the prevailing state-society relations and power relations between the main actors in the Tunisian industrial sector. These actors are identified as: the state, big businesspersons (tycoons), businesspeople of small and medium enterprises (entrepreneurs), and labor. The comparative gains/losses of these actors are investigated in terms of two broad contested policy fields: competition and social protection to workers.

Depending on qualitative data collected from a number of semi-structured interviews and the literature the research suggests that, in the post-Revolution SC, the more dominant tycoons were allowed more favorite allocation of resources without economic and political control from the state in return to the expectations of generating economic prosperity. The weakened state was less expected to offer social deliverables. Public sector labor- represented by the UGTT- had exceptional power and represented a second power pillar in the social contract that was capable of defending its interests. Entrepreneurs were one of the weakest actors but accepted the contract in the hope of having some benefits thanks to international aid programs that targeted the growth of SMEs, even when the outcome was much disappointing and did not meet expectation. Finally, the other weak player, private sector labor accepted the contract that placed them at a much disadvantage in the hope of better economic conditions and the fear from slipping into worse prospects.

Political freedoms that expose favoritism and mobilize social actors, the failure of tycoons including MNCs to bring the expected economic prosperity, and the growing weakness of the state because of political polarization all contributed to making such SC less sustainable, opening the way for the events following the 25th of July 2021.

Keywords: Social Contract, State Capture, Cronyism, Tunisia, State-Society Relations, State-Business-Labor Relations, State, Tycoons, Entrepreneurs, Labor.

Suggested Citation

Sabry, Mohamed Ismail, The Post-Arab Spring Social Contract in Tunisia: Social Actors’ Comparative Gains and Losses (October 26, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Mohamed Ismail Sabry (Contact Author)

International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) ( email )

The Hague, South Holland 2518 AX
+491741931790 (Phone)

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